- Buy a secondhand refurbished box from a reseller.
- Buy a barebones kit and assemble it myself.
The major downside of going that way is that these are generally proprietary boxes. This means I would have very limited options for upgrading and modifying the system as I see fit. So just like now, if something went out on the motherboard, I'd be hosed. Or at the very least, I'd be locked into parts from that one manufacturer, which are often more expensive.
My other option is to buy a barebones kit and assemble it. This way I wouldn't be locked into a proprietary system, and you tend to get a bit more machine for your money. I'd also get the learning experience of putting my own computer together all by myself! The downside of going that route is that I wouldn't have the security of being able to call a single phone number. Also, individual manufacturers might try to weasel out of their warranty by placing the blame on a part they don't make. And as anyone who's worked with computers for a while, the quality of a company's customer service is not a trivial matter.
Strangely enough, both options cost roughly the same for what I'm looking for. So we're looking at a philosophical difference here. Not sure which way I'll go, but of course, I'll keep you posted!