Compaq, PB NEC Go With New-Look PCs

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Compaq, Packard Bell NEC and IBM fleshed out their fall PC lines last week with the former company introducing a new desktop form factor, NEC showing a follow-up to the Z1, and IBM unveiling an $899 PC powered by a Celeron 500MHz processor.

Compaq's Presario 3550, the first in the new 3500 Series, breaks away from the company's traditional mini-tower, beige-box appearance and takes a step in the direction NEC went in June with its Z1 PC. Like the Z1, the 3550 is centered on a 15-inch LCD and has the same small desktop footprint. However, the $1,999 3550 is priced below the Z1 and is not geared toward the power user.

The 3550 comes with a metallic-blue notebook-size CPU, is powered by an Intel Celeron 500MHz processor, and features 64MB of RAM, an 8GB hard drive, and a CD-RW drive. All are now shipping.

"We went with the Celeron processor to keep the price under $2,000 and the CD-RW drive because those are what consumers want on PCs, not DVD. However, DVD is taking off on notebooks, primarily because consumers like to watch movies on them while traveling," said Patrick Griffin, Compaq's desktop marketing manager.

Compaq's new high-end model is the Presario 5900Z. It is powered by the new AMD Athlon 700MHz processor and is available only through Compaq's retail kiosks. Starting street price is $2,185, but that will change depending upon the customer's configuration.

The entry-level unit is the Presario 5440 at $499, which features an AMD K6-2 450MHz processor, 64MB of RAM, a 32x CD-ROM drive and 6GB hard drive.

Packard Bell NEC's Home Music Studio is one of the new application-specific PCs now appearing at retail. Similar to the Z1, but without the LCD, it is directly aimed at the 16- to 29-year-olds interested in music, said Mal Ransom, Consumer Division senior VP. The studio is bundled with seven music editing software titles that allow the user to do everything from download MP3 files onto CD-R media to creating personalized CD labels. Two SKUs will start shipping on Oct. 15 at $1,399 and $1,799. The leader has a Pentium III 500MHz processor, CD-ROM and CD-RW drives, 13GB hard drive and 96MB of RAM. The second features DVD-ROM, a Pentium III 550MHz processor and 128MB of RAM.

Ransom said his company will continue to expand into the application-specific PC area.

IBM filled out the remainder of its Aptiva E PC series last week with the introduction of the E190 and E550.

The E190, with an $899 estimated street price, is now the line's entry-level model. An AMD K6-2 500MHz processor sporting a 100MHz front-side bus powers the PC. The 190 comes standard with 96MB of RAM (of which 8MB may be dedicated to video memory), a 13GB hard drive, 40x CD-ROM drive, CD-RW drive and infinity speakers.

The E550, with an estimated street price of $1,399, replaces the AMD processor with a Pentium III 500MHz and features a DVD-ROM and CD-RW drive. The 550 also adds a 17GB hard drive.

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