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Fastest systems priced to move

PC makers greet news of Intel's speediest Pentium II processor with new systems at surprisingly low price points.

    Both top-tier and second-line PC manufacturers greeted the announcement of Intel's speediest Pentium II processor with new systems at surprisingly low price points.

    Gateway 2000 (GTW), Dell Computer (DELL), Hewlett-Packard (HWP), and Compaq Computer (CPQ) introduced consumer and business-class systems featuring Pentium II chips running at 333 MHz, at prices well below the $4,500-$5,000 range at which top-end systems have normally debuted. The majors each weighed in with systems priced below $2,900, while NEC Computer unveiled a well-equipped consumer PC for just $2,199.

    The "Deschutes" Pentium II chip, the first to be manufactured according to the advanced 0.25 micron process as well as the first Intel chip to reach 333 MHz, will cost manufacturers about 25 percent less than the price at which the Santa Clara, California, chipmaking giant normally debuts its top-of-the-line products. (See related story)

    Gateway 2000 released the GP-6, a full-featured PC aimed at small business users. Along with the 333-MHz Pentium II, the system features a 19-inch monitor, a 8.4GB hard disk drive, 64MB of memory, a CD-ROM drive, and Windows NT for $2,899.

    Gateway's G6-333XL, a slightly burlier machine with a 9GB hard drive, 128MB of memory, a 56-kbps modem, and such niceties as an internal Iomega Zip drive, speakers, and a TV tuner card, goes for $4,299.

    For home and small-business users, Dell is offering the Dimension XPS D333, with 64MB of memory, a 6.4GB hard drive, a CD-ROM, Windows 95, and a 17-inch monitor for $2,211. The OptiPlex Gxa333, with 32MB of memory, a 3.2GB hard drive, a CD-ROM, and software for remote management as well as a 17-inch monitor, starts at $2,492.

    HP announced the Brio 8379, extending its line of business PCs. It comes with 64MB of memory, an 8GB hard drive, a CD-ROM, a 56-kbps modem, and a 17-inch monitor, for $2,999. HP's Vectra line of consumer PCs now includes a 333-MHz system that incorporates 64MB of memory and a 6.4GB hard drive for $2,450.

    Compaq led off with two business-class PCs. The Deskpro 6000 comes with a 4.3GB hard drive, 64MB of memory, a CD-ROM, and the Windows NT operating system, for $3,799. The Deskpro 4000, with a 3.2GB hard drive, 32MB of memory, and Windows NT, goes for $2,599.

    Compaq's Presario 4860, a consumer machine, is expected to hit new pricing lows for its high-end Pentium II consumer systems. It will come with a DVD drive, 48MB of memory, an 8GB hard drive, and a 56-kbps modem, for an expected retail price between $2,000 and $2,500.

    Among the lesser lights of the PC industry, NEC Computer introduced its Direction SPL333. The system's base configuration includes a 4.3GB hard drive, 64MB of memory, a CD-ROM, a 56-kbps modem, Windows 95, and a 15-inch monitor for $2,199.

    Micron unveiled a 333-MHz version of its Millennia consumer line that includes an 8.4GB hard drive, 64MB of memory, a 56-kbps modem, a CD-ROM, and a 17-inch monitor. The system will sell for $2,799. Micron's ClientPro business-class system with a 333-MHz Pentium II will start at $2,824.

    Gateway, Dell, and HP also announced workstation models incorporating the fastest "Deschutes" Pentium II, and trimmed prices further down its desktop lines. HP also took the opportunity to introduce a Brio system with a 200-MHz Pentium MMX chip for the low price of $849.

    The 333-MHz Pentium II will cost about $722 in volumes of 1,000, according to Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Loewenbaum & Company. But it will likely go for only $685 to $655 large-volume purchasers, mirroring the free-fall in chip and PC prices at other end of the market spectrum, where sub-$1,000 systems are becoming increasingly commonplace.

    Prices will then drop about 20 percent later this year on this chip, according to Kumar.