The lowdown on power notebook PCs

What is it? A power notebook PC has a fast Intel or AMD processor, 1G or more of SDRAM, a wide-screen display, at least one 40G+ hard drive, a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, Ethernet and wireless connectivity, a fast graphics card and plenty of expansion capability. It should offer all the upgradeability, performance and connectivity of a standard desktop.

How much should it cost? Generally, expect to pay between $2,500 and $4,000 for a power notebook serving as a desktop replacement, although a few good ones can be had for under $2,500.

When do I need one? If you need a computer that can serve as a fully equipped desktop system and also move from office to hotel to home, a power notebook is for you. If you want a system mainly for text entry, Web surfing or downloading e-mail when away from home, save your money because you don't need all that power.

Must-know info? Prices for virtually all notebook components are dropping, meaning today's power notebook is a much better buy than last year's. It's doubtful, however, that you will ever be able to buy a good power notebook for under $1,500, even though entry-level portables may dip below $1,000.

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