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Gateway touts new $799 notebook

The company extends its low-price notebook line with the model M305, and also launches a more performance-oriented portable and an upgraded rack-mount server.

Gateway on Thursday extended its low-price notebook line with the M305, a portable machine that starts at $799.

While the Poway, Calif., company, has been transforming itself into a consumer electronics brand, it has also been working to boost its traditional PC business. PCs and consumer electronics, Gateway hopes, will become the two pillars on which the company stands.

The Gateway M305, along with a more performance-oriented Gateway M350 model and an upgraded rack- mount Gateway 960X server, were all launched on Thursday to support the company's aim of boosting PC sales.

The M305 gives Gateway a pair of models that can compete in the sub-$1,000 notebook category, a market segment that has grown quickly as notebook prices have fallen and unit sales have increased, especially at retail in the United States.. The M305 replaces the Gateway 400 notebook, which also started at $799.

Like its latest low-price desktops, Gateway's M305 and M350 notebooks have fixed hardware configurations, meaning customers cannot upgrade processors, hard drives or memory, but rather must step up to the next model in the line.

At $799, the M305S comes with a 2GHz Celeron processor, a 14-inch display, 128MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive and a DVD-ROM drive, according to the company's Web site.

While the price should get customers' attention, Gateway will find stiff competition in the sub-$1,000 market from Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba. Each of those two companies sells several notebooks priced below $1,000. When rebates and special offers are applied, the machines often end up near the $799 mark as well, and the companies are also touting attractive features such as 15-inch screens and combination CD burner/DVD-ROM drives. Even direct seller Dell has launched a sub-$900 notebook, the Inspiron 1100.

To get a 15-inch screen, a 2.2GHz Celeron and a combination drive, buyers must step up to the $999 Gateway M305X model, which also includes 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive, according to Gateway's site.

Where the M305 series emphasizes low price, Gateway's M350 line offers more performance. M350 models include more powerful mobile Pentium 4 processors and higher-resolution displays, Gateway said.

The $1,399 Gateway M350S model offers a 15-inch display, a 2.66GHz mobile Pentium 4 processor, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a combination CD-burner/DVD-ROM drive and a memory card reader. Stepping up to the $1,599 M350X grants buyers a faster 2.8GHz mobile Pentium 4, a higher- resolution 15-inch display, 512MB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive and built-in wireless.

While the Gateway notebooks were designed mainly with consumers in mind, the company's latest server aims for business customers looking for a machine with more redundant components, which allow it to continue operating in the event of system failures.

The 960X rack-mount server allows customers to opt for as many as two Intel Xeon processors, up to 8GB of RAM, add as many as four hard drives and a backup power supply. The machine starts at $1,399, Gateway said.