The market is in a different place in 2021. As a result, it may no longer be in your best interest to build a PC. Let’s look at why.
Several years ago, if you asked a PC enthusiast if you should buy a prebuilt PC or purchase parts separately to build your own machine, they’d have likely scoffed at you for even considering buying a prebuilt. If you genuinely wanted a high-end PC with maximum performance, there was no doubt that building a PC yourself was a better option than purchasing a prebuilt stock PC.
There are numerous benefits to building your own PC. And, if you’re thinking about doing so, we have a tutorial that covers the entire process of doing just that.
However, in 2021, the market is in a different place. Let figure out why.
Why Building a PC Reigns Supreme
Before exploring the reasons as to why prebuilds may be a better option for video editors in 2021, we should investigate why building your own PC is often regarded as the better option. Primarily, it comes down to expense, or better said, the value for your money.
You’ll find that prebuilt PCs are considerably marked up compared to buying individual components. You’ll also discover that you could buy a better component than what’s included in the prebuild and still save money.
Likewise, several years ago, the components included in prebuilt PCs were often less than par. For example, fast SSDs and powerful GPUs were only really reserved for individual purchase. If you could purchase a prebuilt with powerful components, it’d likely far exceed the cost of the actual components.
Gaming PC with RGB LED lights on a computer assembled with hardware components. Image by Alberto Garcia Guillen.
If building a PC is considerably cheaper, and you’re also able to buy better components at a lower cost, you might wonder why you would purchase a prebuild in the first place. Well, building a PC comes with its own host of challenges.
First, it’s not exactly like building a Lego set. While motherboards and computer towers will often come with labeled instructions on where to insert the required components, you still need a firm understanding of the components themselves.
For example, an older i5 processor may not be compatible with NVIDIA’s latest GPU. So, there’s an element of knowledge needed when sourcing the components, and that research costs time.
Likewise, the build itself can be a meticulous process. With the need to carefully assemble the rig, thoroughly set cable management, and slot components into hard-to-reach places, building a PC isn’t for the impatient. Of course, we have the dreaded moment of powering on the PC. If the monitor returns with a blank image and no boot screen, you have to figure out what went wrong.
A build like this is difficult to assemble if you’re unfamiliar with the process. Image by pkproject.
Despite all this, the accomplishment of building your own rig is exceptionally satisfying. Coupled with the added value and being able to buy better components for lower cost, it seems like a sure bet that building your own PC is the better route, even if it’s a touch stressful.
Why Prebuilt PCs Make Sense in 2021
However, as PC gaming has become more mainstream—especially under the spotlight of streaming—manufacturers sought to take advantage of this by offering better components within prebuilds, and sell these systems at competitive prices.
Now you can buy a prebuilt PC with the latest components, and sometimes the only additional expense is that of the labor to build the PC.
Many manufacturers offer prebuilds as grand as the example above. Image by Kreabobek.
Of course, there’s no learning curve with a prebuilt PC. You plug it in, turn it on, and you’re ready to go. And, if you do run into an issue, the store or outlet you purchase the PC from can rectify the problem.
For example, in 2017, I bought a prebuilt PC. Upon scanning the system, I could see that it housed an Intel i5 7600 Processor instead of an i7 7700. After a quick call to the outlet, they offered me the option to return the PC or receive a 20% refund. Given the refund amount was extremely generous, I took that offer with the notion to upgrade the CPU at a later date.
Most prebuilt PCs ship with a warranty that safeguards your purchase for at least a year if anything goes wrong. Internally, a prebuilt PC will have the latest BIOS and driver updates installed, and they almost always have the latest version of Windows pre-installed.
With so little time needed to set up the PC, you can quickly get back to the tedious task of downloading all of your editing software again.
Let’s be honest, what you really want to be doing is editing—not building a computer. Image via True Touch Lifestyle.
However, the primary factor that (in my opinion) currently puts prebuilt PCs ahead of building your own in 2021 comes down to one thing—GPU scarcity.
There are a few factors that contribute toward this. But, at the moment (as it has been for quite some time), it’s nearly impossible to get the latest GPU without paying extortionate markup prices on the aftermarket.
The primary factors that contribute to this environment are the continued rise of crypto mining, the global pandemic that created shortages within production and distribution, and increased demand in the latest GPU offerings that scalpers see as a way to generate fast cash.
Bitcoins enter into circulation through Bitcoin mining, which is also a critical component of the upkeep and advancement of the blockchain ledger. Mining is performed using sophisticated computers that unravel intricate computational math problems.
So, where do GPUs come into play from this? GPUs are primarily designed to carry the requirements of rendering data-heavy video images in real-time. Video data and video game graphics have increased over time. So, modern GPUs are extremely powerful, given the significant quantity of data that needs to be processed simultaneously. With that, this technology is perfect for data-intensive computing tasks of crypto mining.
There are countless mining farms around the world just like this. Image by MAX SAYPLAY.
Gamers, one of the primary markets of GPUs, haven’t been able to purchase the latest GPU tech. So, NVIDIA is looking to make their cards less attractive for crypto miners.
The BBC reports that:
NVIDIA said the software for its forthcoming GeForce RTX 3060 card will limit how efficiently it can process Ethereum transactions by about 50%.
This will make it less economical for miners to use the card for mining Ethereum . . . Crypto-currency enthusiasts have contributed to a shortage of graphics cards by snapping up supplies to use for non-gaming purposes.
NVIDIA said it had intervened to make sure its products “end up in the hands of gamers.”
As reported throughout many technology industries early last year, Chinese manufacturing was temporarily limited due to the coronavirus outbreak. When the rest of the world started to grind to a halt, shipping and distribution also lost speed.
In addition, as the world turned to online communication and gaming, there was an increase in demand for GPUs. And, evidentially, the supply wasn’t there. Eighteen months later, manufacturers still haven’t caught up to speed.
Last year, Sony released their latest gaming console, the PS5. While there was much fanfare around the newest technology, there was also a lot of dismay around scalpers who were using sophisticated bots to clear the stores’ entire online stock inventory—within seconds of the site placing the stock live.
The notion of scalpers using bots to purchase goods then flip them on the aftermarket isn’t a new concept. It’s been done for years with concert tickets, popular theatrical shows, and collectibles.
NIVIDIA’s GeForce RTX up-close. Image by Kiklas.
NVIDIA’s latest line of GPUs, the RTX 3000 series, has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from gamers, as the graphics card offers performance for games and media rendering like no other. However, with their popularity and demand, they too have become a prime target for scalpers.
With these three factors combined, we have never seen GPU shortages quite like this before. As a result, if you were to type in NVIDIA RTX 3080 into eBay, you’d see these cards listed for nearly twice the RRP . . . and they sell! Markups and all!
Nevertheless, prebuilt PC manufacturers are still able to source the latest line of GPUs regularly. As a result, you can purchase a prebuilt PC with an RTX 3090 for the cost of what the standalone item goes for on eBay.
So, while it was once preferable to build a PC yourself by sourcing the individual components, in this current climate, if you’re looking to acquire a new PC to edit videos, it’d likely be more efficient and cost-effective to buy a prebuilt PC if you’re starting from scratch.
Maybe in a year or so we’ll change our tune to suggest that building your own rig is, once again, more efficient.
For more technology tips, tricks, and resources, check out these articles:
Things to Consider Before Building a Video Editing ComputerHow to Master the PC to Instagram Workflow for PostsAdobe Lightroom’s Photo Editing Tricks for Beginners3 PC Upgrades for a Lightning-Fast Video-Editing RigVideo Tutorial: How to Build Your Own Video Editing PC
Cover image by Preechar Bowonkitwanchai.
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