New PCs for 2003

Monday Jan 13th 2003 by Eric Grevstad
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From $399 desktops with faster CPUs to a laptop able to bridge the divide between the battling DVD-RW and DVD+RW formats, vendors ranging from eMachines and HP to Toshiba and Sony introduce new models for the new year.

The Consumer Electronics Show is in town — as a rule, when we say "town," we usually mean Las Vegas — and PC makers are ready to bounce back from a disappointing Christmas sales season. Here's a quick rundown of some of the new consumer desktops and notebooks introduced at the show, with faster processors and lower prices for everybody.

Clipping Coupons
The signs of a new year at HP are model numbers ending in 4 rather than 3 for HP Pavilion desktops, or the initials NX instead of US for Compaq Presario systems. Both brands offer $50 mail-in rebates through April 12, though we'll give the pre-rebate prices here.

In the first group, the Pavilion 504n ($570) combines 2.0GHz Celeron power and 256MB of memory with a 40GB hard disk and CD-RW drive; the Pavilion 514n ($650) has a 2.2GHz Celeron, 60GB hard disk, and DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive.

Both of the above use Intel integrated graphics, though an $850 Pavilion 734n minitower flaunts a 64MB Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420 card as well as AMD's Athlon XP 2400+ processor, 512MB of DDR, and an 80GB hard disk. It has separate DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives and both USB 2.0 and FireWire ports, too.

The Compaq Presario minitowers all carry AMD Athlon XP processors and S3 ProSavage integrated graphics — though, unlike all too many low-priced desktops, they also have AGP slots for aftermarket upgrades. The entry-level Presario 6400NX ($500) has an Athlon XP 1800+, 128MB of memory, a 40GB hard disk, and CD-RW drive.

For $590, the Presario 6410NX pairs the Athlon XP 2000+ chip with 256MB of DDR, a 60GB hard disk, and DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive; for $670, the 6420NX steps up to an Athlon XP 2200+, 80GB hard disk, and separate CD-RW and DVD-ROM drives. Topping the line is the Presario 6430NX, with AMD's Athlon XP 2600+ CPU, 512MB of memory, and a 120GB hard disk; it's $850 before rebate.

Value brand eMachines brags that its $399 PCs cost $399, by golly, with no mail-in rebate rigmarole. At that price, the new eMachines T1842 combines Intel's 1.8GHz Celeron with a lean 128MB of DDR memory, 40GB hard disk, and 48X CD-ROM drive, although Ethernet, modem, and six USB 2.0 ports are standard.

Stepping up to the T2042 model ($499) gets you a 2.0GHz Celeron and dual optical drives — a 40X CD-RW and 16X DVD-ROM drive — but still a Windows XP-stifling 128MB of RAM. We'd suggest splurging $599 for eMachines' T2260, which boasts an AMD Athlon XP 2200+, 256MB of DDR, a 60GB hard disk, and an AGP slot for gamers who outgrow the ProSavage8 integrated graphics; an otherwise identical Athlon XP 2400+ model, the T2460, is $649.

The two top eMachines models feature a new "office multimedia keyboard" with shortcut buttons for functions such as copy and paste as well as audio volume and CD/DVD controls. Alas, the holiday season's $999 eMachines "special edition" desktop with ATI's record-setting Radeon 9700 Pro graphics accelerator is no more.

Portable Power and DVD Detente
Toshiba is swimming in the laptop mainstream — that wide-open river between $999 economy notebooks and $2,000-plus luxury models — with its two newest Satellites, both with big 15.0-inch displays, Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go graphics accelerators, 40GB hard disks, and DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drives.

The Satellite 2415-S205 features a 2.0GHz mobile Pentium 4 processor, 256MB of memory, and a 40GB hard disk for $1,449 (with Windows XP Home; $1,529 for the Satellite 2410 version with Win XP Pro).

The Satellite 2435-S255 slips in Intel's 2.4GHz desktop Pentium 4 and 512MB of memory, along with doubling the GeForce4 Go's display memory to 32MB. It's $1,699 (or $1,779 for the 2430 model with Win XP Pro).

At Sony Electronics, the big news for both desktops and laptops is an end to hostilities between warring DVD recording camps: the company's posh models now include a DVD+/-RW drive that can read and write DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW formats. The first notebook to include the dual-format DVD burner, the hefty (8.7-pound) Vaio GRV680, will ship in March with a 16.0-inch, 1,280 by 1,024-pixel display; 2.6GHz Pentium 4 processor; and ATI's sizzling Mobility Radeon 9000 graphics controller. Its price hasn't been announced yet.

Sony has also upgraded its slimline Vaio 505 notebook; the 4.5-pound frequent flier now offers a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive and mobile Pentium 4/1.8 processor, as well as a 12.1-inch screen, for about $1,900.

The format-agnostic DVD burner can also be found in Sony's new Vaio RZ desktop minitowers, which boast the company's one-touch Click To DVD home video recording software and Giga Pocket personal video recorder. The PCV-RZ22G ($1,450) and RZ24G ($1,700) models pale next to the RZ26G ($2,300), which packs Intel's 3.06GHz Pentium 4 and a whopping 160GB hard disk.

Finally, the Pentium 4-powered Vaio PCV-RS100 desktop will bring DVD recording — albeit just DVD-RW, not the dual-format burner — to a price point around $800, equipped with 60GB hard disk and 256MB of DDR.

Adapted from Hardware Central.

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