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Emachines: $599 PC with big features

The low-cost PC maker, which is rapidly gaining market share, is readying a new round of sub-$600 systems based on the Intel 400-MHz Celeron chip.

Low-price PC leader Emachines is gaining market share fast in the retail segment as it continues to redefine what a low-cost PC is.

Emachines is readying a new round of sub-$600 systems to be announced in two weeks based on the Intel 400-MHz Celeron chip.

To date this market has been characterized by PCs with plebeian processors from National Semiconductor's Cyrix arm and uninspiring graphics chip technology. But these configurations are now headed downstream into cheaper computers from companies such as Microworkz, which just announced a $299 PC slated for shipment in April. (See related article.)

So, Emachines is redefining the upper price stratum of the sub-$600 PC market, as others vie with me-too models at the $399 and $299 level.

While the 400-MHz systems are being readied, Emachines is also now selling its newest E-Tower 333ID systems. Most important is the inclusion of fast Intel processors, second-generation DVD-ROM drives for movie playback and data storage, and relatively powerful graphics chip technology from ATI Technologies.

Emachines is one of the first PC suppliers to include a graphics subsystem this powerful at this price range. The systems boasts an ATI 3D Rage Pro Turbo chip that utilizes Intel's AGP technology.

The chip, which has four megabytes of its own graphics memory, allows impressive image rendering in games, superior to highly touted specialized game machines, like Sony's current PlayStation. ATI's higher end chips, such as The ATI Rage Pro 128, offer even more powerful 3D technology but have yet to make it into this PC segment.

The new E-Towers, hitting store shelves now, use a 333-MHz Intel Celeron chip and come with a 56-kpbs modem, 32 MB of memory, a 4.3GB hard drive, the ATI graphics chip, DVD-ROM drive, and Windows 98. These systems are now available from resellers such as Office Depot and Circuit City and online stores such as NECX.

The $599 price requires a $50 mail in rebate, according to NECX.

In January, Emachines was ranked fifth in desktop retail market share with a 7.1 percent share, according to ZD Market Intelligence and No. 4 by PC Data in February.

"I would say it's a done deal that we are going to pass IBM [in March]," crowed Stephen Dukker, the CEO of Emachines