Get a refurbished Acer C710 Chromebook for $139.99
This is about as cheap as laptops get. But is it too limited to be of practical value? Not if you know what you're getting.
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On to business. If you're looking for a simple "around the house" PC, a Chromebook might be a good way to go. Though not particularly powerful, these Google-powered laptops afford all the basics: e-mail, Web, word processing, and so on -- but without the hassles (and occasional horrors) of Windows.
What's more, last year's models are this year's sweet deals: For a limited time, Acer (via Amazon) has the refurbished Acer C710-2834 Chromebook for $139.99 shipped. Price new: $199.
Spec-wise, the C710 might seem a little anemic: Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (though it's speedy solid-state storage), and an 11.6-inch display.
On a Windows system, those specs would spell S-L-O-W-P-O-K-E. But Chromebooks run Google's Chrome OS, which requires significantly less horsepower. It boots in seconds, runs virus-free, and stores most everything in the cloud (hence the limited onboard storage).
In other words, it's probably great for around the house. So is a tablet, sure, but here you're getting a keyboard, a bigger screen, and even some expandability via USB and HDMI ports.
CNET hasn't reviewed this exact configuration, but did review the very similar C710-2457 (which has a slower 1.1GHz processor to this one's 1.5GHz). Verdict: cheap construction, limited battery life, and mediocre display and speakers. But that was based on a $199 price tag and the premise of a more "primary" PC. At $139, this is a beater, something to keep in the kitchen, give to the kids, or even offer up to the grandparents for hassle-free e-mail and Web browsing.
The one caveat: because this is refurbished, it comes with a 90-day warranty. If you can live with that, this is a mighty tempting deal. Your thoughts?
Bonus deal: Calling all Mac users! "Free" doesn't really appear in the Mac vernacular, but it does today: StackSocial's Mac Freebie Bundle 3.0 comes with seven totally free Mac apps that have a combined value of $119. Strings attached: zero. (Well, you do have to register for a StackSocial account, which means receiving the occasional marketing e-mail. Big whoop, IMHO.)
Bonus deal No. 2: I have a weird fondness for wallet-friendly gadgets. Like this one: While supplies last, Groupon has the Wallet Ninja Multitool for $9.99, plus $2.99 for shipping. This nifty steel card has 16 different functions, including bottle opener, hex wrench, and smartphone stand! Best of all, it's TSA-approved.