Low-cost Windows 7 laptops hit retail

The release of Microsoft's new operating system spawns a new breed of cheap laptops galore at retailers.

Windows 7 has spawned a new breed of inexpensive laptops at retailers like Best Buy and Frys.

At many stores on Thursday, Best Buy refreshed almost its entire stock of laptops: all running Windows 7 and all sporting new model numbers. Frys--a megastore electronics retailer with locations throughout California, Arizona, and Texas--also refreshed many of its laptops with new Windows 7 models.

One of the most inexpensive Windows 7 arrivals is the Gateway model EC1410U. This tiny laptop is distinctly Netbook-like in appearance but uses a more powerful Celeron M ULV 743 processor (1.3GHz, 1MB cache) than the Atom-chip fare found in Netbooks. In addition to the Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 64-bit version, other features include 2GB of memory and a 250GB hard disk drive.

Small Gateway laptop comes in a Netbook-like package but uses a more powerful Celeron processor than the Atom chip found in Netbooks--and it's cheap at $399
Small Gateway laptop comes in a Netbook-like package but uses a more powerful Celeron processor than the Atom chip found in Netbooks--and it's cheap at $399 Best Buy

Many seductive Windows 7 newcomers are categorized as "ultrathins." These slim designs are typically discernibly bigger than Netbooks (though, as evidenced by the Gateway above, it's now always clear-cut) and pack more processor horsepower. The Toshiba Satellite T-135 (model: T135-S1309), which falls into this category, is priced at $549 at Best Buy and comes with Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 32-bit operating system, a 13.3-inch display, a dual-core power-efficient Pentium processor, 3GB of memory, a 320GB hard disk drive (5400RPM), and built-in Web cam.

The HP dm3 (model: dm3-1035dx), also an ultrathin and also priced at $549, packs 3GB of memory like the Toshiba but that's where the similarity ends. The HP uses a 7200RPM 320GB hard disk drive (as opposed to the 5400RPM drive on the Toshiba), comes with the Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 64-bit version (compared with the Toshiba's 32-bit version), an AMD Athlon Neo X2 dual-core processor (versus Intel Pentium on the Toshiba), and ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics (unlike the Toshiba's Intel integrated graphics).

$549 Toshiba T135 is under four pounds and boasts a dual-core processor and 320GB hard disk
$549 Toshiba T135 weighs less than 4 pounds and boasts a dual-core processor and 320GB hard disk Best Buy
#349: Gateway LT2030U Atom chip-based Netbook
$349: Gateway LT2030U Atom chip-based Netbook Best Buy

Gateway is also offering a bona fide Netbook. The $349 LT2030U houses an Atom N270 processor, 1GB of memory, a 250GB hard disk drive, and--typical of many Atom-based designs--a 10.1-inch screen. It weighs in at 3 pounds with Microsoft's light-duty Windows 7 Starter Edition--which doesn't support native DVD playback, multi-monitors, nor the Aero user interface.

$499: 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron laptop with 2.16GHz dual-core processor and optical drive
$499: 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron laptop with 2.16GHz dual-core processor and optical drive Best Buy

Not to be outdone, Dell is also offering a new inexpensive Windows 7 Inspiron model (I1545-4203JB) with a 15.6-inch screen and a 2.16GHz Intel Pentium dual-core processor T4300 processor. It comes with 3GB of memory, DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, a 250GB hard disk drive, and the Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 64-bit OS.

At $449, Toshiba is also debuting an inexpensive 15.6-incher (L505D-S5983) with a dual-core AMD processor and ATI Radeon 4100 graphics. It also includes a 320GB hard disk drive, DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, 3GB of memory, and Windows 7 Home Premium.

Frys was selling many of the same, or similar, low-cost models as Best Buy but also included some new high-powered Windows 7 laptops too, such as the HP dv7-3080. This 17-inch model comes with a quad-core Core i7 720QM processor, an Nvidia GT 230 graphics chip, a 500GB hard disk drive, and Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 64-bit. It is priced at $1,449 at Frys.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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