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Intel Celeron chip anchors $249 Acer Windows 7 laptop

Best Buy is launching its lowest-advertised-price laptop to date--and it's definitely a laptop, not a Netbook.

Best Buy is set to launch its lowest-advertised-price laptop to date--an Acer model based on Intel's venerable Celeron chip.

Acer laptop
Acer laptop Best Buy

Thought Netbooks were as low as a laptop's price can go? Another category of ultra-low-cost laptops has quietly emerged. These aren't small or ultra-thin or frugal with power consumption. There's nothing remarkable about these laptops--except price.

Best Buy said it will start selling on Wednesday the $249 Acer laptop--the retailer's lowest-advertised-price laptop ever. The laptop comes with an Intel Celeron processor, 15.4-inch screen, 2GB memory, a 160GB hard drive, and Windows 7 Premium. The model is available while supplies last.

Currently, the lowest-priced laptop listed on Best Buy's Web site is an Acer Aspire with an Advanced Micro Devices Athlon Processor (model: AS5532-553). On Tuesday, it was selling for $329.

Why the proliferation of low-cost laptops? "It's gone from one PC per household to one PC per person," said Justin Barber, a Best Buy spokesman. "And sometimes more than one laptop per person," he said, referring to Netbooks, which are marketed as companion devices to a higher-end PC.

At the core of the low-cost Acer laptop is an Intel Celeron Processor 900--not an Intel Atom chip, which is standard fare for sub-$300 Netbooks. The Celeron is a faster design than Atom: the 900 series packs 1MB cache of cache memory and is rated at 2.20GHz.

By comparison, the Z550 Atom is rated at 2.0GHz and integrates only 512K of cache. The Atom's performance is also hampered by fundamental design constraints: it is built for power efficiency not speed.

Netbooks continue to be the most popular low-cost laptop category, however. Best Buy lists dozens of Netbooks on its Web site from Hewlett-Packard, Asus, Samsung, Gateway, Nokia, Lenovo, and Toshiba, among others. Most are priced around $350.