What You Get And Why
There are two stories in our back to school special. This one is about buying a notebook computer for less than $700. The other story is about mobile computing accessories.
Trying to buy a notebook computer for less than $700, excluding tax and shipping, can be an interesting experience. At this price point you're not going to get the fastest, most memory-filled model available. Generally you'll have to settle for a lower end CPU and as little as 256 MB of memory. This is especially true if you want a name brand notebook from the likes of HP, Toshiba, Dell and Acer. Other brands, especially "whitebook" brands assembled from parts by a third party vendor can give you more value for your money, but you may find it difficult to get parts and service, especially a year or two after purchase.
HP's dv1000t notebook
Many under $700 notebook computers aren't priced at under $700 to begin with. You arrive at the under $700 target by purchasing a computer that costs more, but has instant and mail-in rebates provided by the manufacturer and/or the reseller. Rebates can take eons to arrive in your snail mailbox, so if you've only got $700, you'll have to go for deals without mail-in rebates.
The good news is that I've scoured the Internet, talked to vendors and found some of the best buys in the under $700 notebook market. They're listed in the little boxes at the top right of the pages of this article. I'll discuss my recommendations later on.
If you see a particular model selling for far less than the price most vendors are asking, be careful. You may be buying from a dealer who isn't authorized by the manufacturer. Don't expect to return a notebook you decide doesn't work for you or even one that's faulty, if you've bought from an unauthorized dealer. They'll just point to the manufacturer who may or may not accommodate you. Also some manufacturers may refuse to provide service for notebooks sold by unauthorized dealers.