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Back-to-school steal: A loaded Acer laptop for $299.99

How much laptop can you buy for under $300? You'd be surprised. The top-rated Acer AS5552-7819 has everything most students--and regular people--need.

The Acer Aspire AS5552-7819 is a steal at $299.99.
The Acer Aspire AS5552-7819 is a steal at $299.99.

Does your spawn need a new laptop for college, high school, or even middle school? Heck, do you need a new laptop for everyday life? Either way, I've got just the system.

While supplies last (and they may not last long), has the Acer Aspire AS5552-7819 15.6-inch laptop for $299.99, plus sales tax in a handful of states. If you live near a Fry's Electronics store, you can pick up the Acer for free; otherwise, plan on about $10 for shipping.

Update: As I predicted, the Aspire is now sold out--at least online. You may still be able to find it in your local Fry's.

Traditionally, any laptop priced under $300 will come with a weak, single-core processor, limited RAM, and smallish hard drive. Not so the Aspire.

Instead, it's packing a 3GHz AMD Phenom II dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive. An ATI Radeon HD 4250 processor handles the graphics, though it does borrow 256MB of system memory. (That's both good and bad; overall system performance might dip a bit, but graphics and video should be smooth.)

Everything else is about what you'd expect: Super-Multi DVD drive, 1.3-megapixel Web cam, three USB ports, an HDMI output, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Acer backs the Aspire with a one-year warranty.

The system weighs 5.7 pounds, and Acer promises up to 3.5 hours of runtime from its six-cell battery. That's not great, but it's fairly typical for a system like this.

CNET hasn't reviewed the Aspire AS5552-7819, but check out the 39 user reviews over at Newegg (where the system sells for $379.99). All but one of them give the system four or five stars, with two-thirds opting for the latter. It's rare to see such universally high praise for what many would consider an entry-level laptop.

Me, I consider this a very nicely equipped system for those with everyday computing needs: Web browsing, word processing, e-mail, casual games, and so on. And for $299.99, there's just no better deal to be had. Not today, anyway.

Bonus deal: Want to endow your iPod Touch with 3G goodness? Virgin Mobile now offers the ZTE Peel 3200 3G case for just $29.99. (It also acts as a mobile hot spot for one other device: laptop, iPad, etc.) Now for the bad news: although you can get no-contract service for just $20 per month, that's good for only 500MB of data. Pretty stingy, Virgin Mobile! Anyway, here's my review of the ZTE Peel when it was originally offered by Sprint (and priced at $79.99).