I just received my new Dell 530N with Ubuntu 7.10 pre-loaded. I seriously considered building a PC myself but after weighing the pros and cons decided to go with the Dell. The main reason I chose the Dell was because it was the faster/easier option. The cost comparison was pretty similar. Hal's Notes has an article which compares the cost of the 530N vs. the cost of parts from newegg.com. Here is my very similar anaylsis.
My 530N was $349 (unfortunately i had to pay $30 for shipping) and included the following:
- Intel Pentium Dual Core processor E2160 (1.80GHz,800FSB)
- 1GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz
- 128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8300GS
- 250GB SATA II Hard Drive (7200RPM)
- 48X CDRW/DVD Combination Drive
The only thing I upgraded was the processor-- from the E2140 to the E2160 because I had read it was better for overclocking (if it turns out to be possible to overclock with Dell's motherboard).
For the build it myself option, I started with a budget configuration from The Tech Report. The total for that machine in November 2007 was $519. Adjusting the items to closer match the Dell 530N got me down to $409. See below.
- LITE-ON Combo Black SATA Model DH-52C2S-04 - OEM
- Antec NSK4480 Black/ Silver 0.8mm cold-rolled steel construction ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 380W Power Supply - Retail
- Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD2500KS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
- EVGA 128-P2-N428-LR GeForce 7200GS 512MB (128MB on Board) 64-bit GDDR2 PCI Express x16 Video Card - Retail
- Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G - Retail
- GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
- Intel Pentium E2160 Allendale 1.8GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80557E2160 - Retail
- Subtotal: $408.89
I didn't change the motherboard and case specified in article. I am guessing they are better than the Dell. Besides that, the Dell comes out cheaper. Note, that if I had upgraded Dell's components, say to 2GB RAM, a 320GB hard disk, a DVD burner, and a 256MB video card, the advantage goes out the window. I am guessing this is how Dell makes money-- lure the customer in with a low base price and charge extra for upgrades.
I went back and forth on the decision multiple times. One thing that almost made me build it myself was the much better chance of being able to overclock my processor with a standard motherboard. According to this article on hardwarezone.com, the E2160 can be overclocked to almost double and will still remain very stable. With standard motherboards, this is not too difficult to achieve. However, Dell's motherboards make it much more difficult. Hopefully for me, someone will figure it out and post an article about it.
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