“White box” vs. Name Brand PCs

A question we are often asked is: “Why do you only sell name brand computers? Why don’t you build computers?” While we do occasionally build PCs for select applications (for instance, network video recorders for video surveillance systems we install) in general we have found the practice of building custom PCs for our clients not to be the best option. I will explain my thoughts as to how we came to this decision. The term “white box” is defined by Wikipedia as “a personal computer or server without a registered brand name”. This applies to any custom PC built by either a home hobbyist or a computer sales and support company.

First, a little history: Back in the day (10 to 20 years ago) a brand new PC cost several thousand dollars, but you could build a computer yourself with off the shelf parts for a fraction of that. There was also little difference between the parts that were being used in the name brand PCs and in the custom built models. Because of this there were many “home hobbyist” PC builders (those that built computers for themselves and for their friends and families) and companies that would build computers for individuals and other businesses. The profit margins were great and everyone was getting a deal and was happy. Let’s fast forward to the present day: things have changed, PCs are now a commodity item and are priced as such. They are also much more complex and new hardware, features and systems are coming out at a much faster pace. Gone are the days of a simple 200MHz Pentium Pro processor connecting to a 100 MHz motherboard, etc. The math was much simpler then. With the faster processors, motherboards, memory, etc. comes the problem of mismatched multipliers. Basically what this means is that each component is working at a specific frequency (x number of cycles per second). These frequencies don’t all have to be the same, but things work much better and much faster when they are at least multipliers of each other. When they are not properly matched up they will still work, but you can see issues in speed and stability.

Then you have the issues of driver compatibility, hardware compatibility, heat dissipation, electro-magnetic interference, and the list goes on. The big name PC manufacturers have people whose sole job is to make sure that all of these things are accounted for, because if they are not it can result in large losses due to failures.

Today’s home user building their own computer for general use or a custom gaming PC can decide for themselves if they want to deal with the issues that come with this type of project: constantly upgrading parts, dealing with going to a dozen sites for drivers or worrying about which revisions of which hardware/software are compatible or not with the rest of the components.

A business owner should not have to worry about these sorts of decisons. Nor should they have to worry about spending extra money on support due to these sorts of issues. When you purchase a business grade PC from a name brand you are expecting certain things form the manufacturer:

-That they will be around if you have trouble with the hardware
-That they will have a centralized repository for updates to drivers, firmware, etc.
-That they will stand behind their hardware with a reasonable warranty and come to you to resolve the issue promptly

These are not things that you necessarily get with a white box PC. You may or may not get a lower cost computer of the same quality with matching specifications. For instance, while all Intel Core i5 processors are the same, all the motherboards they go into are not. The same goes for memory, hard drives and most other components.

So, that is the long answer to why we at Latitude 34 Technologies don’t build the desktop PCs we sell. Whatever we sell we want to be able to stand behind 100% and to have the manufacturer standing behind us 100%.

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