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Dell Launches XPS 420 Multimedia PC To Take On HP, Apple

The desktop is preloaded with Adobe's Elements Studio and Dell's Xcelerator technology, which converts video to a format suitable for uploading to social networking sites.
Dell on Tuesday launched a premium desktop that will compete with Apple and Hewlett-Packard for the multimedia enthusiast willing to spend a bit more for features geared toward editing, displaying, and sharing photos and video.

The XPS 420 comes with Adobe Systems' Elements Studio, which includes Photoshop Elements 6, Premiere Elements 4, and Soundbooth CS3. The package provides the tools for editing and organizing photo, video, and audio files, respectively, making it possible to create higher-quality family videos and multimedia slide shows.

The XPS 420 is powered by Intel's Extreme brand of multicore processors and is available with either ATI or Nvidia graphics cards. The computer also includes Dell's Xcelerator technology, which converts video to a format suitable for uploading to social networking sites. Video edited in Premiere can be converted and uploaded to YouTube directly from the software.

Xcelerator is useful in that it off-loads up to 86% of the conversion process from the PC's main CPU, which means the process can run in the background while other tasks are being performed, Dell said.

The new computer has two bays that can each hold a 3.5-inch hard drive with a maximum of 1 Tbyte of storage each. The system comes with 1 Gbyte of memory and a maximum of 4 Gbytes. In addition, there's an optional internal 802.11g wireless card, a choice of digital tuners for connecting to home TVs, and an optional read/write Blu-ray disc player. The latter costs an additional $300.

The starting price for the XPS 420 is $1,499, but Dell plans to introduce configurations at a lower price in the future, Karen Plotkin, director of consumer desktop marketing, told reporters during a teleconference. Dell sells a Dimension multimedia desktop that costs less than half the price of the XPS 420.

In introducing the XPS 420, Dell is showing an interest in expanding its consumer base into the area of high-end specialty PCs. The multimedia enthusiast has long been a target of HP and Apple. Dell's Adobe suite, which is a balance of professional features and ease of use, would compete with the iLife software Apple ships with its Macs.

Consumers today are looking for PCs that reduce the complexity of working with video and pictures, so Dell is in line with what buyers want, Toni Duboise, analyst for Current Analysis West, told InformationWeek. However, the price tag pretty much shuts out the average PC user and places Dell in competition with other vendors for about 8% of desktop buyers.

"They're definitely on the right track, but it really comes down to whether they'll have the competitive price and performance, and if they have enough of the cool factor to pull it off," Duboise said. Style is important in the high-end market, where buyers are more concerned with image.

"They need to work on that cool-factor brand identity that they really don't have at this point in time," Duboise said of Dell. "Apple and HP have a big head start."

In addition to the new PC, Dell unveiled its first wide-screen flat-panel display with a built-in Webcam and refreshed its line of all-in-one ink-jet printers with the Dell 948.

The 20-inch SP2008WFP display features a 2.0 megapixel Webcam with microphone for Web conferencing and online gaming. The monitor comes with Dell Webcam Manager software for guiding people in the use of the hardware. The display has a starting price of $280.

The 948 all-in-one printer features a fax, scanner, copying machine, and printer. The device is available with an optional Bluetooth adapter for connecting wirelessly with selected handheld devices or mobile phones. Pricing starts at $149.

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