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Circuit City's $99 laptop war

Chain takes on Wal-Mart and Staples (after rebates)

Circuit City is celebrating the holiday season with price wars.

The retail chain will try to best Wal-Mart and Staples with a Compaq notebook for $299 after rebates, or $99 with rebates and a 12-month subscription to Vonage, according to Black Friday 2006. The bargain-hunting site posts scans of Sunday advertising inserts before they're delivered with newspapers.

Newspaper ad
Black Friday

Wal-Mart and Staples have come out with $398 and $399 Compaq laptops. The Circuit City notebook is similar, though it comes with a Celeron processor from Intel rather than a chip from Advanced Micro Devices. It also contains a drive that burns both DVDs and CDs, not just CDs like the Wal-Mart laptop. (Wal-Mart's site is no longer advertising the cheap Compaq laptop, so it may already be sold out.)

All three come with 512MB of memory, a 15.4-inch screen and a 60GB hard drive. Circuit City currently sells the Compaq notebook for $499--it says the computer ordinarily lists for $680. To get to $299, Circuit City gives consumers a $280 instant rebate at the store and a coupon for a $100 mail-in rebate ($680 minus $380 comes to $299).

The Vonage subscription is a novel twist. Often, retailers will offer $99 PCs but require that consumers subscribe to 12 months of ISP service, usually from AOL. In this case, the price of the PC is partly subsidized through phone service.