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Used 486 PCs priced to move

Hoping to deflate the hype surrounding the NC, refurbished computer specialist Recompute has dropped prices on its entry-level 486-based computers to $299.

Hoping to deflate the hype surrounding the network computer (NC), refurbished computer specialist Recompute has dropped prices on its entry-level 486-based computers to $299.

For $299, customers get a 486-based computer from a major vendor with 8MB of memory and a 170MB hard disk. A monitor and Windows-based operating system can be added for additional cost.

"Every time there is a price cut in the main market, there is a price cut in the secondary market," explained Brian Kushner, chief executive officer of the Austin, Texas-based vendor. "It's like the used car market."

While consumers constitute Recompute's primary market, the low-priced 486 machines are also being pitched as a point-of-sale devices that can compete with NCs or terminals. "We decided to create a compelling enough reason why no one should ever purchase a network computer," Kushner said.

Recompute is one of a number of refurbished computer specialists. The company purchases used computers from large corporations, tests and refreshes them, then sells the machines to consumers or businesses at a discount.

The company's business model is based around the fact that the acceleration of the technology upgrade cycle has created a growing supply of used, but still very functional, computers. Among Recompute's offerings are computers that were only released for the first time six months earlier. Rather than have these go to a landfill, Recompute, among other refurbishers, creates a second life for these machines.

Unfortunately for Recompute, the rapid upgrade cycle has also meant lower prices in the primary market. A refurbished Compaq Deskpro 2000 with a 133-MHz Pentium, 16MB of RAM, a 2GB hard drive, 8X CD-ROM, and Windows 95 sells for $847 on Recompute's Web site. The price is less than most other 133-MHz Pentium systems still available at other electronic reseller sites, but equaled and even surpassed by occasional close-out specials on equivalent systems.

CDW, for instance, is currently offering a Deskpro 2000 featuring a 100-MHz Pentium with 8MB of RAM, a smaller hard drive, and no CD-ROM for $729; the reseller is also hawking a 166-MHz Deskpro 2000 with 16MB of RAM and a 2.1GB hard drive as well as a CD-ROM for $899. The same site has an AST Bravo LC with at 166-MHz Pentium for $999 with 16MB of memory, a 2GB hard drive, and no CD-ROM.

As always, consumers need to read carefully. CompUSA is currently offering 166-MHz Pentium desktop from Digital for $799. The system, however, does not include a hard drive, operating system, or CD-ROM drive.