Before investing in a sparkling new $4,000 laptop, ponder the concept of spending more for the privilege of taking your work away with you on weekends than you might on a used car to get you there. Then consider investing a lot less in a late-model used computer -- chances are, you won't notice the difference (especially if you just need it for word processing and Internet access). And if you do need serious speed, soup the machine up with a bit more ram. (Sources listed here offer warranties, so don't worry about getting a lemon.)
To check prices and determine your budget, log on to www.computerpricing.com. The Website lists up-to-date average sale prices for most used Macs and PCs. Of course, what you'll need depends on what you do; but according to New York's systems analyst, for efficient Internet access and word processing, you'll want at least 32 megabytes of ram, a 33.6-Kbps modem, and a 2-gigabyte hard drive (as for processors, PC users should look for at least a Pentium 100-megahertz chip; Mac users, a Power PC running at 60 MHz or more).
Pre-Owned Electronics, accessible over the phone or online, has lots of refurbished Macs and PCs, as well as accessories -- all at up to 75 percent off what they sold for as recently as a year ago. A recent peek found a Compaq Deskpro 4000 (300-megahertz) for $679 or a Power Macintosh 8600 (200-megahertz) for $899. On the phone, sales reps will even help you choose an older model and upgrade it for higher performance. Warranties run for four months.
Discount PC International clears out reconditioned computers from corporate upgrades as well as overstock from companies like Dell, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard. There's a good selection of desktops, priced from $199 to $599, as well as the occasional late-model laptop for around $899. All are guaranteed for up to four months.
Wish you'd bought that now-discontinued IBM notebook with the nifty butterfly keyboard? IBM Refurbished PC Warehouse, run by the company itself, sells off old IBM computers at a fraction of the price (a reasonably fast ThinkPad can be yours for well under $1,000). You'll also find plenty of IBM accessories.
Picks of the Week
Liz Lange's stock sale offers moms-to-be the designer's sharp, simple maternity clothes for 50 to 70 percent off her regular prices. Khaki Capri pants are $50, stretch T-shirts are $45, silk twin sets are $100, stretch-wool tunics are $75, and cotton shift dresses are $100. Sizes S-L. 1020 Lexington Ave., at 73rd St., second floor (717-9030); A.E., M.C., V., checks; Mon.-Sat. 10-7; 8/2-8/14.
Bond 07, the hip NoHo clothing-and-accessories shop, is putting most summer styles on sale for up to half off: Cashmere Studio cardigan sweaters are $275, sequined thong sandals are $80, and stone-and-wire chokers are $50. 7 Bond St. (677-8487); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. 11-7, Thurs. till 8, Sun. noon-7; 8/2-8/31.
Joël Name Optique de Paris is taking 20 to 70 percent off all designer eyeglasses frames and sunglasses in stock, including styles from Giorgio Armani, Kowasaki, Beausoleil, Persol, Kubo, Lafont, Cynthia Rowley, and the shop's signature line. Prices are $75-$300. No eye exams. 65 W. Houston St. (777-5888); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 11-7, Sat. till 6; 8/2-8/31.
Rothman's Union Square is clearing out a huge selection of business clothing and accessories from designers like Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Joseph Abboud, Kenneth Cole, and Burberrys. Prices are all 30-70 percent off: Suits are from $199, dress shirts are from $29, shoes are from $99, ties are from $12. 200 Park Avenue South, at 17th St. (777-7400); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 10-7, Thurs. till 8, Sat. 9:30-6; 8/3-8/14.
ALWAYS A DEAL
A Real Find
Overwhelmed by the constant crowds at Century 21? For a reliable supply of trendy, top-name women's clothing and accessories at sample-sale prices, head to Find Outlet. The intimate, 1,500-square-foot shop gets brand-new stock straight from designers like Donna Karan, Helmut Lang, Stephane Kelian, Vivienne Westwood, M Collection, Paul & Joe, Pixie Yates, Vivienne Tam, Frou, and Anna Sui -- and offers the whole lot at 50 to 80 percent off what you'd pay at Barneys. 361 W. 17th St. (243-3177).