Sales Tax Holidays Prime Time for Tech Bargains

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By Tim Scannell

More than 15 states are participating in a sales tax holiday this month, an annual rite that was started years ago and comes in handy this year as many families and individuals struggle with the economy.

The amounts allowed and types of products that are eligible for a tax break vary, although some states offer some very generous tax discounts on computer products and software. Missouri, for example, granted a free tax status earlier this week on computers and peripherals totaling $3,500. New Mexico offered the same tax-free status for computer purchases of $1000 or less, and had a $500 cap on peripherals such as printers and external disk drives.

Massachusetts has its tax holiday this weekend, August 13 and 14, providing a get-out-of-taxes card for most purchases of $2500 or less, including PCs, peripherals, software and other high-tech items.

The tax-free programs come at an ideal time for most consumers, who may be shopping for back to school technology and high-tech items for new and returning students. In Massachusetts, for example, the tax exempt discount can amount to $160 on a $2500 purchase, which is nothing to sneeze at when trying to squeeze more value out of tight dollars.

Retail stores are expected to be busy this weekend in Massachusetts, as shopper search for bargains, with top electronics retailers bracing for the rush.  The only question is which product to buy to make the most of your money?

TechnologyGuide’s yearly Back to School Buyer’s Guide points to some of the top picks this season, ranging from the latest notebooks and tablet PCs to the best choice in digital cameras. The following are some examples from the guide:

The Top Notebook PC:
The Dell Inspiron 15R with Windows 7 Home Premium is NotebookReview’s prime pick, because of its combination of powerful features, available specifications and affordability. The system has second-generation Intel Core-series processors and a large 15-inch screen, providing an ideal mix of portability and desktop convenience for tight dorm quarters.

The Top Tablet PC:
No, it’s not the Apple iPad, but the Toshiba Thrive; an Android Honeycomb tablet that is larger and a little tougher than others in the field making it a good choice for stuffed backpacks and the rigors of student life. The system also features full-sized ports and a replaceable battery. The ports are a plus, especially the USB 2.0 input, since it and the latest edition of the Android OS allows you to plug in just about any USB-equipped accessory, including keyboards and mice.


The Top Desktop PC:
The Dell XPS 8300 desktop is our leading choice, because of its super performance and grapahics capabilities, even in the baseline models.  Every XPS 8300 system comes equipped with a 2011 Intel Core quad-core processor – either a Core i5 or Core i7 CPU. The unit can also be enhanced with a Blu-ray drive or TV tuner so you can watch movies or other entertainment during much needed student downtime.

The Top Digital Camera:
The Sony Cyber-shot WX9 is technically a compact point-and-shoot camera, but is packed with enough technology to handle pretty much any photo situation, from dorm room to late-night dance party. It excels in low light conditions that are typically challenging for compact point-and-shoot cameras. Also, the WX9’s backside-illuminated CMOS sensor is optimized to help create better images in dim conditions without using its built-in flash. The camera also has a 5x optical zoom lens that starts with a 28mm wide angle capability.

The Top All-in-One Printer:
Students looking for the ideal at-school printer would do well to check out the Kodak ESP Office 2170 All-in-One, which is our pick for the best of its class. Don’t let the word “office” turn you off though. This printer is an all around performer that students can use to print, scan, copy and fax papers and homework to meet those tight college deadlines. It can also be shared among dorm-mates, either wired or wirelessly, and is a miser when it comes to ink costs since it takes advantage of Kodak’s ink-saving technology.

For more top technology picks for the sales tax holiday and beyond, be sure to check out TechnologyGuide’s Back to School Buyer’s Guide 2011.



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