Tnx Lissa and Pete for the heads up on the 'quality' of parts in the big name mass media brands. I'll retract my comment that the "value" was essentially the same, built vs bought.
Still, my thoughts were in strong agreement with Cy's comments on the 'driver dance' and how nasty it can be. Until last week I would have said the extra benefit of not having to fuss with drivers on pre-built made it the best choice. Then came NWN...
Requires Windows 2000 service pack 2
. Ah, didn't note that in the "requirements" until after install. Also DirectX 8.1. A while later I'm at SP2 and ready to play. Crash central. Not just once in a while, and not just crash to desktop. Blue screens. Black screens. 'Monitor shuts off cuz the system is so dead' screens. Owza!!
Well, having faced minor problems before with some games that weren't worth bothering with, I recognized this as a video driver problem. Just grab the latest one from Dell website and I'm set, right? Bzzzzt!!
The "latest" one on Dell's site is about a year old, and mentions being DirectX 8.0 compatible. Hmmm, try the ATI board's website and get the driver directly, right? It's a Radeon DDR, 32MB. Bzzt! I downloaded and tried to run, but the installer did not recognize the board. Doing it "manually" didn't work either, despite hours of effort. Finally, I search a 'DellTalk' forum, and hints of unpublicized, hidden wisdom, found there! The knowledgeable poster, who might have actually been a Dell employee, said something along the lines of "Use the ATI driver, not the Dell driver! Here's what you have to do to tweak the .inf file to be able to avoid the error message. And do it manually, not via the installer, and go into the registry and hack and slash the following settings." Eeep!! Not for the feint of heart. But respondents said "wow, this did the trick, thanks!" several times, so I tried it. Sure enough, I'm playing now
The final reboot came around 4:14 a.m. Mrs C was NOT
a happy camper, but was a little pacified when I told her I had spent 8 hours "fixing" the computer, not playing a single game.
If you need a driver upgrade to play a game (or DirectX, or a service pack), you can't play the "my settings are right I'm not touching anything" game, and you may need to troubleshoot these kinds of problems even for store-bought. Btw, what would a "normal" user do? Take the computer in for repair, watch the techs "reformat the drive" and reinstall Windows, pay through the nose, and spend days re-installing software. OTOH, the DellTalk forum did save my butt.
This anecdote doesn't clarify your decision, but gives some other perspective.