Top 10 budget PCs for November 1999
October 13, 1999
by Alan Stafford and Andrew Brandt
(IDG) -- Celeron-based systems continue to dominate the budget chart, but two AMD K6 systems make strong showings. A well-equipped PIII-450 system, the Micro Express MicroFlex-50C, defies the trend and holds on to the top spot. Even on less-expensive systems, 17-inch monitors are becoming standard equipment, but Crossline's Endeavor BX debuts here with a 19-inch model, a hot graphics card, and a DVD-ROM drive, all for $1188.
Why free PCs don't make the charts
With PCs advertised for well under $500 and scores of companies giving them away for "free," you could be excused for wondering why none of the systems in PC World's budget chart costs less than $800. The answer lies in how we calculate overall system value.
A quick glance at our charts will tell you what we look at when we evaluate a system, including performance, price, hardware extras, and vendor support policies. We don't take special service contracts into account -- such as extended for-fee warranties and Internet access contracts. That's because assigning a reliable value for these services is next to impossible. Most companies offering free or low-cost PCs require you to sign up for a multiyear Internet service contract so they can recoup the money they lose on system hardware.
The other reason you don't see any ultralow-cost systems on the Top 10 Budget PCs is much simpler: We haven't yet seen one that could make our price/performance cut. Although systems that sell for $800 to $1000 also minimize costs in a number of ways, savvy manufacturers can still create systems in that price range that you'd want to use every day. They incorporate processors that are a little slower than cutting edge; they reduce hard drive size and available RAM; and they use less-expensive peripherals, from keyboard to mouse to monitor. But on most tasks, inexpensive systems like the $863 MidWest Micro Office MWO-400C that make our budget chart do a fine job.
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