Web sites where information workers can find great tech deals and bargains

We’re either in a recession or teetering on the precipice of one.

Want to discuss the Bear Stearns collapse, the slumping housing market, rising oil prices? Let’s not and say we did.

Regardless of grim economic news, when you need a new laptop or other portable device, you need it. Here then are a few Web sites offering tech deals and bargains.

Some products offered on these sites are refurbished, meaning that someone else bought and returned them, for whatever reason. Generally speaking, refurbished laptops are tested and repaired, if necessary, before being resold.

As with any e-commerce site, shop carefully. Along with great deals, you may find similar products at different prices on some sites. Or you might discover that a new laptop costs the same as a refurbished model but offers updated specs.

Apple Store’s Special Deals

Apple.com’s Special Deals include refurbished iPods, iPhones(sometimes), and Macs, as well as discontinued products.

In a recent visit to the site I discovered a current-model 8GB iPod Nano for US$169, a $30 discount. I also found a $1449 refurbished MacBook Pro with a 2.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, a 15.4-inch wide-screen display, 2GB of memory, a 120GB hard drive, an 8X SuperDrive, and a Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics chip with 128MB of graphics memory. At the same time, Apple offered a similarly equipped MacBook Pro as a clearance item on Apple’s site for $1699. Presumably, the clearance item was simply never sold, while the refurbished model had been sold and returned.

In comparison, a new MacBook Pro closest in specs to the refurbished and clearance models cost $1999. It included a slightly faster processor (2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo), a larger hard drive (200GB), a Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT with more memory (256MB), and Apple’s new Multi-Touch track pad.

Dell Outlet

Dell has consistently offered a wide variety of refurbished computers for sale on its outlet site. Dell Outlet’s search tools enable you to find laptops by price, memory, processor, and other features. I have found compelling bargains on this site, such as laptops costing nearly $500 less than similarly configured new models in the same line.

Shop carefully, as some refurbished laptops cost almost the same as new models that are better equipped. For example, recently I found a refurbished Dell Vostro 1400 laptop for $759. The laptop’s specs included an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 CPU (2.2 GHz, 4MB L2 Cache, 800-MHz FSB); 2GB of memory; a 120GB hard drive; a 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8400M graphics processor; an 8X DVD RW optical drive; a 2-megapixel Webcam; Windows Vista Home Premium; and Microsoft Works 8.5 with Microsoft Office trial software. I compared this model to new, built-to-order Vostro 1400 laptops. For $767–nearly the same as the refurbished model–I configured a new Vostro 1400 with a faster processor and a larger hard drive.

Deal Locker

Currently in beta, Deal Locker is designed to help you find “secret and not-so-secret” deals on Amazon.com–which sells laptops, MP3 players, and tons of other consumer electronics. You can type in a keyword (such as “MacBook”), select a category (Computers & PC Hardware), and a discount range (from 10 to 99 percent off); and choose a sort-by option, such as “relevance.” You can search Amazon.com’s U.S., UK, Canadian, German, and French sites. Deal Locker presents your search results within Amazon.com. I don’t know how many “secret” deals you’ll find. But you might unearth some attractive bargains by searching for, say, ThinkPads discounted from 70 to 99 percent off.


Woot is a cheeky site that features one product a day, deeply discounted. Once the supply has been snapped up, you’re out of luck, so you’ll need to check the site in the morning. Some products offered here have been on the market a while, have been recently discontinued, or just didn’t sell all that well.

Still, you can find current products at deep discounts. A recent example: In mid March, Woot offered JBL’s Radial High-Performance Loudspeaker Dock for iPod for $100. At the same time, the lowest price I found for this iPod speaker system/docking station using PC World’s Shop & Compare tool was $140, and Amazon.com had it for $230.

Mobile Computing News, Reviews & Tips

HTC Shift–An Ultra, Ultraportable PC: The $1500 HTC Shift occupies the space between a smart phone and mini notebook. You can slide the touch screen up and tilt it at an angle, just like a laptop screen. The Shift is pricey, but it performed serviceably in our tests–despite its languid boot time.

Top 10 Most Disruptive Technologies: Which technology combinations have rocked your world? One that’s just starting to get a foothold is the combo of cloud computing and always-on devices. Cloud computing is used to describe applications (such as Google Docs) and files that live on networks instead of your hard drive. Together with always-on devices like smart phones, cloud computing is poised to change how portable devices are designed and how we’ll use them. Read Dan Tynan’s article http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,143474-page,7-c,electronics/article.html for more on this and other world-rocking tech combinations.

Analysts Recommend iPhone for Business: Speaking of shifts, influential research firm Gartner has about-faced on its position that the Apple iPhone isn’t a valid business tool. Recently, Gartner said that with iPhone 2.0, the upcoming software upgrade, Apple’s smart phone will become a viable contender with BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile, and other smart phones.

Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I’ve missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. E-mail me at: [email protected] However, I regret that I’m unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.

Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog.

Comment: [email protected]

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