With all of the builds that we pump out here at GN, like our excellent $558 build i3-2120 gaming build, we've had a lot of you ask how we manage to consistently pick out unique deals. As part of our "How to Build a Gaming PC" guide, this article covers the "cutting corners" aspect of PC building. As much as we'd like to lay claim to some sort of book of secrets about hardware, it's truly as simple as knowing our way around websites, knowing what old hardware can be recycle/salvaged/cannibalized from an old PC, and finding creative methods to hack the price.
Google Shopping - They're Not Evil Yet
Unsurprisingly, Google has an excellent system for showing a variety of websites that have specific components you may be looking for. It's quite simple to use: Type in the name of a component you want, "GTX 570" for example, then select "Shopping" on the left sidebar and it'll show variations of the component. Pick one of the specific items that you want -- in our above example, let's go with EVGA's HD SuperClocked GTX 570. At this point, you can now see all the stores (that have Google Shopping enabled) and compare their prices in a single location. This tool doesn't always update the fastest (it's terrible to shop for hard drives), but it's an easy way to do a rapid comparison.
You can further limit your search to local stores or specific websites, if it suits you.
This can be really helpful when searching for a video card or any other component that may be a bit more on the expensive side since you may be able to save a few bucks using this tool.
Newegg - Shell Shockers and Daily Deals
Most of you know by now that Newegg is one of our go-to sites for hardware; they don't always have the best prices, but they have the best interface, and that makes searching easy. Newegg's Shell Shocker feature can sometimes reduce the price of a component by upwards of 50%, making for an easy impulse buy with some great hardware. The only downside to the Shell Shockers is their lack of cool gaming components, which seem to only circulate once in a while (due, undoubtedly, to the high demand).
In a recent Shell Shocker, Newegg was selling a refurbished GTX 560 for a highly affordable price and, as a result, sold out rapidly and then returned to normalcy. To take full advantage of these offerings, you'll need to become a Newegg lurker and check daily to see what sort of Shell Shocker deals they have available, they only have three a day so keep an eye peeled. Of course, their newsletter makes things easy and provides coupon codes, but they do send out a lot of emails.
Newegg's Daily Deals do feature some really cool hardware, but the discounts aren't quite as good (some up to 20% reductions). These typically offer a wider variety of components, so chances are you'll find something you actually wanted in the first place, as opposed to convincing yourself you really wanted that GPU anyway...
Android & Mobile Apps
This is really just a short shout-out for users of Android and iOS phones: Downloading Newegg's application for your phone will give you a simplified, easy layout to view shell shockers and daily deals (in some cases, it may even be easier than the actual site). Android users can grab the application here.
Deal Drop is another cool app for Android users, which notifies you as soon as a sale goes live. It's more generalized than computer hardware, so you'll have to configure it to specifically show your favorite sites.
NCIX - Free Shipping
Cases are big. They're also quite heavy, especially the HAF-XM that's due for release soon. If this revelation is news to you, it may be important to note that big things cost a lot to ship (in general). Sure, Newegg does a solid job of providing free shipping on some items, but some of the most fun cases have shipping costs nearing $20, which is entirely too much.
NCIX ships to both the US and Canada (us.ncix.com for those in the USA) and offers free shipping on orders of $50 or more (which is almost all orders). Keep them in mind.
Newegg, TigerDirect, NCIX - Combo Deals
Combos are the single, most important aspects of hardware shopping. These actually save you a decent amount of money and they're easy to overlook! They are very simple to use and have a relatively universal process: Pick a component, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "Browse more Combos." There should be plenty of components paired up with the one chosen and you'll end up saving $10-20 dollars.
Newegg - Learning How to Search
Because it's the most popular and, as stated previously, has the best interface, Newegg's very easy to peruse for hot items and/or affordable items. The logic is similar on all websites, but with Newegg specifically, here's how you should search:
Searching is a science, as Google has taught us, and it's one that can be mastered to pay considerably less on hardware. Use the search, Luke.
Reusing Old Computer Parts
Many of us prefer to start fresh on a new system -- there's nothing like loading up a set of brand-spanking-new components. Because of this, it's easy to forget that there are salvageable components from old builds that can be reused! Optical drives, old case and CPU fans, gaming cases, and even hard drives (if reformatted - prepare backups). Optical drive technology has not changed much in the past few years, and should an old one be reused, it could save an easy $20. If you have an old fan lounging around in a vacated case, don't hesitate to recycle it into a new setup, as you could save a couple bucks on that as well. Hard drives can also be reused (and with current prices, we encourage it), but for these you need to reformat for a clean OS install, so back things up. Cases are also re-usable if you've built a gaming system before, as much as we like to have a brand new one.
If you don't have enough cash to put together a system, don't fret! Take these tips into consideration and you may be able to reach your desired budget. Keep an eye on our PC Builds page for the latest budget setups we come up with, or subscribe to our RSS feed for even faster updates.
If you have any questions, be sure to check out our hardware forums, post below!
- FJ "Trymutos" Ybarra