Cheap laptops are nothing new this time of year–they’ve been practically a holiday tradition since 2002 when Sotec released a decent laptop for $900, which was jaw-droppingly low for the time–but this year, Best Buy is selling a Lenovo Ideapad 100s for $149.99, which, while not jaw-droppingly low given the number of $199 laptops that were available last year, is still the cheapest name-brand laptop I’ve seen. Note: Best Buy has since raised the price to $199, but Ebay has limited stock of the same item for $129.
I’ve seen some reviews, but there is one thing I haven’t seen anyone bring up yet: This is a netbook in every way, except I think we’re supposed to call them cloudbooks now. So keep that in mind. The machine is probably worth $149.99, but it made some compromises to reach that price point.
I sometimes show my age by making jokes about Bonsai Buddy and Gator and Hotbar, but ads injected in browsers are a problem that’s coming back. And sometimes these ads come with malicious payloads, installing unwelcome software on your computer to maintain persistence.
Problems like this are the reason I tend not to load my browsers down with lots of extensions. Sometimes the functionality is cool, but I’ve always found ways to get what I need done with a stock browser, and then I have a better idea of what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m beholden enough to the agendas of Microsoft, Mozilla, or Google as it is; I don’t need third parties injecting their agendas into the mix, especially when they may be malicious.
And besides that, a lot of extensions tend to be very memory- or CPU-hungry. I have enough memory on most of my machines that I can dedicate 2 GB of RAM to a web browser, but I’m not sure why I should have to.
The fewer extensions you load onto your web browsers, the safer you’ll be, and in the long term, I’d wager the happier you’ll be as well.
Last week, HP introduced two new PCs, the HP Stream Mini and HP Pavillion Mini. They’re small, silent in the case of the Stream Mini, and cheap, starting at $180 for a Stream Mini with a 1.4 GHz dual-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage.
Motley Fool is asking if HP just invented a new category of PC. No, they didn’t–mini PCs have been around a long time, but previously they’ve been limited to the enthusiast market. Now there’s a big-name company with big-name retail distribution entering the market.
So the sales fliers for the 2014 Christmas shopping season are out, and I’m seeing tons of cheap laptops. If you only have $200 to spend, they have something for you.
Some of them look like they’re even worth having. Yes, I’m shocked too. Here’s how to figure out which ones are worth taking home, and which ones are best left for some other sucker. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, you’ll probably want to keep the following in mind.
Over the Labor Day weekend I decided to upgrade my HP Mini 110 netbook to Linux Mint 17. The Mini 110 can handle Windows 7, but Linux Mint doesn’t cost any money and I figure a Linux box is more useful to me than yet another Windows box. There are some things I do that are easier to accomplish in Linux than in Windows. Plus, I’m curious how my two young sons will react to Linux.
Linux Mint, if you’re not familiar with it, is a Ubuntu derivative that includes a lot of consumer-friendly features, like including drivers and codecs and other common software that aren’t completely open source. It’s not a Linux distribution for the Free Software purist, but having options is one of the nice things about Linux in 2014.
Linux Mint includes a lot of useful software, so once you get it installed, you’re up and running with a useful computer with minimal effort.
Back in the spring I bought a used computer. My wife wanted one, and while I probably could have cobbled something together for her, I didn’t have any extra Windows 7 licenses. So I bought a home-built Pentium D-based machine with Windows 7 on it from an estate sale for $70. The Windows license is worth that, so it was like getting the hardware for free.
When I got the hardware home to really examine it, it turned out not to be quite as nice as I initially thought. It was a fairly early Socket 775 board, so it used DDR RAM and had an AGP slot, limiting its upgrade options. The system ran OK, but not great, and it was loud.
The hard drive was a 160 GB Western Digital IDE drive built in 2003. That’s an impressive run, but a drive that old isn’t a good choice for everyday use. It’s at the end of its life expectancy and it’s not going to be fast. This weekend I got around to replacing it with an SSD. Read more
I wanted to like the Moto E, for sentimental reasons. The Motorola who made this phone isn’t the same Motorola who made the MC68000 CPU in my Amiga, and it’s not the same Motorola that built the hulking briefcase-sized bag phone Dad toted around in the 1980s, but the logo is the same.
The stingy Scottish miser in me wanted to like the phone too, because it costs $129. A few short months ago, the only phones you could buy new for under $130 were cheaply made no-name phones like the Blu Advance with half a gig of RAM, a low-visibility screen, a low-end processor you didn’t want and an Android that was a few versions out of date, encased in lots of cheap plastic. Next to the Moto E, the Blu phones lose what little appeal they had.
We’ve had a pair of Magellan 1420 GPSs for several years, but they’ve grown very unreliable. I suspect they have some bad capacitors in them, but I hear a lot of complaints about Magellan hardware quality even today. Recently I was able to buy a couple of 3.5-inch Garmin units for less than $20 apiece. I prefer the Magellan user interface–I think it’s easier to learn and easier to use–but for that kind of money, we’ll learn to use the Garmins. And I’ll note these Garmins are every bit as old as our Magellans, but have held up fine. Read more