Unofficial Advice on Buying a Laptop for UNC Use
In order to provide alternate viewpoints and my experience with
laptop purchases, I have assembled these pages.
None of this laptop information is official documentation or
official advice from UNC or SILS. It is simply one individual's
attempt to help people in making their laptop purchase decision.
- Buying a laptop: guidelines,
background and choices
- CCI price tracking (this page)
- Partial vendor list and vendor resources
CCI Price Tracking
NOTE: I HAVE NOT UPDATED THESE PRICING SPECIFICATIONS RECENTLY.
PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE GETTING A GOOD DEAL!
THE CCI PRICING FOR IBM LAPTOPS HAS BEEN VERY GOOD FOR THE 2001-2002
ACADEMIC YEAR, FAR BETTER THAN 2000-2001. HOWEVER, OTHER BRANDS MIGHT
OFFER BETTER BANG FOR YOUR BUCK. BE AN EDUCATED CONSUMER!
One of the difficulties in the CCI
program has been to keep up with rapid changes in technologies
and pricing for laptop computers. According to Russ Walker's
Secret Guide to Computers and
other sources, computer prices drop an average of 10% per month. At
the same time, new models are constantly introduced, and comparison
across models or brands is not easy.
On this page, I present some simple data that anyone could
gather, but UNC has not made available. I have tracked the
pricing and models for the CCI laptop computers, and compared
them to pricing for comparable or identical models from
As the CCI pages state clearly, students, faculty and staff are
able to purchase computers from sources other than UNC's RAM shop. I
believe that the data on this page make it evident, to me, that the
price advantage of the CCI models is short-lived, although
non-price advantages (particularly on-campus service) may offset the
price for many people's needs. (See my Buying
a Laptop page for more analysis of price and purchase issues.)
Historically, new CCI models have been introduced about twice
per year. For most students, the important price and feature
set is that available at the start of the fall semester, since that
is when they will purchase.
CCI Model Price Tracking and Comparison
||Hard drive (GB)
||Jul 7 2001
||Jul 7 2001
||Jul 7 2001
||Jul 7 2001
* Please note: In 2001, CCI prices include NC State sales
tax of 6%. Other prices do not include sales tax. This is important
to take into account! If you live in another state, you will need
to pay that state's sales tax if you buy the computer there.
Evaluation category detail:
- Brand: Brand name.
- Model: The model number from the manufacturer. CCI has never
made the model number publicly available on their Web pages, which
inhibits price comparison.
- Source: Where you purchase from. CCI is from UNC's RAM shop,
IBM is from their online store. Other vendors are from their online
- Date checked: When I got my pricing information. Remember, this
stuff changes quickly! When you do your shopping, make sure
you get current pricing and data.
- Date avail.: CCI laptops are typically announced months
before they become available. In 2001, the new models were
announced in early May, but not available until mid-July. Given
the price and performance trend in laptop computing, this meant that
in May the CCI models beat the best available computers from IBM
(e.g., they were faster than any model available at the time), but
by July they were in the middle of the pack.
- CPU (MHz): Faster is better, but you can pay a premium for
the fastest current CPU. Top CPU speeds change several times per year,
so you won't have the fastest for long!
- Screen size: Bigger is better, but you pay a premium for
the largest size (currently about 15.1"). If you are using an
external monitor (recommended!), screen size might not matter much.
Video RAM is not included in the table, because what's included with
the computer is always enough for mainstream use. If you are planning
on using your laptop for lots of graphics production, shop to get
a high-end multimedia laptop (the CCI models are not IBM's high-end
- Memory (MB): More memory is better, and some laptops are
not very upgradable. Consider at least 256MB if you can afford it.
- Hard drive (GB): Laptops have a minimum of about 10GB,
and a maximum of about 40GB.
- CD/DVD: CD drives can be read-only, read and write-once (CD-R), or
read and re-writable (CD-RW). DVD drives can also read CDs. Writable
DVDs are not yet widely available for laptops. You can also get
a CD-RW/DVD integrated drive. DVDs can play movies on DVD, and they
also have more data storage than a CD.
- OS (Operating System): You want the Microsoft Windows 2000 OS.
But if you buy a computer with Windows 98 or Me, you can get Windows
2000 freely to upgrade from ATN.
- Ethernet: Nearly all modern network interface cards (NICs)
enable 10Mbit or 100Mbit networking (10baseT or 100baseT). Sometimes
they're built-in to the laptop, other times you need an expansion card.
Wireless Ethernet is also available, but is seldom standard (it's
either an expansion card, or an option).
- Modem: All modern modems are 56Kbaud. Many laptops have
them built-in, others require an expansion card.
- Warranty: This varies considerably. The CCI models come with a
4-year warranty, including walk-in service with a loaner. All
warranties, including the CCI model, exclude some types of damage.
You can almost always buy an extended warranty, for $100-200 for a
3-year extension. Some brands come with a 1-year warranty, but the
better brands now usually come with a 3-year standard warranty.
- Approx. weight: Screen size is a big factor in weight, as are the
number of "spindles." More spindles mean that the computer can run
more media devices. Most computers have two, one for the hard drive (which
is typically not removable, but sometimes is), and another for a
CD or floppy (which are interchangable). Some only have one, and use
an external pack for the CD or floppy.
- Thickness: How tall the computer is when closed.
Most recently updated:
July 7, 2001