Prices for computers are near the lowest they've ever been. The average this spring at retail stores was around $700, not including the monitor. Consumer Reports took a look at some of the cheapest computers on the market today.
At stores you'll see plenty of computers that cost well under $1000 — $749, $499, $439.
And Consumer Reports found computers for even less on
Wal-Mart's Web site.
This Microtel Sysmar
(PRON: MY-crow-tell SISS-mahr) costs just $199.98. Dean Gallea (PRON: GAL-ee) took a look at what you get.
"For $200 you get a fairly minimal computer. It has 128 meg of RAM, a 10-gigabyte hard drive, which is small by today's standards, a
CD-ROM drive, but no modem or floppy."
But the biggest difference from other PCs is that instead of running Windows, it uses an operating system called Lindows.
Consumer Reports just tested Lindows on a similar computer from Walmart.com that costs $300.
On the surface, Lindows looks a lot like Windows — but it's not. For instance…
"Just adding a printer is complicated because you find a row of 20 icons that have obscure names like 'enable disable job spooling' rather than a button that says 'add printer.'"
Another problem — the Lindows computers come with limited software. You can go to the Lindows Web site and download other programs, but you have to pay $99 a year and you won't find many familiar programs.
"Standard programs you might look for like Quicken or Tax Cut just don't exist for Lindows."
And attaching a digital camera, scanner or PDA can be problematic — even impossible — such as this camera.
"It can't connect to the camera."
Dean got an error message when he tried.
Rather than buying a Lindows computer, Consumer Reports recommends spending a little more for a low-priced computer that uses Windows. It could save you a lot of hassles.
"The camera connects right away."
Consumer Reports tested a variety of low-priced computers that use Windows. A good basic computer is the Dell Dimension 2350 for $480.