Cool Tech Reviews

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October 31, 2005

Review: “Solid $500 Laptops”

Tom Spring at PC World:

Is the idea of getting a capable notebook from a major vendor for just $500 too good to be true? Not if your needs are modest. Although such deals involve definite catches, our tests revealed that new bargain-basement models work well if you want a machine that handles e-mail, Web surfing, word processing, and other run-of-the-mill productivity chores.

We tested laptops from Acer, Dell, and HP’s Compaq line; each company sells basic models for around $500 (after rebates). Gateway and IBM are also getting into the act: As we went to press, both were advertising units starting in the $500 range after rebates.

These ultralow-priced systems challenge the adage that even the most inexpensive laptops are costlier than the lowest-priced desktops.

Thanks to strong sales of budget notebooks, in August 2005 more laptops than desktops sold at retail stores for the first time ever. Notebooks represented 52 percent of retail PC sales, according to NPD. The rise in sales corresponds to a fall in prices: The average cost of a notebook during August 2004 was $1350; in August of this year, it was $1100, NPD says.

Hit the link for the full reviews of the Acer Aspire 3003LCi, HP’s Compaq Presario M2000, and Dell Inspiron 1200. Note that for each of them you have to check the rebates and special offers carefully to make sure the total comes in under $500. Beyond that, they all seemed fairly capable although you have to watch the features included. For instance, I’m picky about Wi-Fi and only the Acer has that built in. The Acer also has a faster processor and more hard disk storage, but much worse battery life. PC World rated it the winner but only by a hair.

So where’s this all going?

How low can laptop prices go? Lower than $500, say a number of PC vendors.

The cheapest notebooks could sink to the $400 range by the end of this year and may even drop as low as $300 by late 2006, according to various computer vendors, chip experts, and PC industry observers. In fact, as we went to press CompUSA was selling a Compaq laptop for $425 after $300 in various rebates.

“It used to be notebooks would sell for close to $600 only as a stunt,” says Mark Margevicius, an analyst with Gartner Research. But now some laptops have sold for that price consistently, he says.

Due to increases in production, some expensive notebook components have dropped in price, explains Roger Kay, analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates. That in turn drives system prices down.

That certainly happens at one end of the spectrum. At the other end, they start piling on features.

Posted at 8:37 am. Filed under Acer, Companies, Dell, HP, Notebook

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October 29, 2005

PDA Sales Continue to Decline

Ed Oswald at BetaNews:

Handheld devices continued to fall out of favor with consumers, according to a report released by market research firm IDC. In the third quarter of 2005, handheld sales fell 8.8 percent compared with last quarter, and 16.9 percent year over year.

Even with the declines, device manufacturers are continuing to release new products, many featuring some type of wireless connectivity. While IDC expects an uptick in sales sequentially from quarter to quarter, sales will likely miss last year’s numbers.

“The combination of tremendous competition from converged mobile devices with waning consumer demand for handhelds is forcing manufacturers to search for new or improved solutions that leverage existing hardware and software capabilities,” wrote Ramon Llamas, research analyst with IDC.

I think of it as “convergence of handheld gadgets” – who wants to carry both a cell phone and a PDA when they can quite reasonably be combined?

Posted at 10:56 am. Filed under Handheld, PDA

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October 28, 2005

Review: Hitachi 7K100 vs Seagate 7200.1 7200 RPM 100GB Laptop Drives

Laptop Logic puts them through their paces:

The world held their breath when the 100GB 7200RPM models were announced. Finally, a drive larger than 60GB that would offer near desktop performance with the 7200RPM spindle speed. Seagate and Hitachi promised high performance and high capacity, but unfortunately they couldn’t deliver it in a timely manner. Seagate announced the 7200.1 in April, but product has only shown up at resellers in the past few weeks. Hitachi does better by announcing the 7K100 in May and availability a few weeks before Seagate, but both of these products were effectively vaporware for some time.

Now that both products are readily available, albeit at rather different price points, and we’ve got a head to head look at how well these long heralded drives perform. Onto the drives!

Hit the article for all the details, but the way I read it, the Seagate has a better warranty (5 years vs 3) and is slightly quieter, while the Hitachi is slightly faster and $87 cheaper ($212 vs $299). Looking up the Hitachi price at my usual vendors I kept getting prices around $300 and was frankly puzzled until I noticed that the price quoted in the article is actually for an E7K100 and not the 7K100 which was tested.

That being said, the E7K100 seems to have the same specs as the 7K100 except for a lower max operating temperature (40° C vs 55° C for the 7K100 like the Seagate) and lacks “Enhanced ABLE™ for maximum battery utilization.” The E7K100 seems to be “designed for demanding applications requiring extended power on usage” like blade servers, network equipment, and POS terminals, while the 7K100 is explicitly for laptops. It beats me what the real difference is, much more why the E7K100 is so much cheaper.

My net is that these drives seem to be a wash on other factors, so picking on price is fine. Just be aware that the substantial cost saving comes with the E7K100, not the 7K100.

Posted at 4:33 pm. Filed under Hard Disks, Notebook, Storage

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