Well it depends what kind of PC you want. If you want a low-end computer, Dell are excellent value for money and would be my brand of choice. If you want anything from mid to high end though, definitely building it yourself is the best option. If that's the case, get yourself an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU with a compatible motherboard and 2GB of RAM from Crucial, a decent PSU, case etc and then a Geforce 8800GT gra[hics card.
As for Dell being 3 times more expensive, not sure where you get that info or your pricing, but Dell is almost always consistently cheaper than most other major top tier manufacturers. If you want to compare Dell to something like an off-brand/store brand generic white box, then they might be a little more expensive, but not by much.
if you are comparing on the high end, then Dell can get a little more expensive.. but, as ray mentions, it's actually usually cheaper to piece together your own system if you want to go high end.
So, lets start with the basic question: what kind of specs are you looking for in a new system and what major functions will it be used for?
And never trust the word of a salesman without verifying what they say. I'm sure he'll tell you Dell is pricer because he doesn't sell Dell (As Dell is a direct purchasing model).
And I would agree for most home users, Dell produces some good machines. Their servers have come a long way over the last 10 years as well.
As for what I would recommend, If you have the know how, I'd still say build your own so you can specify everything that goes into it. If you want to go with a manufactured machine, I'd probably recommend Dell.
As for which model Dell, again, it again goes back to question of what kind of budget and specs you are looking for.
if you are lookng for something that will handle gaming, I'd probably start in the XPS series (maybe start on the XPS 420 or 720) on the desktop side.
If you want a gaming machine do not buy off the shelf.
If you want a performance non-gaming machine look at Dell and look at HP/Compaq. Dell support is excellent, I don't know about HP/compaq. Avoid Emachines, Gateway and Lenovodue to reliability and quality issues.
The problem with buying off the shelf is they are generally not cost efective to upgrade. To keep costs down they cut corners everywhere (power supply, cooling, MB slots, ram expansion, etc). So if you want to upgrade one part, everything else has to be changed.
Unless you know someone who can show you the ropes, building your own can be a difficult the first time.
If you had a budget and what your expectations are (gaming, etc) we can help more. If gaming is not an issue any Intel Core 2 Duo system will be a good performer. With gaming video cards become crucial and you need to look for special features with memory/CPU/MB.
My only gripe with dell is the preloaded software, all the 30 day trials and subscription software can kiss it. The last computer I bought was not a dell and it came with nothing but vista and nero, what a feeling that was...
Build your own...sure its a little more $ but you'll get ONLY what you want...none of the extra junk/programs you'll get with a pre-made desktop.
My boyfriend just built a pc for his gaming fetish, and it cost him 800, but if he wanted to sell it, all the parts totalled are $1100, so you can sell it even if you wanted afterwards. Go to tigerdirect or newegg. I hope this helps.
Ep, glad to see you come back and tidy up...did want to ask a one day favor, I want to enhance my resume , was hoping you could make me administrator for a day, if so, take me right off since I won't be here to do anything, and don't know the slightest about the board, but it would be nice putting "served administrator osnn", if can do, THANKS