While the above example systems are generally indicative, they're by no means definitive--you can probably find more expensive white box/small brand systems, and less expensive name-brand units. Plus, system specs are a moving target anyway, as various configurations come and go. Still, as a general rule, it's fair to say that you can probably save a couple hundred dollars per hardware unit by opting for the white box/small brand PCs, and end up with hardware that can be just as good as brand-name.
But you do need to look at the total bundle--hardware, software, service and support--to see whether these systems make sense for you. For example, if you have to add additional commercial software or buy additional software licenses to get the boxes running the way you want, the hardware savings become less significant. But if you can use these PCs more or less as-shipped, either with the open source software that comes bundled, or with other software for which you already own a valid license, then you can realize the full savings offered by these inexpensive PCs.
With prices this low, white-box and small-brand systems are certainly worth a look, if only on a trial basis. Odds are, your trial will show that they can function as no-quibble, full-bore replacements for some of your standard, brand-name PC workstations.
What's your experience with white-box, small brand, or generic PCs? Does your company allow or mandate the use of this kind of system? What's the lowest-cost system you know of? What's most elaborate and powerful? Let's pool our knowledge in the Listening Post discussion area!
To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.