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Get a Dell 17-inch laptop for $499(ish)

It's rare to find a 17-inch desktop replacement for below $500. Dell's Inspiron 17 just squeaks under, though shipping and sales tax push the price back up a bit.

A 17-inch laptop for under $500? Yes! Until you add shipping and sales tax, that is.

By now you've probably heard about the $348 Toshiba 17-inch laptop that's available at Walmart starting this Sunday.

That's a pretty amazing deal, but I see two downsides. First, it requires a trip to Walmart (and possibly some throwing of elbows, as this is a Black Friday-class price). Second, that Toshiba comes with a seriously pokey Celeron processor.

If you've got a little more room in the budget and want a system that's a tad more robust, you can get a Dell Inspiron 17 dual-core laptop for $499.

In addition to a 17.3-inch LED display and 2GHz Pentium T4200 processor, the Inspiron features 2GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, and all the other standard goodies.

In other words, it's a fine choice for students heading back to school or anyone looking for a no-frills desktop replacement.

Unfortunately, shipping will run you $29, and you may have to pay sales tax as well. Plus, the system comes with Vista Home Basic. I think it's worth spending an extra $30 for Vista Home Premium, which comes with a free Windows 7 upgrade.

By the time you get out the door, then, you may be spending closer to $600. That's still a very solid deal on a 17-inch notebook.

That said, how many of you will be lining up at Walmart Sunday morning? Mighty tempting.