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  • New iMac or Build Your Own?
Technology Articles > Computers > Desktops > New iMac or Build Your Own?

Pop quiz: you have $2,000 to blow on a new desktop PC. What do you do: buy a new 27-inch iMac from Apple, or build your own PC? Before we get into whether or not this is even a reasonable comparison, let’s go over what the new 27-inch iMac released this spring has.

The iMac, as you know, is a single unit, all wrapped up into the monitor--which is a gorgeous, glossy IPS panel display with 2,560x1,440 resolution and an LED backlight. Inside, it packs a COre i5 3.1 GHz quad-core processor with 4 GB of RAM. The hard disk drive is a whopping 1 terabyte and it has a speed of 7,200 RPM. In terms of graphics, it has an AMD Radeon HD 6970M with a dedicated 1 GB of GDDR5 memory.

So, can you build all of that with $2,000? Definitely. First, start with an MSI P67A-C45 motherboard for $150 and slap a Core i7 2600 processor on it for an additional $270. (By the way, that’s faster than what the iMac has.) Next, invest a measly $40 for 4 GB of RAM from Kingston. Get a Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB hard drive for $55 and a Sapphire HD6970 video card for $389 (includes the same amount of dedicated RAM as the iMac’s graphics card). Box it all up in a CoolerMaster HAFx case for $130 and display it on a Dell U2711H for $899. Operating system? Choose Ubuntu for free or go with Windows 7 Home Premium for $93.

Total price? $2026.

So, right there, you’re getting a very comparable machine. In some areas, you’re getting even more power. But what are you missing out on? Here’s what:

It’s Not a Mac

You know those commercials that conclude “If you don’t have an iPhone, well...you don’t have an iPhone.” The same is true for Apple desktops. There’s lots of proprietary stuff for Apple computers--the most significant of which is the operating system--that you can’t get on any other computer that isn’t built by Apple. The iMac also has Thunderbolt ports, which are relatively novel. There are ways to build a “hackintosh” on non-Apple hardware, but is it really worth it at this point?

The Form Factor

The iMac is eye candy. It’s slim and compact and looks great on a desktop. There’s no tower and there are very few cables involved. In fact, if you get a wireless keyboard and mouse there are no wires at all. You won’t get that in a build-your-own system. The compact design of a computer like the iMac is just too daunting for any DIY tinkerers. The tower is the only way to go.

It Ain’t Easy

Techies will brag that building a computer from scratch is child’s play, but they’re just trying to sound 133t. If you have difficulty troubleshooting your wireless router, then you definitely have no business trying to put together computer components. The beauty of a Mac is that it “just works.” There aren’t any oddities between hardware from different manufacturers or driver quirks. It’s all done and tested by Apple so you should have no issues getting things up and running.


So, is the iMac overpriced? That dependson. Do you think a Lexus is overpriced? If you do, then you’re probably the same kind of person who thinks an Apple computer isn’t worth the money. A Windows-based budget PC will get you to point A to point B just as well as a Mac will. But if you genuinely want a Mac for any reason other than marketing, then get it. You won’t get the Mac experience form any other machine.