Today Dell is introducing a new notebook under a thousand dollars. The SmartStep 100N isn’t configurable, but its specs are darned good for $949 – 1.06GHz Intel Celeron processor, 128MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive, a 14-inch display and a CD-ROM drive, along with Windows XP Home Edition. Other manufacturers have models that are pretty close – Toshiba, in particular, has a Satellite notebook at $999 with more memory and a DVD drive. But it’s pretty tempting to deal with Dell at this point, when they’re doing such a good job of delivering high quality and solid support.

Keep in mind – this is aimed at folks on a budget who want to make a quick decision. Most notebooks are selling for around $1,400-1,500. At Dell, you could switch to the Inspiron 2600, which is fully configurable – and by the time you made a few decisions (a bit more memory, a slightly bigger screen, a CD recorder, or the like), you’d be up in that range.

Meanwhile, Sony introduced a new Vaio with a 16.1″ display – about the same viewable area as a 17″ CRT monitor. Pricing is about the same as comparable notebooks with a 15″ display – $2,500 or so. Have you ever seen a notebook with a 15″ display? It looks absolutely enormous. You’d be jealous. I can only imagine what this Vaio must look like when you unfold it.

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