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Computer Care: Plenty of bargains to be found shopping online
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It's the time of year for friends, family and spending lots of money.

Oh yeah, the economy. Well, you can still get those electronic gifts and not spend all of your hard-earned cash. Shop online this year where there are plenty of deals.

A few years ago, I spent a Black Friday at an outlet mall at my wife's insistence. She usually makes good decisions, but that is something I shall not experience again - not even with a gun to my head.

Instead, now I shop on my computer. I get what I want, spend less time and less money doing it.

Retailers know we are careful with what little spendable cash we have in this fragile economy. With this in mind, they are presenting us with many options for discounted purchases.

I have a half dozen or so favorite online retailers that I frequent year round for electronics. Recently I have seen drastic reductions in items like laptops, desktops, monitors and other related items.

You can find deals on sites like,,,, and even eBay, for a "Buy it Now," when you don't want to wait for an auction to end.

An advantage to online shopping is that those sites all list consumer comments about the products and the retailer. You get to see what others thought of the laptop you're about to drop $500 on.

Aside from computers and monitors, I‘ve found good prices on e-book readers, GPS devices, cell phones, printers, software and gadgets galore.

The e-book readers, or Kindle-type devices, are going for about $150, some for even less. It depends on the size and type of connection. Amazon has many in the used market for less.

If you want a free reader, Amazon will let you download one. Look for Free Reader for PC on their site. It also has a rotating choice of free e-books for download.

GPS devices have come down in price. If you don't have on in your car yet, check them out. I found a Garmin Nuvi and a Magellan Roadmate both for about $85 online.

IPads are big this year. Apple usually won't discount anything, but again, Amazon has many used models. Don't picture a beat-up, half-broken device. I've bought some "like-new" electronics from them and have had no problems at all.

Like Kindles, IPads vary in price with size, whether they have just Wi-Fi or 3G as well. New ones start at about $500.

Last year's phenomenon, the netbook, is still around and is even cheaper than ever. Just be aware that you get what you pay for, especially with these subcompact mini laptops. They have 8-to-10-inch screens, weak processors, low-capacity batteries, small hard drives and keyboards that don't accommodate chunky fingers. They also don't have an optical drive. That means no CD/DVD. But if you just need it for note taking at school, it may be for you. They can be found for less than $300.

Alternatively, laptops or desktops can be a better deal for about the same price. They now range from $300 to $2,000 and more, but many go for less than $800.

You can get an Acer, Toshiba, HP or a Dell for less than $500, with some even less than that. Some are 64-bit and now all have Windows 7 installed.

As I've mentioned in the past, Dell has a refurb section on its website with a huge inventory. At the high end, for little more than $1,000 or so, you can get an 18-inch laptop with a new generation i5 or i7 Intel processor, loaded with memory and a huge hard drive.

The best deal I've come across is actually from Microsoft. The folks in Redmond are currently not only discounting some versions of Office Suites, but Windows as well.

You can get a Family Pack of Windows 7, good for three computers for only $149.99 from their site, and they'll throw in a free wireless Cisco router as well. Usually you can only install Windows on one system and it costs about $120 per machine. So yes, this is a great deal. They may pull it at any time so check it out soon.

If you want a new computer but don't want to buy one, get this updated operating system instead. It's everything XP never was and all Vista wanted to be. It's the big brother that did well. Win 7 is a great OS with some nice enhancements and is very smart and extremely fast.

Online shopping is safe as long as you are cautious. Look for the "https" in the address bar before you enter your credit card info, or call the site instead.

So fire up your PC and go shopping online. Google whatever it is you're looking for and do some comparison shopping. Use for some unbiased reviews to help you decide.

Even with expedited shipping, you'll often spend less online than at the mall.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.