Last month I wrote about netbooks powered by the MIPS processor, originally developed by SGI. I also pointed out that the price for the Belco Alpha 400 had dropped to $149 last December and January. That is now the regular price for the lowest of low end Linux netbooks at Geeks.com. Last week they had a special and the price dropped to $139.
Believe it or not that doesn't sound like a bargain right now. A number of vendors are closing out the much more capable Asus EeePC 900A. Geeks.com is offering it for $149, the same price as the Belco Alpha 400, and they're thowing in an mp3 player. If that special disappears by the time you read this, NewEgg is offering the system for $169. Unless you have a compelling reason to run a MIPS processor the Asus is clearly the better deal.
If you think you'd find the 4GB SSD and the 512MB of RAM limiting you can also consider the Syvania g Netbook from Amazon.com with 1GB of RAM and a 30GB hard drive for $179. Yes, this is the same machine I described as a nightmare. Since then I've received numerous e-mails telling me that my two hardware failures were just plain bad luck and that the Via Nano based Sylvania is a solid platform. What really makes the Sylvania g Netbook an absolute nightmare for someone who isn't an experienced Linux user is the horrendous implementation of gOS, the Linux distribution preloaded on the system, which lacks even the necessary drivers for proper operation. If you happen to be an experienced Linux user who is up to the task of installing a current distribution the Sylvania g Netbook may actually be a good deal for you. As I reported in my original review it worked quite well with Ubuntu or VectorLinux until the hardware failed.
It almost goes without saying that you won't find anything that runs Windows at anywhere near these prices. Oh, and no, that doesn't mean that Linux is somehow inferior as Windows fans would want you to believe. It is, however, free of charge. More importantly Windows simply won't run well from a 4GB SSB or run at all on a system with a MIPS processor. Besides, as I wrote earlier this month, performance of most Linux based netbooks will be far superior to a similar system running Windows. particularly if you have the obligatory anti-virus, anti-spyware and personal firewall software installed on the Windows system. If you've wanted a new netbook but price was the issue you now have a nice financial incentive to try Linux if you haven't already. At $150-$180 these are netbooks almost anyone can afford.
UPDATE: As of June 30 Geeks.com has dropped the price of the Belco Alpha 400 again. It's now $134.95. The $149.95 price on the Asus Eee PC 900A is good until July 7.