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B.T.O. / Generic / White Box Laptops: GOOD BUY or GOODBYE?

June 6, 2015
While deleting other Technical articles in line with closing the store, for Posterity we decided to keep this article about BTO / Generic Laptops.
Where are the BTO laptops at this time? --- Gone! :)

Keeping this article to remind us to stick to what is logical despite not being a profitable decision.

The Main question -> what is a "Generic" / White Box / "O.E.M." Laptop?

Our OWN definition is that a Laptop is "Generic" if the manufacturer does not support the unit after purchase.
a) If the manufacturers that do not provide bios and driver updates for customers. This makes the unit stagnant and issues not addressed. (below you will read why bios updates is important)
b) Laptops are mobile devices and it is expected that the bios and driver support should be web based for the convenience of the customer. (note: not just an online driver page; but a website that provides updated driver)
c) - B.T.O / White Box / "O.E.M." are simply terms for generic laptops.

- with a generic laptop the relationship stops when you buy the unit, with a branded laptop it is the start of a relationship.

How important is Bios and driver updates? It is best explained by a long time laptop user.

well, just recently i happen to acquire an IBM Thinkpad P3 notebook. it was pre-installed with windows me.. the owner told me that the battery is defective and needs replacement since it will only last for a few minutes.

i changed the OS to Windows XP and tried to time the battery life, i charged it and let it drain until it completely shuts down. for the first 10 minutes the battery indicator dropped from 100% down to 6% and then Windows reports a battery low alert. Since I disabled standby and hibernation, it continued to run for two hours.. to my surprise of course. I did it twice and got the same battery life. It was great news except for the incorrect battery indicator that Windows report/alerts which is quite annoying.

Thinking what could be the problem, I tried to search for a BIOS update at the ibm.com website that might solve this problem and luckily enough the latest update for that notebook model fixed it. It made the notebook XP compatible since the current latest Windows OS at the time that particular notebook model was released was Windows Me. Also as a bonus, I was able to download the driver and software to make the middle button of the trackpad work.

It was nice for IBM to still provide support on their old notebook models to make it compatible with future OSes. Critical updates like these makes older notebook models extend their usability, instead of just upgrading into a new one. I'm sure that branded laptop manufacturers will also release similar bios updates to make their certain older notebook models to fully support Vista as well.

In our opinion, Buying generic is like buying a Home made Jeep... local chassis, Isuzu engine, Toyota Head Lights, Nissan dashboard, Mazda suspension, brakes by Banawe... etc. Now when something does not work, who is at fault?

More examples why buying a laptop is only the beginning of a relationship below

A Nagging Question, Battery Recall and Generic Laptops (Updated July 14, 2007):
All major brands have issued Battery Recalls on specific laptops models
Today, July 14, 2007 Toshiba released another set of Battery Recalls <click here>

To this time, none of the generic brands have issued a battery recall.
Makes you think, right?
This is what we mean when we say that buying Branded is a start of a relationship

VISTA and On-line Driver Support (Update May 14, 2006):

Computer Users live in Exciting Times
At the start of the year the Core Duo was released…
Within the year a New Microsoft Operating system, VISTA may be released…

We remind our fellow mobile computer users that no matter what you Buy Today –
there is going to be a faster / better / fancier model tomorrow, and for Less Money
Based on experience, buying the latest does not really count as much as ensuring that a
newly purchased laptop is compatible with Future software and technologies.

Your laptop may be Vista ready but do you have the Vista drivers?
Your laptop may be 64-bit ready but do you have the 64-bit drivers?

Branded Manufacturers are already releasing new Drivers in their website to allow laptops to be 64-bit Compatible...what about generic laptop?

Purchase with confidence knowing that with BRANDED LAPTOPS you have on-line support
for the latest Drivers and Bios updates to keep your system “Up-to-date”

Dual Core Laptops and Bios Update (Update May 14, 2006)

The Dual Core was released last January 5, 2006. At that time we felt that it would be more prudent and judicious to first hold-off from offering models with the Dual Core to you, our clients, since numerous bugs were uncovered shortly after the initial release.

Last April 24,2006 the bugs were remedied through Bios Updates released by laptop manufacturers and since then we have been offering Dual Core models. One Brand released Three(3) Bios Updates in 45-days to correct bugs in the system including the most important Power Management Bug. Note: That is One(1) Bios Update every Fifteen(15) days!

Question: With BTO/Generic/Whitebook laptops... how will these bugs get remedied? One distributor of BTO laptops even refuses to acknowledge a bug exists but the webcam in the model shuts down when the battery is reduced to 45%!

We are awaiting for the release of the Windows VISTA operating system this coming 3Q2006 to see how BTO/Generic/Whitebook sellers will be handling the incompatibility issues that we expect will happen...

The Long story
Introduction... In 2003 we took a stand against Japanese Surplus Laptops. To offer these for sale was a very hard temptation to resist because the Prices were "too good" to be true. But after testing several Japanese Market brands we could not get ourselves to sell Laptops we ourselves would NOT USE! The keyboard keys did not correspond to the characters appearing on the display; the Japanese keyboard was simply not compatible the English Language! Two years later our decision was proven correct as the trend of Japanese Surplus Laptops died because of unfavorable customer experience.

In Year 2005, a lot of "Generic" / White Box / "O.E.M." Laptops begun proliferating in the market.
Even respectable PC-Chains have joined the Bandwagon. Is it for Real? Is it a Good-Buy or a GoodBye?

Based on our experience we say that purchasing a Generic Laptops is NOT ADVISABLE.

To clarify... the following Laptop Brands have validated on-line support
Dell - www.dell.com
IBM - www.ibm.com
Toshiba -www.toshiba.com
Hp-Compaq - www.hp.com
Acer - www.acer.com
Sony Vaio - <click here> (quite difficult to use through)
Gateway Computers <click here>
Aopen: <click here>
Avaratec: <click here>
Twin Head <click here>
Asus <click here>
ECS: <click here>
MSI:<click here>

If we missed out any on the list please send us an email with a link to the on-line support and download site of the manufacturer. If they have on-line support then they are not "generic".

Laptops Without On Line Web based BIOS and DRIVER Support:
Happy(PcCorner) - ceased
X-mobile(Pc Express)

and the rest.

Hope this clarifies the "violent" objections to a verifiable fact about on-line driver and bios support

Serious Desktop Users have known the importance of Bios and Driver Upgrades... it is Simply LOGICAL!

Why? a cute link provided by a thankful customer <click here>
a. In the very-very slim likelihood that the manufacturer of a Hardware has designed a Perfect machine, the issue is it must work with a software like Windows XP, Adobe, Corel, Interwind, Norton, etc...

b. The manufacturer of the Hardware has no control on how the Software will be released.

c. The Software designer can not possible design a system for all hardwares for it will be too big and will cause lag.

d. Both Hardware and software must adjust accordingly through on-line driver upgrades and bios support. Without On-line support it is like swimming with your hands tied...

This is why early generic/whitebook Laptops like Asus and ECS have instituted on-line bios and driver support. There were just too many issues with their growing client base that they had to offer the service... unfortunately as a result of R&D they likewise became as expensive as the major brands.

a fellow laptop enthusiast shared - buying a generic laptop is like buying an Anti-Virus without on-line updates... If you can not understand this statement most likely you will get sales talked about buying Generic laptops... LoL!

Another sharing form a fellow laptop user - to be fair, before i decided on the compaq v2318, gusto ko yung XXXX whitebook and the XXX 540gx(ddr2 memory). both have spectacular specs and widescreen 14". hassle lang after sales support, especially down-loadable driver/bios/software updates. my friend who has a neo has to go to glee to have a copy of his original cd na nawala nya. ayaw ko nang ganun kasi i live 350 kms from manila! 3000 pesos gagastusin ko sa gasolina lang to go there, wala pa hotel at pagkain!!! wag na.

What is BIOS anyway?

BIOS - Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) is the core program of a PC. Stored on an EPROM (eraseable programmable read-only memory) chip, the BIOS is activated when the PC is started. It loads the OS (operating system) from the hard drive, and manages the flow of data between the OS and the system's various hardware components

In our many years of working with Laptops, we have not encountered a single laptop Model and Brand that did not have a Bug. All Brands and Models of Laptops have Bugs!.

With over 1000 instructions and features, a Hardware developer will most likely miss at least one instruction and cause a bug.
These bugs are remedied with BIOS and DRIVER Updates.

When you purchase a "Generic" Laptop (meaning no WEB-BASED support) how will the bugs be fixed?

How serious are these Bugs? Some examples from reputable manufacturers.

A. DELL INSPIRON 6000 <click here>
Systems: Dell Inspiron 6000 Series Version: A07
Build Date: 06/27/2005
Intel 915GM Graphics Video BIOS version 1219
ATI Mobility Radeon X300 Video BIOS version 8.17M.192.067
1. Fixed issue seen on systems with the Intel 915GM Graphics in which
the TV display mode may switch from PAL-B to NTSC after resuming
from Standby or Hibernate.
2. Fixed issue in which some CD-ROM/DVD/CD-RW drives may fail to be
recognized by the system.

1. Updated the ATI video BIOS to version 8.017M.192.067.

B. COMPAQ PRESARIO V2010 <click here>
System Enhancements Disk for Windows XP (Service Pack 2)
- Installs Microsoft Windows Update 883667 to fix the issue documented in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 883667, "OEM Windows XP Setup program may stop responding during video driver installation."
- Installs Microsoft Windows Update 884575 to fix the issue documented in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 884575, "Battery power may be drained more quickly than expected on your Windows XP-based portable computer."
- Installs Microsoft Windows Update 885464 to fix the issue documented in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 885464, "SBP-2 drive stops responding when you try to write data in Windows XP."

C. IBM THINKPAD G40 <click here>
- Symptom corrected by version 1TET99WW (1.14)
- (Fix) This BIOS update contains an Intel errata patch for the microprocessor firmware. It addresses a potential issue which might cause a system to exhibit erratic behavior such as a system hang, reboot, blue screen or Kernel Panic (Linux), and may also cause in-progress system operations (e.g. file, I/O) to fail. The possibility of this behavior is believed to be limited, but IBM strongly recommends that customers install this update as soon as possible to prevent the possibility of the issues listed above.

D. TOSHIBA SATELLITE A65 <click here>
- Bios Version 1.70 10-22-2004
- Fixed a problem with the DMI OEM string "Energy Star standby time-out" issue.
- Added support for Intel P4 processor (Prescott) E-stepping F41H. The CPU must run with Windows SP2.
- Fixed a problem where Fn+F9 status cannot save after a system shutdown.
- Fixed potential overheating issue by enabling the EC watchdog timer (4 seconds) before EC passes control to BIOS.

With BUGS being a REALITY in mobile computing, clearly more important than the Price Consideration is the SUPPORT which Manufacturers offer to the customer. With continuous R&D Manufacturers are able to provide updates to their units and not merely focus on selling an item. No Surprise Branded laptop are priced Higher because of the After Sales Service.

The way we see it, when you purchase a Laptop from a "Branded" Manufacturer a relationship begins... Whereas upon purchasing a "Generic" Laptop it is the Start and End of a relationship. Good Buy or Goodbye?

Maybe like what a GERMAN car manufacturer stated "...sometimes Brand is more Imporant than New".
Happy Hunting!

note: how will you find a part of the generic laptop if the distributor will close down?

A nice link for those more interested: <click here> Special thanks to Angelopatrick.

A nice blog about Branded vs Generic Laptops <click here>
- note: article was forward to us we do not know the writer personally...