Dell's new PCs toe performance line

The new Dimension 4100 series resets the price/performance bar - offering high-end components at a decidedly mainstream starting price of $1,300

Dell Computer on Monday raised the performance bar for home PC users, releasing a new Dimension line of desktop PCs. The new offerings replace the XPS T series and feature better components while maintaining the same prices.

The new systems are based on Intel's 815E chip set and will be powered by Intel's Pentium III processors, starting at 733MHz and topping out at 933MHz. The line starts at $1,299 for a 733MHz Pentium III system with 128MB of PC133 synchronous dynamic RAM, a 10GB hard disk drive and a 17-inch monitor.

The 4100 series aims to provide home users with features that aren't available in the XPS T line.

"The T series is based on the BX chip set, which didn't support a 133MHz front-side bus, 133MHz SDRAM, 4x AGP or ATA 100. We can now do all those things, thanks to the 815E," said Dell's Neeraj Srivastava.

The Dimension XPS T series will be phased out by the end of the month, the company said.

That Dell has managed to keep prices lower on a higher-end offering will set a standard for the desktop PC market, analysts said.

"The new line crosses the line between high performance and mainstream -- sort of like a high mainstream," said Roger Kay, research manager at International Data. "It will definitely give the market a run for the money."

Also, because the line uses SDRAM memory instead of the more expensive Rambus dynamic RAM (RDRAM), it is an indication that SDRAM still has some legs left, Kay said.

"SDRAM is the best solution for most users today because of the high cost of RDRAM. Users simply aren't getting the value yet," he said. Dell does offer RDRAM in its XPS B series, which targets high-end users.

Dell is offering a free 12x DVD-ROM drive upgrade from a 48x CD-ROM drive with the new system by 17 July.

News of the new Dimension line follows the demise of Dell's WebPC line, which is no longer offered on Dell's site. Kay said the WebPC didn't catch on because its design wasn't appealing enough to the target home audience.

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