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PC makers to unwrap holiday desktops

Hewlett-Packard is set to launch a slew of new desktops aimed at holiday shoppers this week. eMachines and Sony are expected to counter with their own PC offerings.

PC makers are taking the wraps off their newest desktop PC models designed for holiday shoppers.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard will announce three new desktop PC lines--the HP Pavilion a300 and the Compaq Presario S5000 and S5000NX--at this week's PC Expo, a trade show that's part of the TechXNY conference taking place this week in New York. The desktops will feature upgraded components and new software packages designed to increase security in the Presario models and to highlight multimedia features in the Pavilion.

Several brand-name companies will introduce a number of new desktops over the next month, as the consumer PC industry preps for the holidays. Sony has already updated its Vaio RS desktop. HP will release its new models between the end of September and early November. And eMachines has a new line of machines on the way as well. Collectively, the three companies take up the majority of retail sales of desktop PCs in the United States.

The companies face tough prospects, however. While PC sales have shown some signs of picking up, computer makers have been faced with rising prices on components such as DRAM (dynamic random access memory) as well as short supplies of gear such as 15-inch LCD (liquid-crystal display) panels. So far, manufacturers appear to have held the line on prices. However, HP hasn't advertised a $50 rebate for its new lineup, a discount the company has offered on most of its previous Pavilion S4000NX desktops.

HP's low-price Compaq Presario desktop will include a 2.5GHz Intel Celeron processor, 128MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, and a CD burner. The desktop, which will hit stores later this month, will cost $459. The company's Compaq Presario S5000 family of desktops will come with antivirus and Internet firewall software from Symantec, as well as antispam and spyware detection software from InterMute.

HP's Presario models S5100NX, S5200NX and S5300NX will offer 2.6GHz Celerons, 2.7GHz Celerons and 2.5GHz Pentium 4 processors, respectively. The desktops will come with between 256MB and 512MB of RAM, 80GB or 120GB hard drives, a CD burner and DVD-ROM drives. Prices on the desktops, which will arrive in stores in early October, will be $559, $659 and $779, respectively, HP said.

The S5100NX, with its 2.6GHz Celeron, 256MB of RAM, 80GB hard drive and CD burner/DVD-drive combination, is slightly more expensive than its predecessor, the Presario S4100NX. But the S5100NX's $10 premium is due to the faster 2.6GHz processor, according to a report by ARS, a San Diego-based company that tracks PCs and computer prices.

HP will round out its Compaq Presario line with a new S5400NX model that includes a 2.6GHz Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, a 120GB hard drive, a DVD burner and an additional CD-ROM drive. The PC will be in stores in early November. HP has not yet released the price of the machine.

Meanwhile, Irvine, Calif.-based eMachines will likely try to counter HP at retail with models that match HP prices but offer some extras.

eMachines will release a T2542 desktop with a 2.5GHz Celeron processor, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD burner for $449, according to a report by ARS.

The eMachines T2542 model is $10 less than HP's Compaq Presario S5000NX but will offer more memory.

Meanwhile, Sony has launched three new Vaio RS models, the RS410, RS420 and RS430G, which start at $850. The desktops, which will be available later this month, tout multimedia features such as DVD burners. The machines are more likely to compete with HP Pavilions than Compaq Presarios.

HP also will offer a Presario S5000 desktop line directly to customers via its HPShopping Web site and six new HP Pavilion a300 models. The new Pavilion desktops, which will cost between $499 and $1079, will come out in early October and will offer a range of processors from Advanced Micro Devices and Intel, HP said.