Awright, just WHERE did the summer go already? It's the end of July, for crying
out loud, and it seems that Memorial Day was only seven days ago.
Time flies, and the new school year approaches. College freshmen are getting ready
for classes; so are high school students. Many of their parents are likely eyeing
the anticipated Oct. 22 "general availability" date of Microsoft Corp.'s new
Windows 7 operating system and hoping it won't be a great disappointment.
Well, you may know where I'm going here: it's just about computer shopping time!
Yes, time to whip out those credit, er, debit cards and truck on down for a new
computer. It's not just the auto dealers who can use some stimulus, you know.
More seriously, this appears to be a rather good time to go computer shopping. Last
week, Walmart Corp. announced a rather good price $298 -- on a Compaq-branded
portable computer with 3 Gigabytes of RAM, a 160 Gbyte hard disc drive, a
DVD-writing/reading drive and the "home" edition of Microsoft Windows Vista. The
unit boasts a 15.6-inch display and a 2.10 GHz AMD Sempron SI-42 processor. It's
not a top-of-the-line portable such as the gamer-friendly MAINGEAR eX-L 18, but that
computer, whose display boasts 1080p "hi-def" resolution starts at $2,999, which
is more than ten times the Walmart price.
The Walmart computer went on sale July 26. However, I suspect
Walmart will offer other bargain-priced models before school starts.
There are other retailers out there, to be sure, and I would not be surprised if
Best Buy, Staples and OfficeDepot, to name but three, also jump on the bandwagon of
selling good computers at low prices. Unlike any time I've seen in 26 years of
closely watching the personal computer market, there's a wider range than ever of
machines with very good capabilities available at very reasonable prices.
The rise of "netbooks," tiny-ish computers with a fair amount of power,
something commented on previously in this space, is another example of how to find
bargains. Sony, in August, is expected to launch a "around" $500 netbook in the
high-fashion colors of "berry pink, sugar white and cocoa brown," and the firm
says its "high-resolution, 1366 x 768, LED backlit 10.1-inch ultra-wide display,
[will make] it easy to view two full web pages," although I'd have to see that
one to believe it.
Regardless, Sony's a known quantity when it comes to display quality in its
portables, so this could size up to be a rather nice bargain. There are limitations
and other questions: would you need or want an external CD/DVD drive for loading
software and playing movies, for example? But overall, seeing a stylish Sony
portable at a relatively low price is a nice signal for a good chunk of the
Of course, fans of Apple Inc.'s Macintosh computer aren't without hope. The
firm's recent price drops on several portables, plus the $999 white plastic
MacBook (available last week as a refurbished model on the http://store.apple.com
Web site for $849) are very good values, in my opinion.
Although Apple, currently, uses only Intel processors for its portables, many
Windows-based manufacturers turn to AMD for processors which rival or even exceed
many of their Intel counterparts, but at lower price points. This, in turn, leads to
lower retail prices, and AMD has its own store at www.amd.com for those searching
In short, there's plenty of shopping opportunities out there - retail, online
and the "big box" stores, including warehouse clubs. If you're buying a new
Windows-compatible, check out www.windows7.com to find out what you need,
hardware-wise, to be able to upgrade. On the Mac side, all new Macs should handle
the later-this-year release of "Snow Leopard," the next version of Mac OS X.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.