Big Deals

Got $1,200? Get a desktop PC.
This story appears in the July 1999 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

You've been holding off. A new computer is a big investment for your business, right? You may not be able to afford a 500 MHz Pentium III, but there are ways to slay the budget dragon and still come out with a treasure. Whether you need to upgrade your PC or add a couple of computers for new employees, there's a system out there for you--one that's affordable enough for most start-up budgets but still powerful enough to get the job done. Every computer on these pages clocks in at under $1,200--and that includes a monitor.

You can still get plenty of oomph without a Pentium II or III. All the desktops we looked at have at least a 333 MHz processor, enough to power most bloatware. You might want to avoid high-end databases and use these machines for general business applications, where they'll perform well. Then you won't have to run out and upgrade your system every two weeks.

All the PCs come with Windows 98 and the iMac with OS 8.5. If you don't have a lot of room, the iMac's all-in-one compact design is a solid option. Some models come with specialized small-business software, and all systems are available for purchase (and customization) online.

Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard

Model: Brio BA

Processor: 366 MHz Intel Celeron

Street Price: $1,062 (with optional HP 50 15-inch monitor)

Bundled with: none

Phone: (800) 752-0900

Web Site:http://www.hp.com

The Brio BA model we looked at comes standard with 64MB RAM and a 4.3GB hard drive, but you'll have to add a modem or network card separately. If you like shopping online, you can change the standard configurations to suit your needs on the HP Web site. The stock RAM can be expanded to 512MB, which could be handy if you deal with large graphics or memory-hungry programs. Integrated 18-bit PCI audio and a 32X CD-ROM make this a good multimedia computer.

Manufacturer: Apple

Model: iMac

Processor: 333 MHz G3

Street Price: $1,199

Bundled with: AppleWorks, Quicken Deluxe, Adobe PageMill, Kai's Photo Soap, World Book Encyclopedia

Phone: (800) 795-1000

Web Site:http://www.apple.com

If you're fashion-conscious, you're bound to find an iMac "flavor" (lime, tangerine, blueberry, strawberry, grape) that won't clash. Aside from snazzy looks, the iMac has a speedy G3 under the hood and is equipped with two USB ports, expected to soon be the standard for all new computers. A large 512K backside cache and built-in 56K modem qualify this puppy for "hot rod" status. The "i" in iMac stands for Internet, so it's good for surfing or e-commerce. It comes with a hefty 6GB hard drive, 24X CD-ROM drive, built-in 16-bit stereo speakers and the easiest computer setup you'll ever experience.

Manufacturer: Sys Technology

Model: TaskMaster 333C

Processor: 333 MHz Intel Celeron

Street Price: $899

Bundled with: none

Phone: (800) 613-9963

Web Site:http://www.sys.com

Coming in near the low end is the Sys TaskMaster 333C. Even at such a low price, you won't be sacrificing too much in the features department. At 3.2GB, the hard drive is adequate, and the 32MB RAM is expandable up to 256MB. You can choose from a 56K internal fax/modem if you're using dial-up access, or a 10/100BaseT Ethernet card if you're networking. It comes with an extensive warranty, and the first year includes unlimited toll-free tech support and on-site service.

Manufacturer: Acer

Model: Aspire 6126S Bundle

Processor: 400 MHz Intel Celeron

Street Price: $999

Bundled with: Microsoft Works, Money 99, Encarta 99 Encyclopedia

Phone: (800) 368-2237

Web Site:http://www.acer.com

The Aspire 6126S Bundle is stocked with the fastest Celeron processor of the bunch and comes with a Lexmark L1100 Inkjet color printer. A 56K modem, 64MB SDRAM and an 8.4GB hard drive are standard. An ATI 3D RagePro Turbo 2X AGP graphics accelerator with 8MB SGRAM video memory, 16-bit audio card and stereo speakers enhance its multimedia uses. Like the iMac, the Acer is equipped with two high-speed USB ports and a USB keyboard and mouse. The limited warranty covers one year.

Manufacturer: Gateway

Model: GP6-366c

Processor: 366 MHz Intel Celeron

Street Price: $1,204

Bundled with: Microsoft Office 97 Small Business Edition, McAfee Anti-Virus

Phone: (800) 846-4208

Web Site:http://www.gateway.com

We had to tweak a standard model at the Gateway Web site to bring the cost down to our cut-off price (close enough). The result? We added an optional 56K Internet/fax modem and went with a 4.3GB hard drive and a 15-inch monitor. It even comes with 64MB RAM to help you survive the ever-growing Windows operating system incarnations.

Manufacturer: Dell

Model: Dimension V

Processor: 400 MHz Intel Celeron

Street Price: $1,192

Bundled with: Microsoft Works Suite 99, Money 99 Basic, McAfee VirusScan 3.1

Phone: (800) WWW-DELL

Web Site:http://www.dell.com

A three-year limited warranty should keep you up and running for awhile. An 8.4GB Ultra ATA hard drive and 64MB RAM fuel the included Works Suite 99. The standard Yamaha XG 64V Wavetable sound card and Harman/Kardon HK-195 speakers power the multimedia experience when you're using the 32X CD-ROM drive. The 56K modem will keep you surfing in style. Also, watch for Dell's new Dimension series, to be announced this month.

Edition: December 2016

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