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Gadgets

Get a 17-inch Acer or Toshiba laptop for $550

In the market for a desktop replacement? Office Depot and Staples have two nearly identical models, each packing considerable horsepower, for cheap.

Acer's 17.3-inch Aspire offers plenty of horsepower, including an Intel Core i3 processor. Staples

A desktop replacement is, by definition, a laptop that's large enough to take the place of a typical desktop PC and monitor. That means a 17-inch (or larger) LCD and a keyboard wide enough to accommodate a numeric keypad.

In the past I've featured a handful of desktop replacements priced as low as $400, but most of them had pokey processors, limited storage, 90-day warranties, and other shortcomings.

If your budget can stretch to $550, you can choose between a pair of very powerful, nicely appointed 17-inch laptops.

First up: Office Depot has the Toshiba Satellite L555D-S7005 for $549.99 shipped (plus sales tax in some states). But wait, there's more: Staples has the Acer Aspire AS7740-5691 for $549.98 shipped (again, plus tax).

Toshiba's $550 Satellite has a "slow" dual-core processor but faster graphics. Toshiba

So, differences between the two? Actually, they have more similarities: 17.3-inch screen, 4GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.

Here's where it gets interesting: the Acer sports an Intel Core i3-330M processor but integrated Intel graphics, and the Toshiba relies on an AMD Turion II dual-core CPU (by all accounts a slower chip) but has ATI Radeon HD 4200 graphics, which should be better for games and video applications.

Decisions, decisions. Both machines weigh about 7 pounds, and both come with a one-year warranty. You don't have to deal with any rebates, which is a definite plus.

I think if you're in the market for a powerful desktop replacement, you can't go wrong with either system.

By the way, both deals appear to be good until February 6, but they could sell out before then.