October 01, 2009, 9:38 PM — Attention, suckers: Verizon Wireless will soon offer a Gateway LT2016u netbook with the carrier's Mobile Broadband service built into the device. The Gateway mini-note costs $150 after a $100 mail-in rebate, and the deal requires a 2-year 3G contract. The plan is available starting Oct. 4.
Run, don't walk, from this offer. Even at $150, the Gateway netbook is overpriced, and subscribers will get a bum deal. Here's why:
The LT2016u is a ho-hum netbook. Its specs -- a 10.1-inch SD 1024 x 600 display, Intel Atom N270 processor (1.60 GHz), 1 GB RAM, and a 160 GB hard disk -- are virtually identical to those of the Acer Aspire One D250, which sells for about $300 at Amazon. The Gateway system does include built-in 3G broadband; but customers are locked into Verizon's usurious monthly fees. (More on those below.) Bottom line: The Gateway discount is far from spectacular.
You'll pay through the nose for broadband. Verizon offers two mobile broadband plans: $40 a month for a 250 MB monthly allowance, plus 10 cents per megabyte overage; or $60 a month for 5 GB, plus 5 cents per MB overage. The cheaper plan is deliberately wimpy, and most customers will choose the $60 package.
With the $60 deal, your out-of-pocket cost over 2 years totals $1590. Yowza. True, that figure includes the cost of 3G broadband service, not just the netbook. But remember that Verizon's 3G service is hard-wired to the Gateway mini-note, which you may not like. You'll pay a bundle for a run-of-the-mill netbook designed for basic tasks like e-mail, Web browsing, and loitering on social networking sites.
Wireless broadband in the U.S. remains overpriced, and carriers often disguise the true cost of their 3G plans by packaging them with seemingly cheap netbooks. But read the fine print, my friend. That bargain mini-note may be the most expensive system you ever buy.