Home Office Essentials

Outfit your home office with high-tech tools on any budget.

September 1, 2000

When purchasing technology, patience is a virtue. Every few months, a new innovation enters the market and commands top dollar. So what was new a half year ago becomes standard at a lower price point. It’s an endless cycle that delivers increasingly more bang for the buck and ever more incentive to upgrade.

To squeeze the most life from your equipment, always reach for the best technology you can afford. Yes, the same system will cost less in six months, but the more power you pay for, the longer it takes to get out of date. Anyway, what’s a six-month wait worth in terms of productivity?

What equipment does today’s home real estate office require? At a minimum: a desktop system (even most laptop and palmtop devotees need a nerve center), a printer, a scanner, and a digital camera.

So here’s a good, better, and best selection of your options at three price points.

(Note: These are starting prices, before tax. You can easily spend more to customize.)

Good

Desktop system
Compaq (www.compaq.com) touts its IPAQ Legacy as the kind of system that can support the changing needs of a growing business. At $1,099, it boasts some respectable specs: an Intel Celeron 500MHz processor, 64MB DRAM, a 4.3GB hard drive, and Windows 2000.

Printer
Epson’s Stylus Color 850 (www.epson.com), at $250, claims 1,440 dpi and 9 pages per minute (ppm) black, 5.5 ppm color, respectable print speed, and very respectable image quality.

Scanner
Agfa’s SnapScan 1236S, at $199, offers 1,200 dpi scanning for originals up to 8.5 x 11.7 inches. Its ease of use and basic features make it ideal for offices that occasionally need to scan photos or documents.

Digital camera
Kodak’s midpriced DC240 (www.kodak.com), at $499, with 3X zoom lens, is adequate for capturing images to post online.

Total cost: $2,047

Better

Desktop system
If you haven’t shopped for a computer in a year or so, expect to be amazed at the amount of system power you can find for less than $2,000. HP’s Vectra L 600 (www.hp.com), at $1,769, comes with a Pentium III 600MHz processor, 128MB SDRAM, 10GB hard drive, and 48X CD-ROM drive.

Printer
Lexmark’s OptraColor 45 Color Ink-Jet (www.lexmark.com), at $749, makes a good companion. It’s a networkable 600-dpi ink-jet capable of delivering prints up to 12.6 x 22 inches.

Scanner
The UMAX Astra 2400 (www.umax.com), at $299, offers 2,400 dpi optical scanning and can handle documents up to 8.5 x 14 inches, a nice feature.

Digital camera
Sony’s Digital Mavica FD83 (www.sony.com), at $699, features a 3X zoom lens and direct output to a TV for picture playback. It also records images directly to a floppy disk compatible with your computer disk drive, a major convenience.

Total cost: $3,516

Best

Desktop system
Dell’s new Dimension XPS B1000r (www.dell.com), at a hefty $3,499, sets the next standard in features: a 1GHz (1,000 Mhz!) Pentium III processor; 64MB of a new type of faster RAM dubbed DDR, 30GB hard drive, and built-in CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives.

Printer
A system like this commands ambitious peripherals. For $1,995, the networkable Xerox DocuPrint NC60 (www.xerox.com) is an excellent solution where there’s a need for laser-quality color at an affordable price. The laser printer delivers 1,200 dpi at a rate of 16 ppm black, 4 ppm color.

Scanner
Add another $399 for HP’s ScanJet 6300Cse, a 1,200-dpi scanner with a convenient multipage automatic document feeder.

Digital camera
Casio’s QV-3000EX (www.casio.com), at $999, has a 3.3 megapixel CCD sensor, which captures enough image information to produce photo-quality 8 x 10 prints.

Total cost: $6,892

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