Notebook prices dip under $300 in the US

Wal-Mart will offer a fully loaded notebook for under $300 on July 26

Notebooks are closing the price gap on less-powerful netbooks, with retailers delivering fully equipped systems for under $US300 as part of promotional offers.

Wal-Mart will start offering limited quantities of a fully loaded Compaq notebook for $298 starting July 26, according to an entry on Wal-Mart's Checkoutblog site.

The notebook being offered is a Compaq Presario CQ60-419WM from Hewlett-Packard, which is powered by Advanced Micro Devices' Sempron SI-42 processor running at 2.1GHz. The notebook comes with Windows Vista and includes a 15.6-inch screen, 3GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive and Nvidia's GeForce 8200M integrated graphics. It also includes a DVD-RW drive, according to specifications provided by HP.

For such a low price, the notebook is packed with features and could run out of stock quickly. "We expect this one will be quite popular," wrote a Wal-Mart official going by the name of Ryan in the blog entry. Wal-Mart didn't clarify whether the offering would be in-store or online, and the retailer didn't immediately return requests for comment.

The offer follows a move earlier this week by Best Buy to offer an Acer notebook with a 15.6-inch screen for $US299. The offer was later pulled after Best Buy ran out of stock, according to a report in CNET. The notebook was powered by a single-core AMD Athlon 64 running at 2.0GHz and ran Windows Vista. The laptop also included 2GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive.

By comparison, the cheapest netbook on Wal-Mart's online store is available for $238 and is less powerful than the Compaq laptop. The Asus Eee PC900HD includes an 8.9-inch screen and runs on an Intel Atom N270 at 1.6GHz. It includes 512MB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive and comes with Windows XP.

Mainstream laptop prices have dipped under the $US300 mark just a few times, including in 2007, when Toshiba offered a laptop for $299. Most of the mainstream laptops listed on Wal-Mart's site today are priced over $350.

Wal-Mart also plans to add a "very cool Acer notebook" with an eight-hour battery life over the next few days, according to the company. It also plans to add a HP netbook.

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