Last night, after shopping online for Dells all day, Mom and I went to Fry’s Electronics to buy a cheap no-name laptop (the brand name is “Great Quality” or just “GQ” and is only sold by Fry’s and their website, Outpost.com). It is actually pretty decent. It doesn’t have built-in wireless but she can get a USB thumbdrive type of adapter for $30 (on sale) if she ever needs it. The silver chassis looks great and is thin and lightweight. Because the notebook was so cheap ($500) already and was no-name I recommended she get a 3-year extended warranty for $130. So it was $670 for a 1.3 GHz Celeron 256 MB 40 GB notebook with a 15-inch screen and a CD-RW/DVD combo drive, including tax. The equivalent Dell was $783 and only had a 90-day warranty, but included an internal wireless card. When buying a cheap computer $100 is a lot of money. Plus Dell’s free printer used Dell cartridges you can only get from them and this free printer is a Canon (iP1600) so cartridges should be widely available.
There was still foam paper wrapped around the notebook, so even though the box had been opened, it looked like it was in mint condition and had never been started. It started up without any trouble, I got MS Office installed, transferred some files from their old computer with my thumb drive, and dialed in to the internet to start downloading Windows XP patches. That tested most everything on the computer and it all worked flawlessly.
The Fry’s store was actually pretty nice inside even though it was enormous. The salesmen were reasonably honest and readily available though they weren’t particularly knowledgable (they didn’t know about the newspaper ad and said USB wireless adapters weren’t available). They didn’t push extras too hard or try to upsize us to a more expensive computer. We had some trouble at checkout because they had given us the wrong free printer and had to go back and get the right one (about a mile walk, so it took a while). Their checkout process is horrible where the salesman has to write a quote and then the cashier rings it up. It took at least half an hour to check out. I found out later that all of this fits perfectly with Fry’s reputation. I found a great web page about how to shop at Fry’s and a Salon article about Fry’s as well. The first guy likens shopping at Fry’s to competing in an Olympic event.
Mom didn’t realize she could use the notebook as her primary PC at home. She just figured it would be good to take to Florida. But I told her she could hook up an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor if she wanted. Their desktop monitor is only 1 inch bigger than the screen on the notebook though (Mom measured it).