Laptops on the Cheap

May 7, 2009
Special Feature

To inject some life into flagging sales, PC companies are rolling out a line of lower-cost laptops aimed at more frugal consumers.

Personal computer makers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell have seen sales crumple as businesses pull back on their technology spending. To inject some life into flagging sales, they and other PC companies are rolling out a line of lower-cost laptops aimed at more frugal consumers. Noting that the demand for mini-notebooks, called netbooks, is on the rise, PC makers have started producing hybrids that are positioned between netbooks and traditional laptops in terms of size and computing power.

While the new hybrids lack the computing power of traditional laptops, they are more muscular than the bottom-of-the-line netbooks. Many of them come with more memory or faster processors than their cheaper cousins. Although that doesn’t make them suitable for power-hungry tasks like video editing or playing graphics-loaded games, they’re fine for most computer jobs, like spreadsheets, word processing, and Web surfing. And, though most of the new hybrids don’t have internal CD drives, some come with external drives that plug into the PC.

With the price of most laptops running $1,000 or more, the new hybrids are selling for $300 to $600 less. According to some industry observers, however, the low-price race isn’t over. Many tech experts expect prices to fall by another 10% before year-end, even as PC makers add more bells and whistles to cheaper notebooks.