Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Notebook Computers for Bargain Hunters

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Notebook Computers for Bargain Hunters

Article excerpt

The chips get cheaper, as do the hard drives and the memory. Yet somehow, computer prices stay the same.

They're better, of course, and bigger and faster. But rarely cheaper. Yesterday's $3,500 model doesn't fall in price; it gets upgraded.

Nowhere is this truer than in notebook computing. A top-line manufacturer brings out a model, drops the price a little after a few months, then goes on to make the next generation.

Getting a really inexpensive notebook has usually meant buying it from the "discontinued" shelf or from a second-tier manufacturer.

Fortunately, this is changing. Major manufacturers are jumping into the budget-notebook business. For less than $2,000, you can buy a reliable machine from some of the biggest in the business.

For the past several weeks, I've been using an IBM ThinkPad 365CS. It sells for $1,999. And while it's not the speediest machine around, it has all the necessary elements to make it a solid workhorse.

For example, a key feature of notebooks is the screen size. Budget buyers of the past always had to put up with tiny, cramped displays that very quickly became uncomfortable to look at. The ThinkPad comes with a significantly larger 10.4-inch screen.

True, the display uses dual-scan technology, which isn't as bright as active-matrix screens. But it's roughly $500 cheaper. The ThinkPad also comes with a respectably sized 500-megabyte hard drive.

Buying such trailing-edge computer technology is usually risky. Tomorrow's software is never too kind to today's hardware. And the ThinkPad's 486 chip (a DX4 running at 75 megahertz) is drifting dangerously close to the low end of microprocessor technology.

But in notebooks, this often isn't as crucial as it might seem.

Think how most people use a notebook. They're not doing three-dimensional graphics or calculating heavy-duty mathematical equations. …

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