I have broken down and purchased something I never thought I would... a branded computer.
Not since the Commodore 64 have I ever purchased a pre-assembled computer, as I've had enough bad experiences with the ones I've dealt with on a more professional level. IBM, Gateway, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and especially E-Machines and Packard-Bell (ugh!), it didn't matter. I would (and generally still do) avoid pre-assembled computers like the plague.
"Why is this?" I can hear you ask.
If I didn't build a computer, then there would always be a chance that the parts would be 'custom-made' to 'interact with each other,' and any replacements I make would potentially result in hard-to-track problems as parts used to dealing with one another suddenly no longer have the 'one another' to interact with.
This is doubly so when part of the pre-installed software interacts with these specialized parts for the sake of 'security' or 'stability.' Essentially, the idea seems to be focused on 'vendor lock-in,' because anything not vendor-based is a 'security risk.' Packard Bell was particularly obsessive in this area. And then, there is the shovelware; you know, all those nigh-useless, house-branded programs, registration, and advertisement icons that are preinstalled with the computer when you buy it? On top of this, specialized software can have bad results if uninstalled. Shovelware doesn't. And the vendor does not make it easy to tell which is which.
So, with all this dislike of mass-produced computers, you are wondering why the breakdown. Where the premade/selfmade dichotomy breaks down is in one area: laptops.
A laptop is designed to be self-contained; very few parts are replaceable in a laptop; you need to be comfortable with the display and the keyboard. And since they are integrated with the case, which is integrated with the motherboard... well... there's not much left to choose from. You can't change the keyboard layout, can't choose a bigger display or a quieter case, and removing the inbuilt pointing device would be more work than it's worth.
In any event, I've bitten the bullet, and purchased one of the cheaper laptops, specifically an Acer 5515-5831 laptop. I've completely wiped Windows (and the hidden restore partition) from the computer, and am installing Gentoo now. We'll see how it works.