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Christmas Gift Guide

HP's $499 notebook

Attention bargain kooks! HP is currently selling a Compaq-branded notebook for $499 (after $280 in rebates) at Circuit City.

The machine comes with a 1.3GHz Celeron M, 256MB of memory, a 40-GB hard drive, built-in wireless and a 15-inch screen. While many sneer at Celeron, look at it this way: two years ago, this represented the cutting edge. The notebook, on closeout, will be on sale only as long as supplies last, according to advertising circulars.

The $499 price, even with rebates, is somewhat rare for a top-tier manufacturer. Walmart has sold $499 notebooks before, but from relatively obscure PC makers, such as Balance. The Balance notebooks also came with an OS and applications from Linspire while HP's comes with Windows.

Dell has a similar notebook for $549 while Acer has a similarly configured notebook with a Sempron processor from AMD for $549. Gateway has a 1.4GHz Celeron M with a larger screen, 512MB of memory and a 60GB hard drive for $699. (At CompUSA, HP is hawking a similar notebook to the Gateway one, but with a Pentium M running at 1.5GHz Pentium M).

Why all the bargains? Look at the calendar. There are only a few more weeks left in the quarter and everyone wants to boost their standings in the market share surveys from Gartner and IDC. Dell executives have said that the company often runs a variety of specials, such as whacking 50 percent off some models, at the end of months so the company can meet sales goals.

HP has been losing ground to Dell recently, although it managed to pass Lenovo overseas.