What Are White Box Laptop Chassis?

Building Your Own Laptop from a Base Chassis and Parts

Clevo White box laptop chassis
Clevo White box laptop chassis. Clevo

White box is a term used in the computer industry to mean computers that are built from parts by any non-tier-one manufacturer. Dell, HP, and Apple are all tier-one manufacturers. They have their computers branded with their logos and built from parts they have designed just for their systems. Smaller companies don't have the luxury of being able to afford custom built components and therefore build computers from general components offered on the market. In the early days of computers, all cases were white and since the tier-two companies didn't have their logos printed on the plain cases, they were called white boxes.

While it is pretty much assumed that companies are building custom computers from desktop components, most consumers do not realize that many laptops are also constructed from basic parts. This is where the white box laptops come from. If you have looked at companies such as iBUYPOWER or Cyberpower PC, you may have seen two laptops that look identical. This is probably because they use the same basic white box laptop that is then customized with their logos detailed onto them. The big difference now is that some of these chassis are now available to consumers directly to build their own laptop PC from parts.

The White Box Laptop Chassis

The key to a white box laptop is the chassis. While a desktop system is not defined by the case, a laptop is. The chassis is more like buying a bare-bones desktop kit and a monitor. A chassis includes the case, keyboard, pointer, motherboard, and display. This will have a huge determination of what remaining parts can be installed. In order to complete the system, a processor, memory, hard drive or SSD, and software must all be installed into the system. This is far fewer items than one needs to get to put together a desktop system.

Previously, choices were very limited by the manufacturers as to what type of white box chassis were available. Typically a basic thin and light notebook system was available and usually only used the Intel chipset and processors. Today the variety of chassis available to consumers is much larger. This includes ultraportable and desktop-replacement-sized laptops as well as support for AMD's mobile processors. This provides the consumer with a much wider range of choices for building their own notebook computer.


One of the biggest advantages of a white box laptop is the flexibility of component choices. Users have more say in what parts go into the notebook even when compared to the customization offered by companies such as Dell. This means that the user can get a system tailored exactly to what they want to the system to do.

Another advantage of a white box laptop is its upgrade potential. Most laptops now sold by the major companies are sealed such that only a few parts such as memory can be upgraded. With a white box laptop, the majority of the parts are easily accessible because it has to be in order for the components to be installed in the first place. This allows users to upgrade optical drives and processors without having to go through a manufacturer or buying a new system. Only the smallest ultraportable chassis tend to lack the widest range of upgrade options.


The first and foremost problem with a white box laptop has to do with warranties. When a complete laptop is purchased from a tier-one manufacturer, it comes complete with a warranty for service for any parts that reside in it. White box laptops are much more complicated. If the system was put together by a store, they may offer a warranty, but they are more than likely to require that each part is warrantied from the manufacturer. This can make things complicated if a part breaks and needs repair.

Another thing that many white box laptops lack is software. It is up to the consumer generally to supply all the software. This may not be a problem, but many tier-one manufacturers include software bundles that can save a lot of money but they can also install a lot of unwanted software as well.

Should You Build One?

White box laptops are definitely a much more viable option than they were even a few years ago. For the majority of users, a white box laptop is likely to cause more issues for them than if they were to buy a major name laptop. The people who benefit the most from the white box laptop are those looking for specific features in a mobile computer that no major manufacturer supports and those who are already quite familiar with computer hardware such as desktop computers.

Another thing to remember is that even with the expanded options in the base laptop chassis, there are still a lot of limitations to users for parts. This is most evident with the graphics. The screen is an integral part of the chassis and can't be upgraded or changed, so you have to make sure you get a chassis with a screen you like. In addition, most chassis have their graphics built into them so they cannot be upgraded either.