All through the late 1990s and early 2000s, assembled PCs, aka “white boxes”, were the rage in India, what with the low prices, lack of good desktop models from international brands and authorized service centres. This changed when Dell, HP (Hewlett-Packard) and other major brands entered the Indian market with a whole range of new desktops and notebook PCs. Today, the market is flooded with international brands catering to almost every style and price.
So do white boxes really provide better value for money or does paying the extra buck provide you more than just a brand name? We take a look.
When you buy a branded PC you are buying a beautifully designed piece of hardware. Everything from the OS (operating system) to the drivers installed is tailor-made to cater to the hardware, thus leading to fewer software glitches in the system and almost zero downtime. But there is a downside to this specific design choice, and that is that you do not get much room to use the components of your choice. Instead, you get a fixed set of internals or a limited choice of options. So you can forget about pairing a high-end graphics card with a mid-specification processor.
Another benefit with branded computers is the after-sales service provided. As Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya, executive director at Rasilant Technologies, an RFID manufacturing company, says: “If you are looking at an always on PC, branded is the way to go. Not only do you have tech support issues, but the support you get from a manufacturer is much more organized and quicker than what your local techie would provide. Besides, paying increasing amounts for an annual maintenance contract isn’t really worth it.” Companies such as Dell and Apple run call centres with well-trained executives who know the specifics of each system and can assist you over the phone, while most local dealers won’t be of much help until they can send a technician over a day later at best.
But what really differentiates a branded PC from a white box is the price. A branded desktop commands a certain premium (at least 20%) over a similarly configured white box, but this significance is present only on high-end models that use the latest hardware. At the lower end of the spectrum though, branded desktops can come cheaper than a white box since the economies of scale cause the price to drop substantially.
So there you have it, from better service to fewer hassles and almost everything in between. Branded desktops clearly win the race here. Unless you need a device for very specific work or are intent on building your own rig for the fun of it, a white box really isn’t what you should be looking for.
Still confused? Head to Delhi’s Nehru Place or Mumbai’s Lamington Road and have a look at the various PCs and white box rigs available, check price differences and ask for estimates. Most stores will be glad to entertain queries because finally it all boils down to what you need.
Tips for buying a branded PC
Don’t be lured by freebies such as screen cleaners, an optical mouse or software. You are paying for all of it through some hidden charge. Refuse the freebies and ask for a better price.
A gigabyte of RAM costs just about Rs 400 on the street, so stay away from paying Rs 1,000 for that extra RAM from an OEM. Most new motherboards have multiple RAM slots, and installing more RAM is just a screwdriver away.
Some manufacturers tie up with major corporate and government institutions to provide discounts of up to 15% for their employees. Ask your manufacturer if they do, and how you could avail it.
Lastly, take a long-term comprehensive warranty; it’s really worth it, especially for laptops that have to survive damage such as coffee spills. You can rest assured that if any part (excluding the battery) fails over the warranty period, regardless of whether it’s due to normal wear and tear or a faulty part, it will be replaced. Also, most comprehensive warranties cover accidental damage such as water spills, etc. So it’s really worth it!
Also take a look at the more expensive but beautiful all-in-one machines such as the iMac and others made by HP and Lenovo. They pack the CPU and everything else behind the screen, leaving you with almost no wires!
Tips for buying an assembled device
Prepare a list of components you’d like, so you can ask around for the cheapest prices of each component.
Most local dealers use a pirated/cracked copy of the Windows OS to keep costs down. Be wary of this and demand a legal copy. Pirated copies are susceptible to virus attacks since they do not receive updates from Windows.
Most dealers will sell the assembled PC really cheap but try and fleece you on the “assembly/installation charge”. Be warned.
Ask about individual warranty periods on each component. Most components generally come with three- to five-year warranty.
THE DECIDING FACTORS
The requirements of a home PC are different from those of a work PC
The family PC
Don’t be fooled by integrated graphics accelerators for a great media experience. A decent mid-range graphics card from Nvidia or ATI not only makes for a smooth media experience while watching your favourite videos and playing video games, but also prevents stuttering on high-quality YouTube videos. You need at least 4 GB RAM and a dual core processor. A 500 GB hard drive should hold you in good stead.
Add on: 5.1 speakers, integrated Bluetooth, webcam, and external hard drive to backup your data.
The office PC
A dual core PC with at least 2 GB of RAM should hold up for the everyday needs of a small business. A graphics card and huge hard drives won’t be required to store your daily excel sheets and word documents.
Add on: Wireless mouse and keyboard to keep your workspace wire-free, in-built Wi-Fi, and a larger screen.
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