eMachines embraces Intel with new PCs

Intel apparently beats out AMD and Cyrix to power new eTowers.

eMachines has gone all-Intel. The low-price PC maker on Wednesday announced three new eTower desktops based on the Celeron chip from Intel.

The new models cover eMachines' $399 (£247), $499 (£309) and $599 (£372) price points. (The company arrives at those prices after a $50 rebate). Previously, eMachines has used National Semiconductor's Cyrix MII processor, now owned by VIA Technologies, in its $399 models; and Advanced Micro Devices' K6-2 in its $499 line of PCs. Intel came in at the $599 price.

So why the change? Analysts point to Intel's aggressive price cutting for Celeron, making the chip potentially attractive to eMachines.

There's not much room to haggle on components for a $399 PC, said Stephen Baker, director of hardware sales at PC Data. Baker estimated that Intel would need to hit a price between $50 and $75 in order to get its 366MHz Celeron chip into the $399 eTower. The chip sells for $69 in 1000-unit quantities from Intel.

"(eMachines) refreshes their products very quickly. Usually once per quarter. Given that they've used everybody, I'd suspect they're processor agnostic," Baker said. "They basically tell people what price they need. Intel was willing to meet their pricing this time."

So next time around, eMachines, might use AMD or Cyrix, Baker said. But he added, "One thing that suggests Intel was very aggressive with their price is that (eMachines) moved up to 64MB of RAM (from 32MB) on two models." Baker said. A 32MB synchronous dynamic RAM DIMM, the kind of memory used with eMachines systems, costs about $30 at retail stores.

eMachines spokeswoman Pattie Adams said the company doesn't discuss future plans, but "we're very happy with Intel as a partner for eMachines".

One of eMachines' new eTower models is the $399 eTower 366i2, offering a 366MHz Celeron chip with 32MB of RAM, a 4.3GB hard drive and a 40-speed CD-ROM drive.

The eTower 400ix, priced at $499, comes with a 400MHz Celeron chip, 64MB of RAM and a 6.4GB hard drive.

The $599 eTower 400idx model is also outfitted with the 400MHz Celeron and 64MB of RAM, but eMachines has upped its hard drive to 8.4GB and added a digital video disc drive.