So it's almost the end of the school year and everyone is winding down for a nice summer break (except the IT folks, who are just winding up for a summer's worth of work, free from student and teacher interruptions and brush fires). Invariably, though, despite budget crunches and the tough times we all know are ahead for next year, there is a little pool of money that needs to be spent. A grant with leftover funds or a few stimulus dollars that weren't used.
Well have I got a deal for you.
I just ordered several laptops for the day job to use as demo machines at conferences. Of course I went to TigerDirect because they're cheap, cheap, cheap, and these machines come out of my marketing budget. I must say that my experience with Tiger was not as pleasant as usual as I got the runaround on bizarre credit card issues and finally even had trouble getting a wire transfer to them. It all came together in the end, though, and I refused to abandon the deals I found there. The laptops I bought were fast enough and cheap enough that it was worth the hassle. Most likely, you won't hit the snags I did that largely related to me shipping thousands of dollars of equipment to somewhere other than the billing address on our corporate card.
Anyway, enough back story. To the deal. For $499, you can snag an Acer Aspire, 15.4", widescreen laptop with an AMD quad-core processor, DVD burner, N-standard wireless, full keyboard with numeric keypad, and ports galore. I don't know if this is a limited time offer and it's not like it's running a second-generation Intel Core i7 Extreme, but this computer is really fast. I also can't speak to it's long-term reliability, but Acer has come a long way in terms of quality. Look and feel out of the box is solid, though, and the keyboard is comfortable and quick.
You'll need to wipe out the crapware (better yet, just install Linux), but this laptop will make a great desktop replacement for power users in schools. It's light enough to walk the halls of the school of your choice and big and bright enough to use with groups of students.
I have yet to test its battery life; AMD Phenoms aren't known for sipping power, but this isn't meant to be an all-day 1:1 laptop for students. Rather, this would work very well for simulations and math software, on an administrator's desk, or in the bag of faculty power users. For $500, I'm willing to make some compromises.