Dell bets on Rambus

Direct PC maker chooses high-end memory maker even as it debuts newest Optiplex with a price point under $1,200.

Dell Computer Corp. is attempting to make PCs with Rambus memory more affordable.

That's no easy trick, since the cost of Rambus dynamic RAM (RDRAM) is at least twice that of synchronous dynamic RAM (SDRAM), the current industry standard. Rambus offers higher bandwidth than 100MHz SDRAM, but the holdup to more widespread adoption of the technology has been its price.

On Monday, Dell (dell) introduced a lower-cost PC model that uses RDRAM. Rambus memory technology had previously added several hundred dollars to the price of each PC, but company officials said the new PC, the OptiPlex GX200, starts at $1,149.

The base configuration for Dell's new PC is about $100 more than a similarly equipped system with SDRAM.

"Low cost" however is a relative term. Dell says the rock-bottom price on its new corporate computer, in a small chassis, may list at $1,149. But Dell does not include certain features in its base configuration for the GX200, such as a monitor, modem, stereo speakers or CD-ROM drive.

The new PC will start with 64MB of 800MHz error-correcting-code RDRAM. For their money, customers also get an Intel Corp. 600MHz Pentium III and Intel's 820 chip set, which supports Rambus Inc. technology. The base configuration also includes a 10GB hard drive, a built-in 4X AGP graphics card, Ethernet and the Windows 98 OS.

With the new GX200 model, Dell has managed to close the price gap between SDRAM and Rambus memory. Where the price had been several hundred more for a Rambus PC, the difference on similarly configured OptiPlex GX200 and GX110 models priced by ZDNet News ranged between $120 and $168.

An OptiPlex GX110 model, configured as closely as possible to the GX200 by ZDNet News, came to $1,029 on Dell's Web site. The base configuration includes a 600MHz Pentium III, 64MB of SDRAM, a 10GB hard drive and Ethernet.

With the addition of a 667MHz Pentium III ($125), 64MB of SDRAM for a total of 128MB ($99), a 17-inch monitor ($215), 10X CD-ROM drive ($69), modem ($79) and speakers ($39) brings the PC to $1,655, according to Dell's site.


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