eMachines sneaks in Athlon 64 desktop

The computer maker releases a desktop based on Advanced Micro Devices' latest desktop PC processor.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
eMachines has made the move to 64 bits.

The PC manufacturer and seller, best known for its low-price desktops, this week quietly introduced the T6000, a desktop built around Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit-capable Athlon 64 processor.

The T6000, which is available at a small number of Best Buy stores and via that retailer's Web site, offers AMD's Athlon 64 3200+ chip, along with a helping of high-end components.

The $1,299 desktop also comes with 512MB of 400MHz double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM (DDR SDRAM) and a 160GB hard drive with a generous 8MB buffer for data, which helps boost performance.

With the release of the new desktop, eMachines becomes one of the first brand-name PC companies to offer the Athlon 64 chip, released in September, on retail shelves in the United States.

Hewlett-Packard, the largest seller of PCs at retail in the United States, offers the AMD chip in a Compaq Presario 8000T desktop. However, that system is only available directly from the company.

Though most desktops sold at retail in the United States are priced below the $1,000 mark, according to The NPD Group, a relatively healthy market still exists for higher-end machines that offer more power for gaming or multimedia tasks.

PC makers are aiming for those markets with Athlon 64 desktops, gaming machines and Media Center PCs, all of which carry prices well above those of the average PC, but also include features designed to attract buyers who are willing to pay for them.

The latest eMachines PC also arrives in time for the holiday shopping season, a time when consumers are often willing to spend more on PCs that they intend to use for multimedia--such as video editing or game playing.

Retailers are particularly optimistic about this holiday season, which got off to a strong start during Thanksgiving week, with an 11 percent sales rise year over year.

The T6000 also allows eMachines, whose desktops generally sell for less than $1,000, to jump into the upper end of the desktop PC market by matching a similarly configured HP Presario 8000T desktop on price (after rebates on the Presario).

Included with the T6000 is an ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card with 128MB of on-board memory, a CD burner, a DVD-ROM drive, an 8-in-1 memory card reader, seven USB (universal serial bus) ports and two IEEE 1394 or FireWire ports.

The eMachines T6000 and the Compaq Presario 8000T can't be directly compared because the two PCs do not share the same version of ATI's Radeon graphics card. HP, however, is also offering a free upgrade from 256MB to 512MB of RAM and a free upgrade from a CD burner to a DVD burner via its HPshopping.com Web site.

AMD designed the Athlon 64 to work with 32-bit and 64-bit software, in an effort to bridge the gap between the two applications. The move to 64 bits from 32 bits, which has already begun in servers, promises to boost the performance of PCs, partially by enabling them to use more RAM. But the software that will make the jump possible is still in the developmental stage.

Microsoft has plans to deliver a 64-bit version of its Windows XP operating system for Athlon 64 desktops. Once that software is available, consumers will be able to make the step up to 64 bits.

The software giant, which released a beta version of the 64-bit Windows XP for Athlon 64 in September, has promised to ship the final version of the operating system in the second half of 2004. AMD has said several other companies are developing 64-bit games and other applications for its chip as well.

Meanwhile, companies like eMachines and HP are likely to expand their Athlon 64 products. HP plans to add more Athlon 64 desktops to its PC line, including a Pavilion model, and will also begin stocking them on store shelves, the company has said.

Several other desktops, from companies that include Alienware, Boxx Technologies, PowerSpec and Northgate, also offer the Athlon 64 chip.