Just read a fascinating article over at the DealNews website. Entitled “Windows 8 Sales Are Terrible, But That’s Great News for Laptop Deals,” it makes the point that slow Windows 8 uptake in the marketplace continues to exert downward pressure on low-end laptop prices for units that come with Windows 8 pre-installed. And indeed, a quick trip to that site’s Laptop Deals page (set to list laptops by increasing prices, lowest first) reveals more than a dozen interesting items with Windows 8 installed for $450 or under.
Here’s what I found that comes with Windows 8 installed in the first two screens there (hover over the links for the “spec line” from that site, if you’d like to see more info, or follow the link to get the sales page for each unit):
1. Gateway AMD Dual Core 16″ Laptop $300, free shipping
2. Toshiba Satellite Intel Celeron 16″ Laptop $300, free shipping
3. Refurb Asus Dual Core Pentium 14″ Laptop $300, free shipping
4. HP 2000z AMD Dual Core 16″ Laptop $335 + $10 S&H
5. HP Pavilion Core i3 Dual Core 14″ Laptop $348 after rebate + $11 S&H
6. Lenovo G580 i3 Dual Core 16″ Laptop $358 + $11 S&H
7. Lenovo IdeaPad AMD Quad Core 14″ Laptop $380 + free shipping
8. Dell i3 Dual Core 16″ Laptop $380 + free shipping
9. HP 650 Dual Core i3 16″ Laptop $400 + $8 S&H
10. Lenovo IdeaPad S400 Dual Core i3 14″ Laptop $400 + $8 S&H
11. Dell Inspiron 17R Dual Core Pentium 17″ Laptop (1600×900) $400 + free shipping
12. HP Pavilion Dual Core AMD 16″ Laptop $415 + $10 S&H
13. Sony VAIO Dual Core AMD 12″ Laptop $430 + free shipping
14. Dell Inspiron Dual Core i3 17″ Laptop $450 + free shipping
It’s pretty amazing what $300-350 will buy you, as represented by items 1-6 on the preceding list. You can expect only 1366×768 resolution for that price, 2-6 GB of RAM, and a hard disk of 500 GB or less, but it’s still a very good deal. I jumped on a $300 deal for my son’s school machine last year (2012) and what I got for the money seems downright antediluvian by comparison. It’s an Acer 5552-3691 with a 2.2 GHz AMD P340 Dual Core CPU, and came with 4 GB RAM — since upgraded to 6 GB — a 1366×768 display, and a 320 GB 5,400 RPM hard disk — since upgraded to a 128 GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD, and it runs Windows 8 Professional quite nicely. It looks like that same $300 buys a lot more these days, including Windows 8. The standard resolution is on the low end (1366×768), and the processors are by no means killer models, but if my experience on the older Acer model is an indication, they should work just fine for your kids’ school machines, a couch laptop, or for loaner units at work for temp or contract workers who need something for basic workaday computing.
If you’re willing to extend your budget by $50-150, to the $350-450 range, you can find some pretty powerful big-name machines — albeit with a preponderance of AMD CPUs and continuing in the 1366×768 resolution vein — for the money. In particular, Newegg’s prices for refurb units seem to offer great combinations of low price and strong functionality, so you might want to start dropping in on their site to check deals from time to time, because they come and go very quickly all the time. I’ve also found TigerDirect — the purveyor of my son’s Acer 5552 $300 notebook from last year — sometimes offers some pretty incredible refurb and sales prices as well.