Chip speeds are up, system prices are down, and budget PCs are adding features at a frenetic clip. It just doesn't make sense. But feature-rich PCs based on brand-name components are filtering into the sub-$US1500 market.
Gateway today raised the stakes in the entry-level consumer desktop space with its Gateway Select PC powered by Advanced Micro Devices's 475MHz K6-2 microprocessor. The new Gateway Select 475 comes with preloaded software, a Canon ink jet color printer, and one year of free Internet access through gateway.net for $US1499. (Users pay for Internet service by the hour after the first year, with prices varying according to user location.)It almost sounds too good to be true. But according to industry analysts, Gateway's new system signifies an emerging trend in the home PC market.
"We are definitely going to see the performance end of the consumer desktop segment migrate down toward the $US1500 price point in the years to come," says Roger Kay, desktop PC manager with the market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
By 2003, very few consumer desktop systems will cost more than $US1500, Kay predicts. And if Gateway's latest offering is any indication, value PCs won't skimp on engine parts.
The Gateway Select 475 comes equipped with an 8.4GB UATA hard drive, 64MB of SDRAM, integrated audio, 8MB of AGP video RAM, a 13 x 32 CD-ROM drive, and a TelePath 56Kbps fax modem.
Additional base-model peripherals include a 17in monitor, a two-piece speaker system, and the printer. Not to be outdone in software either, Gateway preloads the Select 475 with Windows 98 and Corel WordPerfect Suite 8.
Gateway's announcement also marks another coup for AMD, which released its 475MHz K6-2 processor last month in response to Intel's 466MHz Celeron chip. IBM shipped its new line of Aptiva consumer desktops with AMD K6-2 processors. The $US1149 CyberMax Enthusiast, featuring a DVD-ROM drive and a 17in monitor, runs on the K2-6 475MHz CPU. CyberMax also offers the ValueMax KII-475 with a bigger monitor and more memory for $US1399.
Gateway Select computers ship with 450MHz and 400MHz processors as well. The cheapest option is a $US999 system running on a 400MHz AMD K6-2 processor. The same system with Microsoft Works retails for $US1049.