OEM Versus Custom Built PCs

The differences between built in hardware and custom add-ons in computers.

This episode talks about the key differences in performance when using distinct processors that are task specific instead of CPU integrate tasks.

Episode #4-06 released on October 20, 2013

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You currently have two distinct groups of device users in the world. You have the normal user, and your have your professional modifiers (pro-modders), a group I, also, belong to. For the common user, picking up the latest laptop may seem like a good idea, then they want to buy the latest games, see it doesn't work as well as they thought, and then they buy a console. Professional modifiers don't think in this fashion. This episode exposes many facts about custom builds, and why we still are on the leading edge of reliability, speed, and performance.


Fact, normal users hardly use their devices, they are not power users. Using a generic device with standard components may be fine for them. I'm a power user, I can be running screen capture software while running two virtual machines, analyzing audio feeds, and streaming to the internet, and this is a normal Saturday morning for me. Some elite users may even be recording and streaming to Twitch, while playing the latest game Crysis 3 on Ultra High. There is no standard OEM computer you can buy for a reasonable amount of cash that can do this, and sustain this without overheating or crashing, for an extended period.


This leads us to performance. Your typical computer can play normal games, go online, and even take in a movie. What if you needed to do something more, like edit audio tracks for a new band you are part of? Is that built in audio solution good enough for you? Chances are, your audio sucks. Yes, brutally honest truth time. Want to know if your audio is good, ask an audiophile. Standard on-board solutions like Realtek, or Soundmax, just don't cut it, when you are looking for a truer sounding audio experience. Gamers understand this. The cool thing about this domain is, the choice. You can get a dedicated on-board solution like on some Asus ROG boards featuring their Xonar line. You can, also, do like myself and get yourself a dedicated sound card. The benefit of dedicated sound cards is the fact that your processor doesn't process the audio, therefore reducing load and speeding up your computer, ever so slightly, but if all you need is a few more cycles to get at perfect, everything you do counts.

The same goes true for graphics cards. If you have the eye for perfection, and the need for higher frame rates, then even using the latest APUs may not pan out as you wanted. They work great for normal tasks, but for gamers, we'd rather use a GTX Titan over the latest Intel APU, we may have them both, but the dedicated GPU is running the show. As I said for the sound cards, if a graphics card is doing all the work, the CPU or APU no longer has to do those calculations, and allows the processor to deal with other tasks required by the operating system.


Chances are you bought a Dell, Compaq, Acer, etc... These are good machines, but not reliable. Power supplies on these machines aren't rated and tested as rigorously as high end modular power supplies professional computer modifiers may buy. Knowing what is in the machine, we can determine which power supply wattage we may need. Then going for power supplies with 80+ ratings allows us peace of mind, because we know it will perform best at 80% +/- load. This way, we know when we be fragging some noobs, the computer won't just crash and burn. This doesn't mean you can't buy a great cheap powersupply, but you can never quite be sure about the power supply's history and build. Buying a good power supply tester is a must for either case.


There is a difference between fast and fast enough. Most computers can handle normal word processing, rarely can they render a 15 minute video in 5 minutes. This is not just made possible by more expensive pieces, but a surgical care of calibration. Overclocking requires power to boost speed, but it can only be done so far, and heat is a dangerous by product.

So, which is better?

A gaming computer custom built is a work of art, that can only be appreciated by those interested in those kinds of things. However, if you are an audiophile, gamer, programmer, video editor, etc... you need power, speed, reliability, and performance. If all you need to do is your taxes, then a laptop, tablet, etc... is all you need. It really depends on your budget, but if you foresee the chance that getting such a rig may interest you, you may like the fact that getting into this doesn't need to be that expensive. Warning, this may take up a huge chuck of your budget and time.

Remember to like this episode if you were interested in today's topic, share if you think someone else could benefit from the topic, and subscribe if you want to learn more. For the show notes of this episode and others, for more information on other ways to subscribe to our show, to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, and how to participate by submitting your questions, comments, suggestions, and stories, head over to TQAWeekly.com.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

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