Re: Is it worth it to build your own computer?
I've built the last four or five desktops I've owned from the ground up. I would say, for the most part, it's always been worth it. The nearly limitless selection of components from which the prospective builder has to choose is pretty amazing, and that variety in a vast swath of price points makes pinpointing what it is that you're trying to achieve really simple. If you want a high-end gaming machine, most of your money is going to go to your RAM, processor, and video card (which will no doubt be the single most pricey component in your box). Anyway, the best overall advantage (to me) of building my own systems is that my systems are completely free of all of that extraneous "crap-ware" or "bloat-ware" that come pre-installed (and are surprisingly difficult to remove) on those cheap "complete" systems you see at Costco and whatnot for $300. There's a reason why those are so cheap, and a lot of it has to do with the amount of "advertising" that comes on them. If that's not a major concern for you, and you're just looking for a tinker box that you can use as a basic computer, then one of those off the shelf boxes will work just fine for you.
Not me, though...the advantages and selection (and the "fun" of actually building your own machine) far outweigh the perceived low cost of those ready-to-run units...even the HP's, Dells, etc. Just my opinion, of course.
Bottom line, you can build yourself a really solid all-purpose computer with current specs for under $700, and it will blow most off-the-shelf units right out of the sky. It might not be stuffed with the absolute cream of the crop of high-end components, but it will be a very serviceable and stable platform for you, capable of handling everything you throw at it.