Quick update on the refurbished Apple EarPods deal I wrote about last week. Ordered: March 14. Arrived: March 18. Condition: indistinguishable from new. If you're interested, they're still available, though now priced a buck higher at $14.99 shipped.
In other news, I've decided life is too short -- and my eyes are too old -- to waste on an 11.6-inch screen, which is why I'm officially in the market for a new laptop. My HP Pavilion dm1z has served me fairly well, but it's just too small.
On the other hand, I don't want anything that's too big, because I prize portability. Here's a candidate that just caught my eye: For a limited time, the Microsoft Store has the Vizio CT14-A4 ultrabook for $599, shipped (plus sales tax in some states). Regular price: $849. Price at Amazon: $689.99.
That's a compelling price, to be sure, but there's little question this system makes a few trade-offs. On the positive side, it features a slim, lightweight build: 13.35 by 9.14 by 0.66 inches and 3.4 pounds. It comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD (sufficient for my needs, but no doubt on the small side for some users).
The real standout is the 14-inch, LED-backlit screen, which runs at an impressive 1,600x900 resolution -- higher than most screens of that size.
However, it's not a touch screen, meaning you won't get the best Windows 8 experience. (Quite the opposite: I'd say you're in for a frustrating experience unless you stick primarily with Desktop mode. That's my plan anyway, so the lack of touch screen doesn't bother me.)
The system also boasts two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and Bluetooth, though it has no memory-card slot. But the real deal-breaker, at least according to some reviewers, is the keyboard: Apparently it's pretty shallow, and a bit slippery as well. Indeed, check the user reviews at Amazon and you'll find that the keyboard is the top complaint. Even at the Microsoft Store, where the reviews are much more positive overall, several users note that the keyboard could be better.
CNET hasn't reviewed the CT14-A4, but PC Mag has: They rated it 3.5 stars, dinging it in part for -- you guessed it -- the keyboard.
Because I write for a living, obviously I need a good keyboard. So I have my concerns about this. But the Microsoft Store offers a 30-day return policy, with no restocking fees, so I might just give it a try. Everybody's different when it comes to keyboard preferences, and it's quite possible I'll get along fine with the Vizio's. On paper, I like everything else about it -- especially the price. Your thoughts?
Update: Although Microsoft's return policy notes appears to be limited to products that have "not been opened," a CSR clarified that this means you haven't taken it apart (i.e. removed screws or the like). Obviously you can open the box. (Actually, the language in the policy isn't all that obvious!)
Bonus deal: Need to stock your printer with paper? Stop by your local Staples store and buy a 5-ream case of paper using this coupon. Then hit the Staples Easy Rebate site and enter the code printed on your receipt. When your rebate arrives, your effective price for the purchase will be one penny.
Bonus deal No. 2: I'm not sure what I'd do with four terabytes of storage, but at this price I wouldn't mind finding out: Amazon has the Seagate Backup Plus 4TB USB 3.0 external hard drive for $139.99, shipped. That's less than what you'd pay for many 3TB drives. The Backup Plus comes with a variety of backup tools, including one for preserving your social-network stuff, and it can even work interchangeably between Macs and PCs.
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