After waffling recently over whether to jump in with an inexpensive Windows laptop now or wait for a new generation of devices that will ship this holiday period, Microsoft made me an offer I couldn't refuse: Today only, you can snag a decent looking Windows laptop from the Microsoft Store for just $200. So I did. And maybe you should as well.
I feel like I just wrote about this kind of thing. Because I did: Exactly one week ago in Today's $300 PCs Already Compete with Chromebook, I discussed a promotional mailing from Amazon that described four reasonable looking sub-$300 PCs and my plans to step up my coverage of the low-end PC market. My only question was whether I should jump in now or wait a few months since so many new PCs are hitting the market at low, low, low prices this holiday season. Including some that will cost as little as $200.
But today on Twitter, I noticed a temporary—like, today only—promotion for a $200 laptop. Interestingly, it's one of the four PCs that Amazon highlighted a week ago, and at this price, it's a full $50 off its normal $250 cost. Looking quickly to make sure there weren't any hidden gotcha's and finding none, I ordered it. Hopefully it will arrive quickly.
Here's what I know about it so far.
Acer Aspire E 15 ES1-511-C590 Signature Edition Laptop. That's a mouthful, but what that means is that this is a Signature version of an Acer retail laptop. I wrote about the Signature program a few years back, and since then have only purchased Signature-based Windows-based laptops: They remove all the crapware and make sure all the drivers are up to date, and so on. Highly recommended.
Form factor. It's a laptop, not an Ultrabook, thanks to its heavy street weight (4.73 pounds). But it's undeniably thin at 16 mm. By comparison, a 15-inhc MacBook Pro is 18 mm thick and a 13-inch Macbook Air is 17 mm thick(!). That is not too shabby at all.
HD display. If you consider 1366 x 768 to be HD, that is. (Obviously, it's technically better than 720p.) It's a huge 15.6-incher, too.
Processor. The Acer packs a 2.16 GHz Intel Celeron N2830 processor. If you see the name Celeron and get nervous, don't. This is a modern part that debuted this year, and it's part of the Bay Trail family of Intel chips. Yes, it's a low-end/mid-level chip. But I suspect it will be just fine for day to day use.
RAM. 4 GB. Perfectly acceptable, and remember that coming $200 PCs will have only 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM.
Storage. 500 GB 5400 RPM HDD. This, I suspect, will be the real performance bottleneck, and of course it makes sense that this would be an area of cost-savings. An SSD would improve matters dramatically, but would add at least $100 to the price of the machine. Possibly more.
Expansion. It includes an SD card reader, 1 USB 3.0 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out, a combo microphone/headphone jack, and gigabit Ethernet. There is no optical drive, thankfully.
Windows. This machine comes with a 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 with Bing, which means two things: It's functionally identical to Windows 8.1 Core. And it can fully take advantage of all 4 GB of RAM. Nice!
I'm looking forward to giving this thing a spin. I'll report back when the PC arrives.