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eMachines debuts Pentium 4 pair

The manufacturer of low-priced PCs quietly launches new 2.4GHz and 2.53GHz Pentium 4 desktops. It can look forward to stiff competition from Gateway, HP and Dell.

eMachines quietly introduced a pair of new Pentium 4 PCs this week.

The manufacturer of low-priced PCs launched new 2.4GHz and 2.53GHz desktops, based on Intel's Pentium 4, selling for $849 and $899, respectively, company representatives said Tuesday.

eMachines, which typically rolls out products once per quarter, began offering the new machines just a week after Intel dropped prices on its Pentium 4 chips. eMachines' first-quarter product line included models priced up to $649, which left a gap for the new, higher-priced systems.

The Irvine, Calif., company has attempted to win over consumers and small businesses by either offering lower prices than competitors on its desktops or by touting better features for the same price. So far, its strategy has earned it the No. 2 position in the U.S. PC retail market, behind Hewlett-Packard.

"We were waiting for the right time--for Pentium 4 prices to come down," said Gary Elsasser, vice president of engineering and product development for eMachines. Once parts are available that allow the company to hit the right price points, "we build the best possible computer we can."

The new eMachines T4480 model includes a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of RAM (random access memory), an 80GB hard drive, a CD-rewritable and a DVD-ROM drive. The machine will sell for about $849, eMachines said.

The company's T4510 boasts a 2.53GHz Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, a 100GB hard drive, along with CD-RW and DVD drives. The machine will sell for around $899.

eMachines' T4480 can be purchased in a bundle with a monitor for a little more than $849. The company's 17-inch Eview 17F CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor lists for $249, bringing the total to $1,098. eMachines offers a $100 mail-in rebate, dropping the price to $998. Going with a less-expensive Eview 17S lowers the price an additional $40. Circuit City, which began offering the machine this past weekend, also is throwing in a $100 online rebate through March 8.

But eMachines faces stiff competition from manufacturers such as Gateway, HP and Dell Computer as the low-price PC maker attempts to move up in the market by selling more expensive PCs in the $750 to $899 range.

HP offers several desktops priced the same, or nearly the same, as the new eMachines models. Dell's Dimension 2350 fitted with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive, CD-RW and DVD drives and a 17-inch monitor costs $998 on its Home and Home Office Web site. Dell, which often uses incentives to entice buyers, is not currently offering rebates.

But, where Dell matches its price, eMachines offers better hardware, including a larger hard drive, a crisper 17-inch monitor, an ATI Radeon 9000 graphics card versus Intel's built-in graphics, and a faster front side bus. eMachines' new PCs use Intel's 533MHz bus, while Dell's Dimension 2350 still uses a 400MHz bus. The boost in frequency provided by the move to 533MHz allows data to shuttle back and forth to the processor more quickly, enhancing system performance.

Meanwhile, other manufacturers come close on price. HP's Compaq Presario 6350US sports a 2.4GHz Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, CD-RW and DVD drives and built-in Intel graphics. The machine starts at $899. Consumers can pair it with a $100 rebate if purchased with a 17-inch Compaq MV7500 monitor, which sells for $249, bringing the bundle price to $1,049--or $50 more than eMachines' T4480 bundle.

Gateway's 300S with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4, combination CD burner/DVD drive, 80GB hard drive, built-in Intel graphics and 17-inch monitor, comes to $1,064 on its Web site.

HP's Pavilion 754n offers the same price, processor and RAM allotment compared with eMachines' T4510. The 754n, which has a smaller 80GB hard drive and built-in Intel graphics, bests the T4510 by offering a DVD burner, however. After a $50 bundle rebate, the 754n and a 17-inch monitor work out to $1,198--or $50 more than the eMachines bundle.