Shop Smart: Where to Shop Online

The Web is heaven for bargain shoppers -- in fact, the sheer volume of choices can be a little overwhelming. We investigated each of the following sites and discovered their distinct characteristics.

dealmac (www.dealmac.com) is a comprehensive site for all things Mac -- hardware, software, supplies, and services. Along with the obvious tips on where to find the best prices for Mac items, experts on this site advise on how to save even more with shopping savvy. For example, they explain how much consumers can save if they pay in cash instead of by credit card (when the option is available), offer details about which merchants have the highest and lowest restocking fees, and provide an updated list of Web sites and brick-and-mortar stores currently having sales.

dealram ( www.dealram.com ) is an offshoot of dealmac. This focused site lets you compare computer-memory prices. It's an easy tool for finding the lowest prices from top merchants. Prices include shipping and sales tax, so you don't have to do the math when comparing prices.

MacPrices.com ( www.macprices.com ) is not your average robot site mechanically rounding up prices and availability numbers from online vendors. This site uses real humans to surf the Web (and occasionally even pick up the phone to verify information). They update prices weekly. It's a great place to find free bundles and other goodies.

Macworld.com ( www.macworld.com ) uses the search engine PriceGrabber.com to compile a raft of product information, from technical specifications and user reviews to the lowest prices, on one page.

mySimon ( www.mysimon.com ) is a shopper's nirvana. In its software, electronics, and hardware sections, you can search for specific items, scroll through different categories, or see price comparisons for the most-popular items in any given category.

Overstock.com ( www.overstock.com ) is a virtual outlet mall. For computers and other tech buys, concentrate on the Electronics & Computers section. You'll find name-brand merchandise discounted as much as 80 percent and backed by warranties. It all comes from companies that need to unload excess inventory.

PowerBook Central ( www.powerbookcentral.com ) is a good resource for reviews, specs, current prices, and deals related to PowerBooks and iBooks. It also boasts extensive classified ads with deals on used computers. The site uses MacPrices.com's Price Tracker to find the best prices on new computers available from Apple Authorized Resellers. The site also gives information on stock availability.

Price.com ( www.price.com ) carries all sorts of stuff (including cars!), but Macs and other computing gear make up a large proportion of the site's offerings. You can read ratings written by site visitors and even add your own.

Price Watch ( www.pricewatch.com ) isn't big on bells and whistles; its focus is efficient price comparisons. Either type in what you're looking for or scroll to find what you need. From systems to memory to peripherals -- it's all there. Retailers advertise their prices in real time on this site. -- adelia cellini

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