Vendors jump on Pentium II bandwagon with high-end PCs

Hardware vendors last week unleashed the latest generation of high-end PCs as Intel Corp. debuted its Pentium II chip which the company says offers a significant performance boost over existing chips without a corresponding price premium.

Intel's Pentium II processor announced May 7 is available immediately in 233 MHz and 266 MHz versions a 300 MHz chip is due in the third quarter. The chip offers as much as a 28 percent performance boost over a 200 MHz Pentium Pro processor Intel's existing high performer the company said.

The Pentium II chip combines the higher processing speeds with Intel's MMX multimedia processing technology and a 512K Level 2 cache which should improve processing performance on many applications.The 233 MHz chip offers a 12 percent to 28 percent performance boost over a 200 MHz Pentium Pro processor - Intel's existing high performer - with 256 L2 cache depending on the benchmark being used.

Dell Computer Corp. Digital Equipment Corp. and Intergraph Corp. are all targeting the General Services Administration with their Pentium II products. Other federal vendors announcing Pentium II products include Acer America Inc. Advanced Logic Research Inc. Compaq Computer Corp. Gateway 2000 Inc. Hewlett-Packard Co. IBM Corp. and Micron Electronics Inc.

Prices for entry-level Pentium II systems are less than $3 000. Vendors are also offering PC workstations based on Pentium II with prices starting in the $5 000 to $10 000 range.

Targeting Workstation Markets

In the federal sector the Pentium II products will initially leave their mark in workstation-class applications. "Initially it's something you will see restricted more to the workstation market with engineering and technical applications " said Payton Smith a research analyst with IDC Government Falls Church Va. He said Pentium II eventually will find a role among mainstream applications as has the Pentium.

Dell's Pentium II products are the Dimension XPS H233 and H266. The PCs became available on the GSA schedule last Thursday. A Dimension XPS H233 with a 233 MHz Pentium II chip 32M of RAM a Matrox Millennium video board Yamaha Wavetable sound a 4.3G hard drive a 17-inch monitor Microsoft Corp. Windows 95 and other features is priced at $2 747 on the GSA schedule.

Dell's Dimension XPS H266 meanwhile ships with a 266 MHz Pentium II chip 64M of RAM and other features including a Matrox Millennium video board Yamaha Wavetable sound a 6.4G hard drive a 17-inch monitor and Windows 95. The product is priced at $3 703 on the GSA schedule.

Lourdes Valdez product marketing manager at Dell said the new products will appeal to "high-end users looking for the latest technology." She cited desktop publishing software development and content creation for the Internet among likely uses for the Pentium II machines.

The new products particularly the Dimension XPS H233 offer value as well as processing power noted Rocky Mountain group segment marketing manger with Dell Federal Marketing. He said the Dimension XPS H233's $2 747 price is comparable with that of a PC equipped with a 200 MHz Pentium with MMX technology.

Dell plans to follow its Pentium II PC announcement later this year with a Microsoft Windows NT-based workstation also employing the Pentium II chip. The company's first workstation product will target software development and computer-aided design applications.

Digital's Pentium II offerings also encompass PC and workstation platforms. Digital last week announced its Celebris GL-2 which becomes the company's top-of-the-line desktop client. The Celebris GL-2 includes models based on 233 MHz and 266 MHz Pentium II chips and can be upgraded to dual-processor configurations.

The products include 32M of RAM 16X CD-ROM drives and 10/100Base-TX Ethernet connectivity. Estimated retail prices start at $2 800 for a GL-2 with a 15-inch monitor.

The company also launched Pentium II-based workstations: the Digital Personal Workstation 266i and 266i2. The products are positioned as Windows NT platforms for CAD multimedia development and Internet publishing. The product line provides graphics options including Matrox Millennium AccelPro 2500TX and Digital PowerStorm 4DT.

The Personal Workstation 266i which runs a 266 MHz Pentium II chip has an estimated retail price that starts at $5 200. The dual-processor Personal Workstation 266i2 starts at $6 600. Both products can be upgraded to run Digital's Alpha reduced instruction-set computing chips or more powerful Intel chips as they become available.

The Celebris GL-2 and Personal Workstation models ship with Digital ClientWorks systems management and control software. The GL-2 also offers Digital's AltaVista Search My Computer Private eXtension which searches and indexes information on a PC.

Philip R. Kennett general manager of PC federal sales at Digital said the Pentium II PC and workstation products will be available through the GSA schedule by May 15. He said the company would also propose the new products as additions to Defense Department and civilian contract vehicles.

Intergraph's Pentium II entry is its TD-225 PC which can run two 233 MHz or 266 MHz chips. The product provides support for up to 512M of RAM and a choice of graphics options including Intergraph's Intense 3-D Pro 1000 graphics accelerator. The product ships with Windows 95 or Windows NT. Pricing starts at $2 579 with a 17-inch monitor.

The TD-225 is the latest addition to Intergraph's 3-D PC line which is available through the GSA schedule and Intergraph Federal Systems' Navy Computer-Aided Design 2 contracts [FCW March 31]. The product is slated for availability May 31.

In addition to the PC Intergraph debuted workstation models capable of running two Pentium II processors. Intergraph's TDZ-325 features a single 266 MHz Pentium II processor and is upgradable to two processors while the TDZ-425 ships with dual 266 MHz Pentium II chips. The TDZ-325 with one processor starts at $8 395 and the TDZ-425 starts at $9 995.

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