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Dixons unveils ultra budget PC range

eMachines aimed at PC virgins

A range of low-cost PCs made by eMachines, the US company which made its name by offering free PCs which displayed adverts constantly on the screen, has been launched in the UK by Dixons.

UK customers will have to pay - the eMachines' PCs here will range from £499 to £849 including VAT - but they won't be bombarded with banners.

The PCs are intended for first-time buyers, people looking for a second cheap home PC and small businesses. In the US, eMachines estimates that half of the three million units it sold in just over a year there were bought by first-timers.

The PCs are exclusive to Dixons Stores Group - PC World, Currys, Link and the eponymous highstreet outlets - and the aim is to provide "the highest value for money, not the highest technology," said Heidi Swane, PC marketing manager for Dixons. "If anyone drops their prices to match ours for the same spec, I'll drop mine further," she added.

The bottom-end eMachine is the £499 eTower 566CD, powered by a 566MHz Intel processor with 32MB of SDRAM, 15GB hard drive, Intel i810 graphics chip, Lucent 56Kbps software modem and 14in Proview monitor. It has CD and floppy drives but no DVD.

The PCs all have Windows Millennium Edition and Norton Ghost preinstalled, but no other software except the PowerDVD Mpeg-2 playback utility on those models which have a DVD drive.

Customers will be able to buy Microsoft's Personal Productivity suite for £160 and upgrade from a 14 to 17in monitor for £60.

Top of the range is the £849 eMonstor, powered by a 750MHz Pentium III Coppermine processor with 64MB SDRAM, 20GB hard drive,12-speed DVD-ROM drive, the same graphics and modem as the eTower, but a 17in monitor.

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