How cheap is that PC?

Dell is having a sale. It's combining a 10 percent discount with a $100 mail-in rebate to offer its entry-level Dimension 2400 desktop computer bundle for $299.

The offer, which appears on Dell's Home and Home Office Web site, fits the Dimension 2400 with a 2.4GHz Intel Celeron processor, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. It comes with a 90-day warranty, a 17-inch CRT monitor and a Dell Color Printer 720. The ink-jet printer, which normally costs $49, is included for free as part of a separate offer. Overall, it's a good deal. But it never hurts to ask, "Can I do better?"

Dell's archrival Hewlett-Packard--just one of numerous competitors who also offer low-price desktops--is advertising a Compaq Presario SR1020V desktop for $339 after a $50 mail-in rebate via its HPShopping.com Web site. The Presario matches the Dimension 2400's RAM, hard-drive size and CD-ROM speed. But HP will ship it for free as HPShopping is offering free shipping on orders over $100. The Presario also offers a somewhat faster 2.66GHz Celeron D processor and a longer one-year warranty vs. Dell's 90-day policy. Dell charges $19 to upgrade to a one-year contract, but fights back with a speedier 7,200 rpm hard drive.

It's hard to say if anyone would notice a large performance gap between the two machines. But if nothing else, it goes to show that first impressions aren't always accurate. Assuming you opt for the Presario over the Dimension, you would pay about $440 after the $100 rebate. The Dell PC, on the other hand, will cost about $415. Its $100 rebate and $99 shipping charge offset each other. That means the real price difference falls between about $25 and $40, if you opt for the one-year warranty from Dell.

So how about that printer?

 

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