PC vendors jump aboard the Grantsdale PCI Express

Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and IBM all plan to incorporate Intel's newest 915G/P and 925X Express chipsets into upcoming PCs for both consumers and corporate customers, the companies announced Monday.

The 915P and 915G chipsets, formerly code-named Grantsdale, are expected to be the backbone of new mainstream PCs released over the next 12 months. The 925X is targeted at high-performance gaming and content creation PCs. Intel plans to transition from its current chipset technology to the 915 G/P and 925X chipsets over the next 12 months.

All three chipsets take advantage of the PCI Express interconnect technology, which speeds up the rate that data can travel around a system. They also support faster DDR2 (double data rate) memory and improved audio and video performance.

Intel also introduced six new processors Monday alongside the new chipsets. Most of the new PCs also feature the new 90-nanometer Pentium 4 processors coupled with the new chipsets.

Dell unveiled two new Dimension PCs and one XPS PC for US customers on Monday with the new chipset technology. The Dimension 4700 utilizes the improved integrated graphics of the 915G chipset, while the other two models feature the 925X chipset.

A base configuration of the 8400 costs US$1,369 with Intel's new Pentium 4 550 processor at 3.4GHz, 512M bytes of DDR2 memory running at 400MHz, an 80G-byte hard drive, a Radeon X300 SE graphics card from ATI Technologies with 128M bytes of video memory, a DVD-ROM drive, and a 17-inch (43.1-centimeter) CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor.

Dell updated the base configuration of its third-generation XPS desktop with the Pentium 4 560 processor at 3.6GHz, 512M bytes of DDR2 memory at 533MHz, a 80G-byte hard drive, the Radeon X800 XT graphics card from ATI with 256M bytes of video memory, a DVD-ROM drive, and a 17-inch flat CRT monitor. That configuration costs US$2,599.

Users can add multiple hard drives as large as 400G bytes, double-layer DVD+RW drives, and Intel's 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition to the Dimension 8400 and XPS for an additional charge.

Dell's Dimension 4700 PC will be available in July for US$919 with the Pentium 4 520 processor at 2.8GHz, the 915G chipset, 512M bytes of DDR2 memory at 400MHz, a 40G-byte hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, and a 17-inch CRT monitor.

HP unveiled a new Media Center PC on Monday with the HP Personal Media Drive, a removable hard drive that can be connected to any other PC through a USB (universal serial bus) port. The Personal Media Drive slides into a bay located on the front of a new HP Media Center m1000 series Photosmart PC, and comes with 160G bytes of capacity. The Personal Media Drive will be available Wednesday for US$219.99 as an external hard drive for PCs that don't feature the integrated media bay used in the m1000.

Digital imaging has been the centerpiece of HP's consumer PC strategy over the last six months, and the new m1000 PC is another example of that strategy. The Personal Media Drive allows users to share digital photos and movies with other PCs, and comes with HP Image Zone software that lets users access photos with a remote control included with Media Center PCs.

Customers in North America will be able to order customized versions of the m1000 on Wednesday at HP's Web site. A base configuration costs US$899 after a US$50 mail-in rebate, and comes with the Pentium 4 520 processor, 512M bytes of DDR memory running at 400MHz, an 80G-byte hard drive, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, the Personal Media Drive, a GeForceFX 5200XT graphics card from Nvidia, and the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system from Microsoft.

HP isn't moving to DDR2 just yet in its new systems because the new memory technology does not offer enough of a performance increase to justify its higher price, an HP spokeswoman said. The company will use DDR2 in certain systems, such as the Compaq X gaming PC, scheduled for release next month, she said.

Three retail versions of the m1000 series PC will be available on July 18 in various configurations with the new Pentium 4 processors and various optical drives, memory, and hard drive specifications.

While Intel has spent much of the last six months talking up the consumer entertainment angle of the new chipsets, business customers will also see benefits from PCI Express technology and DDR2 memory. Dell and HP also plan to release business PCs that take advantage of the new technology.

The new Dell OptiPlex SX280 PC comes in a redesigned small form factor chassis that can be mounted under a counter or behind an optional flat-panel monitor to save space on a user's desk. The GX280 is available in three sizes, such as a smaller-than-usual minitower or desktop design, or the small form factor chassis used by the SX280.

The SX280 starts at $768 with a Pentium 4 520 processor, 256M bytes of DDR2 memory, and a 40G-byte hard drive. The GX280 starts at US$798 with the same configuration.

HP plans to release more details about its new commercial desktops, also available in small form factor designs, later this week.

IBM doesn't sell as many desktops as it once did, but the company still supports Intel's newest desktop technologies when they are released. The company announced the ThinkCentre A51p Monday, its first model with the 915G chipset. A base configuration of that PC is available immediately from IBM's Web site for US$829 with the 520 processor, 512M bytes of DDR2 memory, a 40G-byte hard drive, and a CD-ROM drive.

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