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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

Compaq tapping AMD, Cyrix

The PC maker announces a slew of new consumer computers, including its first desktops with an AMD processor and its first notebooks Cyrix and AMD chips.

Compaq Computer (CPQ) announced a slew of new consumer computers, including its first home dekstop systems with an Advanced Micro Devices processor and the first notebooks with Cyrix and AMD chips from a major vendor in the United States.

AMD's K6 chip appears in two Presario consumer models and one model for the educational market, while Cyrix's MediaGX MMX-enhanced processor turns up in two consumer notebooks.

Compaq also unveiled some new Presarios with Intel processors, mostly with top-of-the-line, 266-MHz and 300-MHz Pentium II chips.

At the head of the class, the Presario 2240 comes with a 200-MHz K6 MMX-enhanced processor, 32MB of memory, and a 2.1GB hard drive for $799. With a 14-inch monitor, the system costs $999. Interestingly, the 2240 includes some expansion options, typically absent in ultra-low-cost machines.

In the portable category, the Presario 1220 comes with a 200-MHz MediaGX MMX-enhanced chip, 32MB of memory, a 2.1GB hard drive, and CD-ROM for $1,999.

Compaq also unveiled a notebook with an AMD processor, the Presario 1621. This includes a 233-MHz AMD K6, a 12.1-inch display, a 2GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, and a 56-kbps modem for $2,499.

All of the new Presarios come with 56-kbps modem technology.

The announcement, the largest Presario-brand rollout since the line was introduced about four years ago, also comprises the debut of the Presario ES education line and an entry into the small-business market.

Compaq's move to expand use of non-Intel processors is something of a setback for chip giant Intel, which has made a relatively late entry into the low-cost PC market.

The Compaq-AMD alliance, reported in October by CNET's NEWS.COM, comes as manufacturers and customers alike are flocking to the sub-$1,000 PC market, a phenomenon unforeseen only a year ago. Compaq's new lineup makes it clear that AMD and Cyrix are emerging as significant processor players in the market for inexpensive PCs.

PC manufacturers have increasingly turned to these chipmakers as they've been forced to find ways of squeezing profits from the sub-$1,000 computer, whose margins are unforgiving. In many cases, processors from AMD and Cyrix cost less than comparable offerings from Intel. (Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.)

Compaq has thus far enjoyed a fair amount of success in the non-Intel sub-$1,000, market. The Presario 2200, which uses a Cyrix MediaGX chip and costs less than $1,000, has been one of the best-selling consumer computers in the second half of last year, according to Computer Intelligence.

But Compaq's announcement is tempered by Hewlett-Packard's introduction yeserday a series of low-cost PCs, including an $800 model, all with Intel processors. (See related story) Meanwhile, IBM today also debuted a low-cost system using the AMD K6 processor. (See related story)

Further lessening the impact is the fact that Compaq continues to ship a large portion of its low-cost consumer systems with Intel processors.