From the February 2003 issue of Startups

If you're dreading the cost of equipping your office with business essentials, you have nothing to fear, at least not anymore. A significant dip in PC prices and peripherals over the past year makes it possible for you to get the gear you need for your business without making a big dent in your wallet. Getting basic start-up equipment at a low cost--with surprisingly robust features--is now easier than ever.

Even though it's hard to believe you can get a PC for only $399, that's how much eMachines' T1742 will cost you. And no, it's not refurbished or light on the specs. In fact, it sports an Intel Celeron 1.7GHz processor, 128MB DDR, a 40GB hard drive, 48X CD-ROM and six USB 2.0 ports. In addition, it's Ethernet-ready and comes bundled with a keyboard, wheel mouse and speakers. Simply add a 15-inch flat-panel display from AG Neovo, priced at $429, and you've got yourself an entire workstation for less than $1,000.

The AG Neovo F-15 features 1,024 x 768 resolution, as well as a 110-degree viewing angle. It's coated with antiglare and antistatic treatment, which keeps the display both great-looking and easy on the eyes. The F-15 is available in white, black or silver, but it's not only stylish, it's convenient, too. A VESA wall-mountable arm is available if you've got to work in cramped quarters.

If your small business needs more than one of these systems, how do you network them together so they can share files and peripherals? When your company is just starting up, it makes a lot of sense to invest in wireless technology instead of running messy wires all over your office.

Although they are much slower, products using the 802.11b stand are more popular than products that use 802.11a because they are lower-priced. Until now, you had to go with one or the other. But SMC's new Barricade Turbo 2.4GHz/5GHz Universal Wireless Cable/DSL Broadband Router allows you to use both standards at the same time. So you can invest in the 802.11b standard until prices for 802.11a drop, and continue using the same router. The Barricade Turbo costs only $29 and features easy setup. It comes equipped with a VPN and SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection) firewall, so your data is kept safe. USB and PC Card adapters retail for about $65 each, while Card Bus adapters retail for about $35.

Once you get your network up and running, why not try adding a couple of peripherals? Lexmark's X125 is an all-in-one color printer, fax machine, scanner and copier. For $169, you get a 600 x 1,200 dpi sheet-fed scanner, a fax machine that stores up to 80 pages, a color printer that prints photo-quality images, and color and black-and-white copy capability, all in one compact unit.

For those business owners with more heavy printing needs, you may want to pick up an HP Deskjet 6127 to add to your system as well. This printer boasts integrated Ethernet networking, 20 ppm print speeds and a built-in duplexer for two-sided printing. Its street price is $249 . . . but did we mention it also prints in color? At up to 4,800 x 1,200 dpi, the Deskjet 6127 is the perfect choice to more than satisfy even the greatest of your color-intensive printing demands.

Adding computers as you add employees isn't a difficult thing to do, but finding a phone system that can expand with your growing business can be. The GE 29488GE2 phone system is expandable to up to 16 separate stations, features Caller ID, a hold function, call waiting and an intercom. In addition, it includes an auxiliary jack that allows you to set up a fax, modem or answering machine. The $150 phone should meet your needs as you grow your fledgling business.

TIME TO SPLURGE
Got a few bucks left over? Why not treat yourself to these nifty add-ons?
  • If you prefer the mobility of a notebook, the Compaq Evo N1015v won't cost you an arm and a leg. Starting at $899, it includes an Athlon XP1400+ 1.2GHz processor, a 13.3-inch color TFT XGA display with 128MB RAM and 20GB of storage space. The Evo N1015v comes bundled with Microsoft Windows XP Home. (www.compaq.com, 800-AT-COMPAQ)
  • A 15-inch flat panel is nothing to blink at, but bigger is better, so take a look at NEC Mitsubishi's MultiSync LCD1700NX. Priced at $750, it provides 170-degree wide-viewing angle technology. It supports resolutions up to 1,280 x 1,024, and text will look crisp with a 300:1 contrast ratio. It also has cross-platform functionality, supporting Apple, Linux, Unix and Windows so it'll work with current and future systems. (www.necmitsubishi.com, 888-NEC-MITS)
  • Swap out the mouse and keyboard that came with your eMachines system for the Logitech Cordless Elite Duo, a cordless keyboard and MouseMan optical mouse. At $99.99--and no more cords--they're well worth it. Featuring enhanced F-key functionality and specialized Internet hot keys, this duo makes getting online a lot faster. (www.logitech.com, 800-231-7717)
  • A CD-ROM may be all you need in your business, but a combo CD-R/CD-RW, DVD-R and DVD-RW can't hurt. CenDyne's External USB 2.0/Firewire drive not only combines all four functions, but it also offers dual PC connections using the USB or Firewire connections. The drives come bundled with InterVideo's WinDVD, DVD playback software and InCD software for CD burns. It's not an indispensable piece of equipment, but for $499, it's definitely nice to have. (www.cendyne.com, 714-556-1020)
  • Keep yourself organized with Toshiba's Pocket PC e330, priced at $349. Powered by a 300MHz Intel PXA2550 processor, it features a 3.5-inch color reflective TFT, 64MB RAM and a SD expansion card slot (which can also be used for Bluetooth wireless connectivity). Pocket PC 2002 software lets you use Pocket Word, Pocket Excel and Pocket Outlook on the road. You can even play audio and video files with Microsoft Windows Media Player for Pocket PC 2002. (www.toshiba.com, 800-316-0920)