Notebooks near desktops in price

Prices for Pentium notebooks from top-tier manufacturers are diving below $1,300, close to the price of low-cost desktop PCs.

Prices for Intel Pentium notebooks from top-tier manufacturers are diving below $1,300, close to the price of low-cost desktop PCs.

Notebooks traditionally carry premiums of $1,000 or more over desktop PCs, but this gap is beginning to close at the low end of the market as manufacturers push Pentium notebooks to levels unheard of only six months ago.

IBM (IBM) is leading the way this week. Its 365 ThinkPads are now priced as low as $1,269, with a 120-MHz Pentium processor and a high-quality active-matrix LCD screen.

Even full-featured 365 models with an internal CD-ROM drive are now priced below $1,400 at many major resellers, such as Insight.

These prices are quite competitive with low-end desktop computers, since desktops priced in the $1,000 range typically do not include a monitor in the pricing.

Notebooks such as Compaq Computer's Armada 1100 have even fallen below $1,000 to match the price of its low-cost consumer desktop PC, the Presario 2000.

Analysts say this might not be so much of a long-term pricing strategy on the part of manufacturers as much as it is a temporary tactic that consumers need to jump on fairly quickly for a good deal.

"This is more of a product cycle transition, lowering prices to clear out inventory," said Bruce Stephen, an analyst at International Data Corporation.

"But there are some good deals to be had, and the bottom line for end users is that you have to be watching [for them]," he added.

Stephen said that refurbished notebooks are also great deals because they are often full-featured systems with very low price tags.

Toshiba, for example, has an "Encore" program of remarketing refurbished systems. The company says the systems must pass a stringent series of tests that meet or exceed standards imposed on new Toshiba computers before they can be resold.

Currently, refurbished 100-MHz Pentium Toshiba notebooks are priced as low as $999 at some major resellers.

Toshiba is also the only major manufacturer to consistently keep prices of new low-end notebooks below $1,500, according to Stephen. This is because Toshiba has such an extensive line of notebook models, which creates room for bargain-basement pricing at the low end.

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