It seems to be a popular topic online these days that when buying a computer as to whether you should go with name brand computer (i.e. Dell) or a clone system (i.e build it yourself).
I have been building and repairing PC's for a good 10 years now or so, and have built over 4000 systems worldwide from the basic home user to large law firms. Each of these types of people were faced with the same question as stated above.
There are pros and cons to both and without putting you to sleep with techno-babble, I will try and be brief but succinct with my response.
Name Brand -
-Package deals - i.e. full system with all the bells and whistles for one set price. Done deal! Ready to go!
-Warranty - You break it, burn it, shoot it, lose it to a flood whatever you can get coverage for a price (usually about $350 for a three-year is standard)
-Support - You can call on a 24/7/365 support team that will help you after you accidentally deleted that all important windows file and just deep-sixed your operating system.
-A lot of the name brand systems are proprietary -- meaning that just about everything that can be integrated to the motherboard, is. This is great until you burn up a video card or lose your audio or whatever. Of course if you purchased a warranty then this will be covered unless it has expired.
-A lot of times you end up with either more than you need or less than you wanted and either way it cost you $1000+ for that lesson.
-If you want to add more things to your system (i.e. memory, hard drives, faster video card, etc.) you first need to call your support who will try and sell you "their" name brand product for considerably more (in some cases) that you could find if you look around the internet for a better deal. Then you have to figure out what will be compatible with your specific model and so on.
CLONE SYSTEMS -
-You can build a system from scratch or have a PC savvy friend do it and know EXACTLY what is in the box and hand choose each and every component personally. Total freedom over the decisions in building your eventual system.
-You can actually add things that are replaceable like a video card. Maybe you want a 128MB now but in six months you want to upgrade to a 256MB for greater speed, with a clone system all you have to know is what type card (AGP, PCI-E) and just go get another card, pop it in and voila, done!
-You can find really good deals on parts at various online shops, but it will take a little research on your part to find the best deal. I tend to stay away from Ebay on PC stuff because there is too much junk being sold as legit items.
-You NEVER pay for more than you want You put in exactly what you need, no more no less, and when you want to change something, you just go get it.
No warranty except manufacturer's warranty on parts and whatever warranty comes from where ever you bought the part. NOTE: If you buy a retail box processor (CPU)(AMD or Intel) they usually come with a 3 year warranty. Hard drives are starting to have 3-5 year warranties (Maxtor and Western Digital) and Memory has always been lifetime warranty (as long as I can remember).
If you don't have a pretty good knowledge of what you want you could end up with a $1000 worth of metal and junk.
You don't get the regular tech support, but if you have friends who are in the business, then that usually isn't an issue.
Now, I have used and built clone systems for years and I would never use a name brand desktop PC (my personal opinion only) because my computer systems usually outperform the name brand systems. I also know that if my PC goes south on me I have the resources and so on to fix it and be back up and running should I have a major error.
Now, with that having been said, there are plenty of people who own both types of PC's and are very happy with what they have. I am not slamming anyone's decision, I am just giving my two-cents about what I see in the industry. Dell makes great computers. So does Compaq and the others. It comes down to what do YOU need it to do? How much are you willing to spend for it? How much knowledge of PC's (repair and maintenance) do you have and are capable of dealing with in times of need?
Finally, in the case of laptops, I WOULD choose Compaq or Dell. Reason being, I don't know any place offering parts to build your own and Compaq, for instance has awesome deals for laptops and at prices that are very reasonable for the mobility factor involving PC's in the wireless age.