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HP, IBM give small PCs a big boost

The two computer makers quietly introduce an array of small desktops aimed at businesses. Will thinner be in?

Hewlett-Packard and IBM have quietly released new business PCs that are easy on desktop real estate.

IBM this week added 10 new petite models to its NetVista S42 line, while HP launched three new tiny Evo D510 machines.

These small desktops are designed for businesses that have concerns about space, such as those with employees who work trading floors or in call centers. The machines, which are roughly 50 percent to 75 percent smaller than a typical desktop, can be mounted more easily in an out-of-the-way spot, such as under a desk. When combined with a flat-panel display, the machines take up even less little space.

Tight office space has made small desktops big sellers in Japan for a number of years, but companies elsewhere have proved less willing to pay extra for the smaller machines.

Late last year, however, the top three PC makers--HP, Dell Computer and IBM--each came out with new lines of more-compact desktops that are cheaper and thus closer in price to larger systems. IBM and HP are now new refreshing some of the models in those lines with faster processors and larger hard drives. Dell, meanwhile, simply makes these new components available as they come out via its Web and telephone configuration tools.

IBM's new S42s start at $699. For that price, the new 831724U model offers a 1.8GHz Intel Celeron processor, 128MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive, according to IBM's Web site. Its price does not include a monitor.

IBM's nine other new S42s range upward in price to the high-end model 831983U at $1,279. That machine includes a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive and Gigabit Ethernet. The midpoint model, the 831946, offers a 2.4GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. It is priced at $989. The new IBM machines, which measure 12.2 inches wide, 13.6 inches deep and 3.3 inches tall, will ship within two to four weeks, according to IBM's Web site.

HP's new Evo D510 machines--two "ultraslim" desktops and a new ePC model--offer similarly small boxes but are cheaper than IBM's S42 models.

The two new ultraslim desktop models--measuring 12.4 inches wide, 12.8 inches deep and 2.7 inches high--offer a 2GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. The 470051-545 model, which includes Microsoft's Windows XP Professional operating system, sells for $864 without a monitor, according to HP's Web site. A similarly configured NetVista S42 sells for $969, the IBM site says.

Even smaller, the Evo D500 ePC is 9.8 inches wide, 12.2 inches deep and 3.8 inches tall. It weighs 9.9 pounds, versus the ultraslim desktop's 11.2 pounds and the NetVista's 16.2 pounds.

The Evo D510 ePC, introduced in September, is the successor to HP's premerger ePC model. The newest one, dubbed the 470052-370, offers a 2GHz Celeron, 128MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. It represents a boost in processor speed and hard-drive capacity from the company's previous Celeron-based models. The new ePC will sell for $783, according to HP's Web site.

The new machines will compete with Dell Computer's Optiplex GX260 and Dell's newer SX260 "ultrasmall" model, launched in October. The latter measures 9.35 inches wide, 9.53 inches deep and 3.35 inches tall.

The SX260 desktop sells for $1,025 when configured with a 2GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive and a floppy drive, but no monitor, according to Dell's Web site.