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Dell dresses new desktop PC in gray

The first PC in an overhaul of the company's commercial and consumer desktop lines, the OptiPlex GX150 sports a new color and a nearly tool-free chassis.

Dell Computer on Monday started selling the first new PC in an overhaul of its commercial and consumer desktop lines.

As first reported by CNET, the OptiPlex GX150 wears a new look for Dell--midnight gray instead of beige--and sports a nearly tool-free chassis.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company spent 18 months on the redesign and considered several colors, including black and the traditional beige, before going with the same gray used on Dell Latitude notebooks and PowerEdge servers.

The GX150 uses the first of three chassis sizes expected before the first quarter in a major commercial makeover. Built around the smallest of the new chassis designs, the GX150 measures 4.25 by 13.37 by 16.97 inches, or about 10 percent less than the smallest OptiPlex models currently available.

Dell also will adopt the new look, with slight variations, on Dimension consumer PCs and Precision workstations. The company will continue to sell beige models through August 2001 before completely switching to dark gray.

Technology Business Research analyst Brooks Gray praised the new design but said that Dell "is following the path tread by others." Compaq Computer's iPaq and IBM's NetVista line introduced style to corporate buyers long before the GX150, he said.

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Video: Dell's new design--How different?
Prices for the Dell system start at $629 for a 600-MHz Celeron model or $799 for an 866-MHz Pentium III model. The Pentium version comes with 64MB of SDRAM, a 10GB hard drive and integrated 10/100 networking. With 256MB of memory and a 40GB hard drive, the 866-MHz model sells for around $1,300. Harmon Kardon speakers and Dell's 17-inch flat-panel monitor, priced at $1,199, are among the available matching peripherals.

Moving away from the trend of totally integrated graphics on commercial desktops, Dell has increased the available options with the GX150. Customers can use the Intel graphics accelerator on the PC's motherboard, enhance it with a 4MB accessory, or use a separate 4X AGP graphics card. Dell currently supports separate graphics cards up to 16MB and is certifying several 32MB accelerators.

Like other major PC makers, Dell with the new model is moving to Intel's 815e chipset, which supports faster, 133-MHz SDRAM rather than older 100-MHz memory.

Inside the box, Dell has reduced the number of screws to four from 15, making working inside the chassis a nearly tool-free affair. The PC maker claims the change will reduce by about 40 percent the time needed to build a system, meaning higher production without adding more assembly lines.

Other niceties include cables with tabs colored blue, orange or black--ensuring that hard drives and other components are properly connected--and pop-out optical and disk drives.

Dell led the U.S. PC market in the third quarter, according to market researcher Dataquest. Dell had 19.7 percent of the market, compared with 15.5 percent for Compaq and 10.9 percent for Hewlett-Packard. Gateway captured the fourth spot at 9.5 percent, followed by IBM at 5.6 percent.

But Dell still trails Compaq worldwide--11.2 percent vs. 13.2 percent market share, respectively--followed by HP at 7.7 percent. IBM and NEC rounded out the top five, with 9.5 percent and 5.6 percent share, respectively.