Whitebox computers – are they worth it?

One of our clients recently brought in a computer that they had purchased for gamingWhat he initially thought was a great deal on a computer custom-built for his hobby, turned out to be the start of an ongoing saga of repeated visits and calls to the Monocera office, wondering why his computer had stopped working again.  

Our client — let’s call him Paul — had purchased a custom built (whitebox) computer 

As Paul quickly found out, we vehemently do not recommend purchasing a whitebox computer, even if it is just for gaming and personal useIn our opinion, the cons far outweigh the pros.  

If you’re sitting on the other side of the screen and have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about, or even if you’re thinking of purchasing a whitebox computer yourself, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll explain what a whitebox computer is, the issues they commonly run into it and provide our recommendation.  

What is a whitebox computer? 

whitebox computer is a brandless computer, built out of common and readily available parts. While a Dell computer will be made from Dell parts, a whitebox computer will be a mash-up of all sorts of different manufacturers 

Whitebox computers are usually built by computer shop or other IT providers, often with gaming in mind. Generally, whitebox computers are cheaper than their big brand name equivalents. 

Why are they called whitebox computers? 

Imaginatively, the term whitebox comes from the colour of the box that computers usually come in – white. Take away any distinguishing logos from the original brand or manufacturer, and it’s not hard to see why they’re called whitebox 

You’ve heard of white label or generic products before, right? Whiteboxes are the same. 

Are they worth it? 

In our opinion, the costs of a whitebox computer far outweigh the benefits. Any initial savings will likely be outstripped by the money and time you spend on repairs. 

But – we always recommend you do your own research before making a decision. To give you a place to start, here are some of the initial costs and benefits of purchasing a whitebox computer. 

What are the benefits of whitebox computers? 

Obviously, there are a couple perceived benefits of purchasing a whitebox desktop computer — hence their popularity.  

Here are the most common reasons people purchase these computers: 

Custom 

Whitebox computers are not some one-size-fits-all, home-brand-style set up. They come in a myriad of size, shapes and uses – from smaller, cheap desktops for students looking to save money, to custom-built behemoths used by serious gamers.  

For avid gamers in particular, the ability to upgrade certain parts of the computer (i.e., graphics card or cooling system) may be a very attractive option. In other words, you can build your computer to match the style of games you play. Computer users who are looking to have the best tech as soon as it’s available can also obtain this dream with a whitebox setup.  

As we will explain later, however, this may not always be possible.  

Price 

Whitebox computers are often sold at a lower price than their big-name brand equivalents. Understandably, this is a major factor in any purchasing decision, not just for computers.  

As we mentioned earlier though, any initial savings can quickly be far outstripped by future issues. 

What are the downsides of buying a whitebox computer? 

In our opinion, there are several downsides to buying a whitebox computer. We’ll explain each in their own detail: 

Less choice 

Okay, we know we listed the customisability as a benefit of these computers, so how can less choice be a cost? 

Very often, you may not be able to select the specific parts that go into your computer. For example, if you only wanted more memory and an upgraded power unit, you may be forced to purchase a whole extra level up.   

This means you may end up paying for extra features you do not need, just to get the ones you want.  

Warranty

 This is one of our biggest gripes with whitebox computers – warranty.  

With a Dell or other brandname computer, every stock piece of the build is covered under warranty – from the motherboard to the memory sticks. 

With a whitebox computer, on the other hand, each different part of the computer will fall under its own warranty and may even void the warranty on other individual parts.   

You don’t need to be tech-whiz to see how this has the potential to become a real problem every time your computer has a hardware issue. 

Compatibility 

Today, all our devices are interconnected; from your phone syncing up to your computer, which then casts to a boardroom screen, which in turn syncs with the webcam 

Whitebox computers often have major issues when it comes to compatibility and pairing with other devices or programs.  

Remember above when we talked about being at the cutting-edge? While the thought of installing the latest and greatest graphics card in your custom computer case sounds good – it might not fit your current computer case, or motherboard, or provide a better experience if the rest of the computer can’t keep up! 

Repairs 

The issues we encounter when trying to repair a whitebox computer are some of the most frustrating problems for both our clients and us.  

Obviously, repairs are less straightforward when the computer is made up of parts from several different brands. 

This is because new replacement pieces may not be compatible with what’s in your computer. What’s even more frustrating, is the fact that we may not know the replacement piece is incompatible with your computer until after we have ordered it and tried installing.  

This issue alone can turn a relatively straightforward repair job into a major ordeal of trial and error; repeatedly stabbing in the dark trying to find compatible replacement pieces.  

Are whiteboxes still popular? 

Whitebox computer set ups have decreased in popularity over the years. Namely due to the growing popularity of laptop computers and the increased demand for being able to work remotely.  

You only need to look at the statistics for computer sales in 2020. As the pandemic forced many of us to reevaluate the way we work, the total sale of all computers in Australia grew 11.8% in 2020. Despite this, total desktop sales dropped 8.6%, whereas commercial sale of laptops increased by 11% and consumer sale increased by a whopping 29.3%.  

In saying this, whitebox computers still remain a popular option in certain communities – like gamers.  

Our recommendation? 

If you are thinking of purchasing a whitebox computer, our recommendation is to come speak to us first. We’ll be able to walk you through your options properly and let you know whether you’re better off purchasing a whitebox setup or spending a bit extra on a name brand.   


Why You Should Always Order 4G or 5G Failover

For most businesses today, the importance of getting connected is only outweighed by the need to stay connected. From professional services relying on their CRM platforms to communicate with clients, to retail businesses needing a stable connection at their Point-of-Sale, a strong connection is required in almost every industry.  

Whether we like it or not, everyone is on the internet and it can be chaos when it goes down — none more so than for businesses. The thing to note is that the effects of a connection drop-out extend far beyond a temporary inability to communicate with staff and clientsFor example, in a network drop out, your ability to transfer critical data is compromised, as is your ability to keep your connected devices secure.

study by Deloitte on the economic impact of disruptions to internet connectivity found that an average of $23.6 million would be lost per 10 million population.   

Luckily, you can mitigate the impact of these outages on your business by installing or retrofitting cellular network access to your modem. This is known as a 4G or 5G failover.  

While 4G/5G failovers are becoming more common and readily available, we’re still surprised by the number of people who are unaware or do not see the value in this extra layer of backup. All too often, business owners don’t see the point in a 4G/5G failover until it’s too late.  

So, to make things a bit clearer, here’s a quick run through of why you should always order 4G/5G failover 

What is 4G or 5G failover? 

A failover solution backs up your internet connection in the event of a network cut-out 

4G and 5G failover solutions, unsurprisingly, uses mobile networks to keep you online. This means your modem will not only be able to connect to the internet but can also connect to the same 4G/5G signal as your phone. 

While this is less important for people streaming Netflix on a Saturday night, it’s obviously a big deal for businesses that rely heavily on their internet connection.  

In fact, we’d argue that nearly every business relies heavily on their internet connection – they may just not know to what extent.  

Why is it important? 

Being able to maintain your connection is essential, especially in an era of remote working and collaboration. Still, however, we hear people say things like, “Oh, if it drops out, I’ll just hotspot it”. 

There are a few things wrong with this.  

Firstly, does the rest of the office have internet? Just because you’re working, do the rest of your colleagues have to get their own phones out and hotspot? 

More specifically, if you’re in the middle of a boardroom meeting and your internet cuts out, your hotspot may be able to get your laptop back online, but if you’re connecting to the screen via Wifiyou’re all going to be huddled around someone’s laptop.  

Not really conducive to sealing that deal, is it? 

Printers are another everyday device that will stop working if you try to hotspot a single device when the network goes down. This is a particular concern if your business offers paper receipts, or you have time-sensitive documents that need to be physically signed or sent off.

Beyond this, if you work in retail and your POS system goes down, you’re essentially bleeding money until the connection resumes. Do you force customers to wait in line patiently? Or do you tell them to come back later and potentially lose out on sales? 

On the other hand, a 4G or 5G failover will automatically and seamlessly switch your connection over. In our clients’ experience, their connection is swapped so quickly there is no noticeable interruption.  

Example

We pitched ordering a 4G or 5G failover for one of our clients in professional services. Predictably, there was some hesitation around the cost and questions around whether it really was worth it.  

So, we broke it down like this:  

Let’s say you’re a professional services firm with a staff of 10 billable workers, earning the company an average rate of $150 an hour.  

That means a 1 hour outage costs your business $1,500. A 4G/5G failover on the other hand, starts from $50 per month.   

You do the maths.  

How does it work?

4G failover works by automatically switching your connection over from Wifi to 4G cellular data if your internet connection drops out. These days, the switch over from Wifi to cellular data is so quick, you may not even know you lost connection in the first place.  

To get this extra layer of protection, you can either install a new modem or have the failover connection retrofitted to your existing modem 

Our experience 

At Monocera, we’re lucky enough to work with a range of different clients across several different industries. This means we’re able to get a pretty good overview of which technologies can augment and optimise businesses of all shapes and sizes.  

Because of this, we can safely say that you should always order 4G failover, regardless of your business.  

A stable internet connection is never guaranteed. Since so much of today’s economy is moving digitally (and not looking to slow down), it only makes sense to give yourself that extra level of protection 

If you are thinking of securing your connection with a 4G failover, get in contact and we’ll walk you through your options.  


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