Off-schedule bargain hunters can score big with discontinued lines

Discontinued lines are the place to find the biggest bargains. Offloaded to make room
for new product lines, these products often sell well below their former street prices,
and there usually is nothing wrong with the discontinued hardware.


Unless such a product is marked reconditioned, which probably means used and returned,
it's just older technology. Not every user needs the latest hardware or software, and this
is the ideal place to shop for wish-list items.


Big markdowns are under way on all Pentium or equivalent PCs that lack MMX code
support. Intel hardware shows the sharpest price drop because Intel chips are the most
expensive, and Intel has the largest inventories. Pentium-equivalent brands also should
come down somewhat more.


Non-MMX computers can use MMX-enabled software, but if you do a lot of graphics or
other multimedia work, stick with an MMX PC.


What if you don't do multimedia? MMX isn't necessary or even desirable.


Power users should be in the market for Pentium II today or in the near future. That
makes non-MMX PCs a bargain today, and MMX PCs should follow them into the bargain
basement in less than six months.


Still have a 1X CD-ROM drive? Did you know 6X internal CD-ROM drives, complete with IDE
controller cards, are only $50?


A lot of these are unknown brands, but let's face it, only a few companies supply
CD-ROM hardware no matter whose name is on the package.


If a straight 6X drive doesn't excite you, how about a 20X-maximum, variable-speed IDE
drive for $100?


And not all bargains are off-brand. How about a 7.0G Maxtor Corp. hard drive for $440,
counting a $30 rebate?


One of the least-noticed but most drastic changes in peripheral prices has happened
with flat-bed scanners. Just a few years ago, a good-quality color scanner cost $600 to
$1,200, not including the required SCSI adapter that added another $200 or so.


The other day I saw a Damark catalog cover featuring a single-pass, 30-bit,
16.77-million-color, flat-bed scanner capable of 300-dot-per-inch resolution for less than
$100. The scanner included an ISA-bus adapter board and cable as well as optical character
recognition and other software.


Surplus Direct, on the World Wide Web at http://www.surplussdirect.com,
offers a Plustek USA Inc. 4800P 24-bit color flatbed scanner for $100, a 1G IDE hard drive
for $100 and a Key Tronic Corp. ergonomic keyboard for $20.


There are lots of similar bargains out there on the open market. But remember that
you'll have only limited support, and this hardware is seldom the latest, fastest or best.


Products on General Services Administration schedule contracts and quantity peripheral
buys, especially equipment bundled with new computers, cost less in some cases. But don't
count out the open market's discontinued products.


I have bought and used plenty of surplus computer hardware over the years. Although it
hasn't always worked perfectly, the same can be said of the latest products companies send
me for review.


Overall, I don't see any quality or reliability difference between surplus hardware and
the latest whiz-bang goodies.


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at powerusr@penn.com.


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