Cheap is a word rarely associated with IBM ThinkPads, which are the favourite choice of enterprises with generous information technology budgets. But in the past two years, Big Blue has reduced its prices to fend off the likes of Dell and Acer, which are making good, sturdy machines with smaller price-tags. IBM's latest, the G-series ThinkPads, have an attractive starting price of HK$7,788. IBM built the G-series with a particular set of customers in mind - those who are willing to compromise on some things such as weight and battery life, for raw speed and performance at a low price. The new G-series machines are meant to offer mobility, but perform like desktop computers. A G-series machine is no lightweight, at 3.45kg. Running Intel's Pentium 4 processor with a top speed of three gigahertz, it will give performance equivalent to desktop PCs. Pitched as a desktop equivalent, it comes with a floppy drive, which is probably unnecessary these days, a CD-Rom drive and two USB ports. Most desktop PCs have at least four USB ports. Like the Sony Vaio PCG-Z1P, the G-series is also shaped like a wedge to make the keyboard feel like that of a desktop PC. Some G-series models come with Intel Centrino mobile technology and carry a premium price. The greater power-efficiency of this technology means that batteries are supposed to last about 3 hours between charges. The first model in the G-series line is the G40. It comes with a choice of a desktop Pentium 4 or a Celeron processor from Intel, a 14-inch or 15-inch screen, 128 megabytes of random access memory, one of several optical drives and built-in wireless networking. At its most basic configuration, the G40 is outfitted with a 2GHz Celeron and a 14-inch screen. The G40 configured with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 chip and a 14.1-inch display is priced at HK$9,888. A ThinkPad G40 configured with high-end options such as a 3.06GHz Pentium 4, 15-inch display, a CD burner and wireless networking costs HK$16,888, more than double that of the no-frills model. The ThinkPad R40-series, which I wrote about three weeks ago, starts at an unbelievable HK$7,588 and is more portable at 2.54kg. Fitted with the older 1.8GHz Pentium 4 chip, the ThinkPad R40e, with 128MB of Ram, a 20GB hard disk and a 13-inch display, is priced at HK$8,488. The R40 that is fitted with high-end options such as 2GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of Ram, a 40GB hard disk, 15-inch display, CD-RW/DVD-Rom drive and Wi-Fi upgradable (for an additional HK$879 for an IBM wireless LAN PC card or HK$965 for a Cisco Aironet PCI mini adapter) was HK$16,988, but is now available at a special online price of HK$13,988 (at ibm.com.hk). Other notebook PC manufacturers such as Dell, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and Acer are already offering Pentium 4 laptops. Like the G-series G40 from IBM, desktop Pentium 4 notebooks from Toshiba, HP and Dell offer 15-inch or larger screens and sell for about HK$13,000 to HK$20,000, depending on configuration. HP also has great laptop deals on its Web site. The Compaq nx9000 series features integrated wireless LAN, FireWire, 14-inch or 15-inch display and 256MB of Ram at a basic price of HK$9,980. The most basic configuration is fitted with an 2GHz Celeron chip, 14-inch display and a 20GB hard disk. With high-end options, the nx9010 comes with a 2.5GHz Pentium 4 chip, a 40GB hard disk, a CD-RW/DVD-Rom combo drive and 15-inch display for HK$13,280. Another bargain is the HP Presario 2107AP, which has many multimedia features and is aimed at home users. At HK$11,888, you get a 15-inch display, a 2GHz Pentium 4 chip, 256MB of Ram, a 30GB hard disk, a combo optical drive, 64MB of video Ram and integrated wireless LAN. HP is giving away a bunch of accessories when you buy one of its laptops, including a hands-free speaker phone, Web cam, flash card reader and carrying case. Sony has slashed the price of its all-in-one laptop, the Vaio GRZ20. This is a sweet machine, and its built-in speakers are among the best you can find on a laptop. Previously sold at HK$15,380, it is being offered for HK$13,980 (at sonystyle.com.hk). It is fitted with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 chip, 512MB of Ram, a massive 60GB hard disk, 15-inch display, a combo drive and wireless LAN Orinoco PC card. All Vaios come with FireWire. Got a gadget idea? Drop Carolyn a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .