5 Great Technology Bargains

When you're strapped for cash for a can't-avoid-it purchase, sometimes it's worth sacrificing a few frills. We zeroed in on a desktop, a laptop, an inkjet printer, a camera, and an HDTV. Each represents a great value in its category.

Desktop PC: Dell Inspiron 518 ($654)

Need solid performance for everyday tasks in a budget PC? Dell's Inspiron 518 sports a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU, 3GB of PC6400 DDR2 memory, and a 320GB Western Digital Caviar SE16 hard drive (7200 rpm, 16MB cache). The Inspiron 518 turned in a respectable score of 108 on our WorldBench 6 tests, and while hard-core gamers might hold out for more graphics oomph than the unit's ATI Radeon HD3450 provides, the system sports some nice design touches such as a recessed storage tray on top of the system with two easily accessible USB ports (in addition to two on the face of the unit). We also liked the bundled 20-inch wide-screen LCD monitor with a built-in Webcam. For under $700 (in early February), this sounds like a good value to us.

Netbook: Acer Aspire One ($350)

Looking for a budget netbook? The Acer Aspire One could fit the bill. It's not perfect--you might consider splurging for the six-cell battery, since the included three-cell battery will barely last 2 hours, and the 8.9-inch screen is undeniably tiny. But it's got a great usable keyboard and a reasonably roomy 120GB hard disk drive, and the $350 base price makes it a solid candidate to tide you over until a future crop of this fast-evolving class of portables comes along later this year.

Multifunction Ink Jet Printer: Canon Pixma MP620 ($150)

You'll be hard-pressed to find a multifunction color inkjet that strikes as good a balance between cost (about $150, list, in February) and quality as the Canon Pixma MP620. With support for USB, ethernet, and Wi-Fi connections; media slots for most common storage cards; and two 150-sheet input trays, it's ready to meet the needs of most small offices and homes. Image, scan, and copy quality is generally solid, and the cost of consumables (4.6 cents for a page of plain black text and 12.4 cents for a full-color page) is about or slightly better than average.

Camera: Pentax Optio A40 (under $200)

With all the new camera announcements at the recent Consumer Electronics Show--as well as all the ones coming up at the PMA imaging show in March--it's a great time to buy one of last year's top-of-the-line point-and-shoots at bargain-bin prices. We like the Pentax Optio A40, a 12-megapixel pocket camera that delivers very good image quality (according to our tests) and has optical image stabilization and a DivX movie mode. The Optio A40 cost about $250 when it was released last year, but by this February it was selling for as little as $120.

HDTV: Vizio SV420XVT 42-Inch LCD TV ($999)

With good overall image quality and a 120-Hz refresh rate for smoother motion, the Vizio SV420XVT also has a fair price for a 42-inch LCD-TV: under $1000 as of early February. It isn't the easiest TV to set up, but if you're looking for a great HDTV picture at a good price, this Vizio has the goods.

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