Gateway expands Media Center PC lineup

Gateway has released two additional Media Center PCs in the hope that consumer excitement over multimedia will boost what is...

Gateway has released two additional Media Center PCs in the hope that consumer excitement over multimedia will boost what is forecast as a weak Christmas season for consumer PCs.

The company released the $799 (£430) Gateway 3250X Media Center PC and the $1,399 Gateway 7200S Media Center PC through its website. Both systems feature Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system, which some analysts believe will be the one of the few catalysts for consumer PC buying in 2005.

Market research companies IDC and Gartner have both predicted a slowdown in consumer PC spending for the fourth quarter and 2005. Most consumers have already upgraded their PCs in the past couple of years, in many cases replacing aging desktops with notebooks.

Multimedia features are among the few attractions that might motivate users to upgrade their existing systems, at least until Microsoft releases Longhorn, the long-awaited successor to the Windows XP operating system, in 2006, said Stephen Baker, director at industry analyst NPD Techworld.

Media Center PCs allow users to record live television, burn DVDs, and organise their digital media files. PC companies hope that users will want to replace the separate consumer electronics devices that currently handle those tasks with a PC that can do them all.

The new operating system also allows users to wirelessly share files between digital televisions, provided they purchase an additional piece of equipment.

Gateway's new Media Center PCs complement a retail Media Center PC it released in conjunction with Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 launch in October. Gateway does not sell any Media Center PCs under its eMachines brand, Gateway said.

The 7200S machine is based on the balanced technology extended (BTX) design, which Gateway has embraced for several high-end desktop PCs.

Gateway's BTX PCs utilise changes in the placement of internal components on the motherboard to take advantage of the stream of air directed through the chassis by two cooling fans.

These fans are required not only to cool Intel's new Pentium 4 processors but to reduce the amount of noise given off by the PC. Older cooling strategies require several noisy fans that would irritate users trying to watch a DVD in their living rooms, Gateway said.

The 7200S comes with Intel's Pentium 4 540 processor at 3.2GHZ, 512Mbytes of double data rate (DDR) synchronous dynamic RAM (SDRAM), a 250Gbyte hard drive, a DVD+/-RW drive, a Radeon X300SE PCI Express graphics card from ATI Technologies with 128Mbytes of memory, a TV tuner, and a 17-in LCD monitor for $1,399.

The 3250X is designed as an entry-level Media Center PC. It comes without a TV tuner in its base configuration, but customers will be able to add that feature for an additional $100 from 24 November.

The PC will come with a Pentium 4 515 (2.93GHz) processor, 512Mbytes of DDR SDRAM, a 160Gbyte hard drive, a CD-RW drive, and a 15-in LCD monitor for $799.

Both PCs can be configured with several different options for the processor, memory, hard drive, and optical drive.

The Pentium 4 515 processor was built specifically for Gateway, said Intel. It is based on Intel's 90-nanometer Prescott processor core, but Intel disabled the hyperthreading feature and limited the front-side bus speed to 533MHz.

Hyperthreading is a technique that lets the operating system take advantage of unused execution units on a processor, while the front-side bus connects the processor with the memory.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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