September 30, 2003 12:21 PM PDT

PC makers give Media Center a head start

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PC makers unwrapped a host of new Media Center PCs on Tuesday, following the official launch of the latest version of Microsoft's entertainment-oriented operating system.

At least four PC makers--Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and Toshiba--incorporated Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004, an upgraded version of Microsoft's OS for multimedia PCs.

Microsoft added to the OS--which has a special user interface for viewing television programs, video, photos and other multimedia files--by incorporating photo editing and the ability to pause and rewind television shows.

Dell is offering the Media Center OS on three Dimension desktops, according to the company's Web site. The PC maker is offering versions of its Dimension 4600, Dimension 4600C and Dimension 8300 desktops with the OS for prices ranging from $1,069 to $1,449, the site said.

The Media Center version of Dell's Dimension 4600, for example, starts at $1,069 and comes with a 2.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive and a 17-inch cathode-ray tube monitor, the site said. Dell is offering the machine with a $100 instant rebate, lowering it to $969 before shipping, and adding free upgrades to 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive.

Meanwhile, Gateway is offering three versions of its new all-in-one 610 Media Center PC, with successively faster processors, larger hard drives and higher prices, according to the company's Web site.

The 610S comes with a 17-inch wide-screen display, a 2.4GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive and a combination CD burner/DVD-ROM drive for $1,499, the company's site said.

A 610X upgrades to a 2.6GHz Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive and sells for $1,699. A $1,999 610XL adds a 3GHz Pentium 4, a 250GB hard drive and a combination DVD/CD burner.

HP, which was the first PC maker to use Microsoft's Media Center, unveiled a pair of new PCs based on the OS. Its HP Media Center m300 Photosmart PC will offer features such as FM radio, an optional dock for HP digital cameras and the ability to print via remote control.

The m300 desktop starts at $999 when purchased direct from HP. Its most basic configuration includes a 2.4GHz Intel Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, an ATI Radeon 9200 graphics card and a combination CD burner/DVD-ROM drive. The configuration does not include a monitor or a set of speakers, however, according to HP's HPshopping Web site.

HP also launched a new Media Center notebook, the HP Media Center zd7000. The laptop, designed around a 17-inch wide-angle screen and an Intel Pentium 4 processor, starts at about $1,999, before rebates. A less expensive, Windows XP version is also available, the HPshopping site shows.

Toshiba launched two new Media Center notebooks Tuesday. The Satellite P25-S609 notebook features a 17-inch wide-screen display, a 3GHz Pentium 4, 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive and a combination DVD/CD burner for $2,799, its site said.

The company is also offering a new Satellite P15-S479 model with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive and a combination DVD/CD burner. It will sell for $2,199, the site said.

All four PC makers are expected to begin taking orders for the new computers as of Tuesday.


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