Notebook computers with the kind of performance that will satisfy most students now carry a price tag that won’t make a parent cringe.
Computer parts have become cheaper this year, and now $1,000 can buy a notebook with a sufficient-sized hard drive, more than adequate memory and a speedy microprocessor so that students can surf the Web, write term papers and even download music.
Their big drawback traditionally has been cost. Models powerful enough to meet the demands of many students have carried price tags upward of $1,500 or even $2,000 — a cost that would make most parents shudder.
Portable computers work best for students hurrying from class to class who don’t want to be tied down by all the pesky cords of a desk-crowding, hard-to-move personal computer.
“You can get a pretty potent machine even though it’s a notebook,” said Roger Kay, an analyst at PC market researcher IDC of Framingham, Massachusetts.
Hewlett-Packard, eMachines, Dell, Gateway and others are selling notebooks — they don’t call them laptops anymore — priced around $1,000 to $1,200 with a 20-gigabyte hard drive, 256 megabytes of computer memory and a microprocessor that runs at least at a speed of 2 gigahertz.
Most have 15-inch screens, wide enough to watch a movie.
Of course, there are limitations. Serious computer users into online gaming may not be satisfied with the graphics, and digital video editors may find that there is not enough memory in these notebook computer models.
Wireless Internet access, the hottest trend in computing this year, still typically commands a higher price as well.
But for most student requirements, the systems are more than powerful enough, PC watchers say.
Notebook computers have traditionally cost several hundred dollars more than comparably featured desktop PCs, but as the parts prices have fallen and the volume of computers shifted to notebook sales, companies have slashed prices. That means that the gap has decreased between the price of a notebook computer and the price of the desktop computer.
As a result, global notebook computer sales grew 22 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier while desktop computer shipments rose only 5 percent, according to IDC.