POWERFUL COMPUTERS COST LESS THAN SMARTPHONE

We’re seeing one of those tidal shifts in the market. The computer is fading in importance — and perhaps most importantly for manufacturers, in profitability as well.

You can buy powerful computers now for less than the price of a smart-phone. They’re also cheaper than high-end tablets like the iPad and its competitors. We get regular mailings of
newsprint catalogs form tech retailers like Micro Center, Fry’s and Tiger Direct and they all have stunning deals. It’s not because we’re columnists, everybody gets them. Some of these catalog outfits also have retail stores, though they’re not found everywhere.

Our recent “Micro Center” catalog lists computers from Dell and Hewlett Packard for less than $300, even one for less than $100. Several more powerful machines are less than $400. And then there are the so-called “refurbished” computers and related equipment. These are worth a few more words, because they save lots of dollars. We have bought refurbished equipment for many years and have never been disappointed. Companies, like Dell, for instance, also sell refurbished computers at big discounts on their web site.

What does “refurbished” mean? Well, a lot times it doesn’t mean anything, the equipment is still new. Someone at Dell explained it like this: A company orders a hundred new computers.
It turns out that when they get them they find they only need 70. They send the other 30 back. Dell doesn’t know if those returned computers were ever used. Maybe they were opened but then repacked and returned. Since they don’t know, they sell them as “refurbished.”

Even for certified new machines, the price drops of the last 10 months have run counter to the historical pattern. Typically, computer and equipment prices have always begun to creep back up the day after Thanksgiving. But so far they haven’t. That’s a very powerful machine. The reason for the low price is Intel just came out with the so-called “Ivy Bridge” processor. Premium
laptops with older processors always cost less, though by any criteria, they’re still super fast.

If you don’t get these newsprint catalogs or don’t see the ads in your newspaper, you can go to DealNews.com and click “custom alerts.” You will then get email notifications when prices drop in a category or store you’re interested in.

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