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Nexar PCs follow component model

Stuck with last year's microprocessor? You may not have to be with a PC from Nexar Technologies.

Stuck with last year's microprocessor? You may not have to be with a PC from Nexar Technologies (NEXR).

The Westborough, Massachusetts-based computer maker will unveil its line of Cross Processor Architecture (XPA) computers Monday at PC Expo featuring a design that makes it easy to change the PC's microprocessor or key components.

Each computer in the XPA line can accommodate Pentium, Pentium Pro, dual Pentium Pro, Pentium II microprocessors, and even processors from Advanced Micro Devices and Cyrix, according to Craig Conrad, vice president of marketing at Nexar. To switch, the user merely has to slide out the specially designed CPU board and pop in a new chip module. "No matter where you start, you can upgrade to any microprocessor," he said.

In the future, the machines will also be capable of accepting Alpha microprocessors from Digital as well as future generation of chips from Intel.

Typically, it is a challenging and relatively complicated task to upgrade a PC to a new processor, such as going from a Pentium to a Pentium II, or from one chip vendor to another.

The ability to swap components is the key to the company's business plan, Conrad said. Most computers become outdated well before they wear out, he noted, leaving the customer no choice but to work with outdated equipment or cough up large amounts of money for expensive and difficult system upgrades.

"A certain level of obsolescence keeps the industry going," Conrad observed.

To counter this upward spiral, Nexar offers a computer that accommodates future technology so that the users need only buy the improved parts, not the entire computer.

Underlying the business plan are split motherboard and computer case designs that permit quick changes. A patent is pending on the motherboard design. Along with microprocessors, users can switch out most other computer components, including memory and drives.

XPA systems, however, won't be cheap. They will cost anywhere between $2,000 and $3,500, depending upon the components chosen.

In attempting to counter the performance problems that may occur when switching to a higher level processor, Nexar uses the highest level chipset available, according to Doug Morgan, service coordinator for Bay Resources, a St. Petersburg, Florida, reseller. The performance issues revolve around the fact that simply switching to newer, faster processors does not necessarily deliver the performance that a complete new system would provide.

Typically, a new processor, such as the Pentium II, requires a new chipset, which plays an instrumental role in delivering the higher performance. The chipset is a group of chips that allows the processor to communicate at the highest performance possible with the rest of the PC system.

"We tried different processors, from the P133 to the Pentium Pro. There was favorable performance against other high end-computers," Morgan said, adding that a number of customers have invested in the line.

The Nexar method also deprives Gateway 2000 and other mail-order mavens of some cost advantages by encouraging dealers to order their own components and assemble systems at the last minute, contended Stephen Elia, director of product marketing at Nexar. "Inventory is a hot potato," he said.

Although a relatively small manufacturer, the company is making headway. Last year, it came out with its first generation of component-friendly computers and racked up $18.7 million in sales in six months, Conrad said, mostly in the government market. The company went public in April.

The XPA systems will ship next month.