So this isn't quite a sub-$300 laptop, but it's close and is a decent deal for back-to-school.
Beginning Sunday, Wal-Mart Stores will offer a 17-inch Toshiba Satellite L355 for $348. The model is almost a year old, so the specs aren't fantastic--3GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive, Intel Celeron processor, and Windows Vista Basic--but for the price it's understandable. (Also, you'll have to wait. If you try to buy it now it will say "out of stock.")
Of course, not everyone is going to want a 17-inch laptop, but if you're looking for value it's a steal. At $348, it's a full-feature laptop that's less expensive than some Netbooks, with a normal-size keyboard, screen, and everything. As competition heightens for consumers among retailers there's sure to be more where this came from, with better deals on traditional notebooks. And then there's the new wave of CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) laptops that are super sleek and light that will come with very attractive pricing too. The effect these lower-priced laptops will have on Netbooks still remains to be seen.
If you do happen to be in the market for a back-to-school laptop, don't miss our handy buying guide put together by resident PC experts Dan Ackerman and Rich Brown.