Highs and Lows

You don't need to spend a fortune on office equipment.or do you? From cheap to posh, here are our picks for the tools you need.
Magazine Contributor
8 min read

This story appears in the June 2000 issue of . Subscribe »

You know there's more than one way to scan a cat. You can do the job with an expensive scanner . . . or a cheap one. Which to buy? It depends on what you're doing. If you need to make photo-quality reprints, you want to buy high. If you just need to add Fluffy the Office Cat to the company Web site, go low. We looked at high- and low-cost examples of desktops, laptops, Palm PCs, printers, scanners, ergonomic chairs and digital cameras. It's OK to go all out on the equipment you really need if you take it easy on the supplies that are less-than-crucial for your business. A few hundred dollars saved on a Palm PC plus a few hundred saved on a printer can add up to get you a lot more laptop.

Palm PCs


The Cassiopeia E-100 runs the stripped-down Microsoft OS, Windows CE. Windows CE means tight integration with big Windows. The color screen is powered by 16MB RAM and a 131MHz processor. A CompactFlash slot allows for easy memory expansion. The Cassiopeia syncs to your desktop computer with a serial cable. If you only need a memo pad/calculator and the occasional game of mini-solitaire, check out the Handspring Visor.

Manufacturer: Casio

Model: Cassiopeia E-100

Street price: $499

Phone: (800) 836-8580

Web site:www.casio.com


Handspring's Visor runs the popular cross-platform Palm OS. The screen isn't in color, but the Visor Deluxe ($249) is available in five iMac-like colors. The USB connection allows for faster data syncing with your desktop than through a serial port. But with this one, you'll be compromising on memory. The basic Visor has only 2MB RAM. The Springboard expansion slot will accept an optional pager, modem, MP3 player, Universal Remote, GPS receiver or memory card. The Visor runs on two AAA batteries that last for up to two months.

Manufacturer: Handspring

Model: Visor

Street price: $179

Phone: (888) 565-9393

Web site:www.handspring.com



When you shell out $2,500 for a desktop computer, you're paying for the latest technology. It makes sense if you work with high-end graphics or multimedia and need the power. The micron millenia max packs it in with a 750mhz intel pentium III processor, 128mb ram, a dvd-rom drive, a 27gb hard drive, a 19-inch monitor and a 56kbps modem. You won't have to worry about upgrading for awhile. You can customize the configuration to your heart's delight at micronpc.com's web site.

Manufacturer: Micron

Model: Millenia MAX

Street price: $2,494

Phone: (888) 218-7502

Web site: www.micronpc.com


The eMachines eTower 533id2 takes it easy on the specs to clock in at a low, low $599. Instead of a Pentium III, you get a 533MHz Intel Celeron processor. The 64MB RAM, 15GB hard drive, 8x DVD-ROM drive and 56Kbps modem should get you through most business applications. You'll have to think about upgrading sooner than you would if you bought the Micron Millenia MAX, but the eTower won't take much of a toll on your budget. An eView 17-inch monitor can be added for $199. This might be a better buy if you already have a good monitor lying around to use with it.

Manufacturer: eMachines

Model: eTower 533id2

Street price: $599

Phone: (877) 566-3463

Web site:www.e4me.com

Digital Cameras


A digital camera like the CoolPix 990 is best if you have a bit of photography experience under your belt to take advantage of all its features. Much more than a point-and-shoot, the 990 can be put in a variety of manual modes that allow adjustment of the aperture, shutter speed and exposure. It's invaluable if you want something that acts like an SLR, but if you're more the Polaroid type, check into the Olympus D-340R. The 3.34-mexapixel resolution of the 990 means true photo-quality images. Pair it with the Epson Stylus Photo 1270, and you'll have your own semi-pro digital photography rig.

Manufacturer: Nikon

Model: CoolPix 990

Street price: $900

Phone: (800) 52-NIKON

Web site:www.nikonusa.com


Unless you're aiming for the graphics high end, the Olympus D-340R should cover your basic business bases. Capable of a 1.32 megapixel resolution, the D-340R doesn't compare to the Nikon, but it's no slouch, either. For Web sites, brochures and most projects, it'll do just fine. A 2x telephoto mode will help you get up close and personal. On the other end, it can handle subjects as close as
4 inches. Flash and all settings are handled automatically by the camera.

Manufacturer: Olympus America

Model: D-340R

Street price: $250

Phone: (800) 622-6372

Web site:www.olympusamerica.com/digital



"Top of the line" is an apt description for the Gateway Solo 9300CX. A 600MHz Pentium III processor puts this up in the desktop-replacement stratosphere. Add in the 96MB RAM,
15.7-inch active matrix display,
12GB hard drive and 6x DVD-ROM drive, and you know why you're paying well over three grand. Buying big from the start is easier than upgrading later. If you don't need so much horsepower, check into the budget-friendly option to the right.

Manufacturer: Gateway

Model: Solo 9300CX

Street price: $3,699

Phone: (800) 846-2000

Web site:www.gateway.com


At $2,700 less than the Gateway, the AmeriNote RL is a low-price leader. The processor is a respectable 366MHz Intel Celeron. The specs round out with a 3.2GB hard drive, a 24x CD-ROM drive, 32MB RAM and a built-in 56Kbps modem. The whole shebang weighs under 6 pounds. The 12-inch display helps keep the weight down. For on-budget portability, this one takes the cake and eats it, too.

Manufacturer: CompUSA PC

Model: AmeriNote RL

Street price: $999

Phone: (888) 2-COMPPC

Web site:www.compusapc.com



True photo-quality printouts are the domain of the Epson Stylus Photo 1270 inkjet printer. The
1,440 x 720 dpi resolution is helped out tremendously by the Epson's tiny ink droplet size. This is a good printer if you need to generate professional-looking photo enlargements, brochures and graphics. Another great feature is the wide format. With special banner paper, the 1270 can turn out a 13-by-44-inch print. This is handy for large-size graphics work. Replacement black cartridges cost $24.95, while color replacements cost $30.

Manufacturer: Epson

Model: Stylus Photo 1270

Street price: $499

Phone: (800) GO-EPSON

Web site:www.epson.com


The Lexmark Z11 Color Jetprinter is a budget printer with an impressive 1,200 x 1,200 dpi maximum resolution. Normal mode is 600 x 600 dpi. Print speeds are on the slow side at 4ppm in black and white and 2.5ppm in color. The parallel interface doesn't help the speed issue. You'll have to spend more for faster performance. Replacement printer cartridges cost $30 for black and $35 for color. For functionality and affordability in a low-demand office environment, it's hard to beat the high resolution capability of the Z11.

Manufacturer: Lexmark

Model: Z11 Color Jetprinter

Street price: $99

Phone: (800) LEXMARK

Web site:www.lexmark.com



Don't look now-this chair is expensive. You've got to be really serious about your ergonomic seating to plunk down $799 for a place to rest your tush all day. But there is a method to the madness. The wild-looking design offers some of the most advanced ergonomics you can find in an office chair. The Duo-Back design comfortably cradles the back while the rest of the chair offers knee-tilt, height- and depth-adjustable head rest, seat-depth adjustment, back-angle adjustment, and tension control. Keyboard arms are optional-this price includes them.

Manufacturer: Grahl Industries

Model: Synchron 7

Street price: $799

Phone: (888) 289-GRAHL

Web site:www.grahl.com


We'll understand if you don't want to pay quite so much for a seat. You can still get some comforting ergonomic features from the Global Dash Adjustable Basic Task Chair.

Manufacturer: Global

Model: Dash Adjustable Basic Task Chair, Model 2264

Street price: $100

Phone: (800) 220-1900

Web site:www.globaltotaloffice.com



A flatbed scanner is the only way to go. When you open wide your pocket book, you can grab HP's ScanJet 6300Cse Professional Series Color Scanner. For $399, you get, well, professional scans. The hardware resolution maxes out at an impressive 1,200 x 2,400 dpi with 36-bit color. Optical Character Recognition is built in to turn your scans into editable text.

If your work involves heavy use of high-quality graphics, then you'll need every bit of this scanner's capabilities. Otherwise, a cheaper alternative will handle the occasional scan just fine.

Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard

Model: ScanJet 6300Cse

Street price: $399

Phone: (800) SCAN-JET

Web site:www.hp.com


For scanning graphics for a brochure or a Web site, a machine like the AcerScan Prisa 620U will probably suffice. Like the HP, it has 36-bit color, but the resolution only goes to 600 x 1200 dpi. Not bad for most uses. The USB connection ensures reasonable speeds, though it won't be as zippy as the HP. One handy feature is the high-speed, one-pass scan that pops up a color preview in just five seconds. It comes bundled with ABBYY Fine Reader OCR and Ulead iPhoto Plus.

Manufacturer: Acer Peripherals America

Model: AcerScan Prisa 620U

Street price: $99

Phone: (800) 379-2237

Web site:www.acerperipherals.com

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