Beware Black Friday laptop deals
In practice, what we're seeing this year is extremely low-end laptops discounted even more than usual. But a $500 turkey is still a turkey at $300. We'd rather see some more $999 systems lowered to $699 or so.
Best Buy will have a Toshiba Satellite A135 (including a printer) for $229 (20 per store). We looked at a $999 configuration of the A135 earlier this year, and liked it, but the configuration available at Best Buy is very different, and about as bottom of the barrel as possible (which makes this a good place to point out that PCs can be configured radically differently, even with the same name, so shop carefully).
Even for less than a Nintendo Wii, the Intel Celeron CPU is a deal breaker, although the 512MB of RAM, 80GB hard drive, and Vista Basic OS all seem acceptable for a budget machine.
Dell is offering a low-end laptop from its Vostro line of small business PCs for $399, about $100 less than its normal price. The Vostro 1000 is saddled with a 1.7GHz AMD X2 dual-core CPU, but at least has 1GB of RAM and a decent 120GB hard drive. Also, Vostro systems offer extra customer support services from Dell, always a plus.
Wal-Mart will be offering an Inspiron 1501 laptop for $598. While the AMD X2 dual-core CPU wouldn't be our first choice, the 2GB of RAM and Vista Premium make this a decent deal. We spec'd out the same components for around $750 on Dell's Web site.
Our current favorite bargain laptop is perfect for those who just want to surf the Web and work on office documents. It's not part of any Black Friday deals, but the Linux-powered Asus Eee PC doesn't try and act like a full-priced laptop, and for $399 makes for a perfect secondary or backup system. And, if you're looking to spend a bit more, Michelle Thatcher just put together an in-depth shootout of $1,000 laptops that may be better bargains than some of these so-called deals.
[Kudos to BFAds.net for compiling and scanning the various retailers' ads.]