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Low-end Dell PCs get speed boost

The company updates its consumer-oriented Dimension and SmartStep desktop product lines with 1.2GHz Celeron processors.

Dell Computer is offering more bang for the buck with a pair of new low-priced desktop PCs.

The company updated its two low-priced, consumer-oriented desktop PC product lines this week with faster processors.

While Dell traditionally targets more sophisticated PC buyers, the less expensive desktops are part of what analysts say is an overall effort by the company to target consumers who are buying a PC for the first time or those who normally buy at retail. The desktop upgrade also comes after the launch of two low-priced notebook PCs, the Inspiron 2600 and SmartStep 100N, earlier this week.

Dell's new Dimension 2200, starting at about $709, offers a faster 1.2GHz Celeron processor from Intel. The most basic configuration of the new PC also offers 128MB of RAM, a CD-ROM drive and a 15-inch monitor coupled with Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, according to Dell's Web site.

The addition of a 17-inch monitor and CD-Rewritable drive boosts the price by $90 to $799. Bumping the machine to 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive adds another $80. Buyers can also add longer warranties of up to three years, and Microsoft's Office application suite.

Dell also updated its SmartStep desktop. The prebuilt machine, which cannot be custom-configured by Dell buyers, was designed to offer a rock-bottom price of $599. Keeping a set configuration helps lower the cost of the machine, Dell has said.

Dell is holding the line on that price, but has raised the speed of the Celeron chip in the new SmartStep 150D to 1.2GHz. The original SmartStep 100D, introduced last October, came with a 1GHz chip. The desktop also offers 128MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company encourages buyers who want more than those basic features to upgrade to the Dimension 2200.