Small Boxes Get More Power

Dell, MPC put faster Intel chips in servers.

Vendors continue to roll out computer hardware for smaller customers looking to pack a lot of power and performance into more compact boxes.

Dell Inc. and MPC Computers LLC last week unveiled servers and desktop computers, respectively, that combine fast Intel Corp. processors and other features with smaller footprints.

Dells one-processor PowerEdge 400SC server includes a Pentium 4 chip that runs up to 3.2GHz and has an 800MHz front-side bus, the vehicle that carries data between the processor and its components.

In addition, the system, priced starting at $499, includes up to 4GB of memory, two IDE or SCSI drives, an integrated Gigabit Ethernet network connection, and options for hardware RAID controllers.

Officials with Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, said the server is aimed at small and midsize businesses looking for a system to run their network infrastructure as well as file or print applications. Given its pedestal chassis, it could also be used as a first server for enterprises looking to replace their desktop-based network.

For its part, MPC, of Nampa, Idaho, next month will start shipping an all-in-one commercial desktop that is powered by a 3.06GHz Pentium 4 with a 533MHz front-side bus and up to 1GB of memory.

The companys ClientPro All-in-One also comes with a 17-inch LCD screen that is 1.9 inches thick, 40GB to 120GB of hard drive capability and an integrated wireless antenna.

MPC officials said demand for a smaller desktop is coming primarily from the companys government and health care industry customers, which want more employees in a work space or more space in an office. The All-in-One comes with a television tuner, enabling users to bring TV reception into the desktop via cable.

Ray Boggs, an analyst with International Data Corp., said that small and midsize businesses, which make up 20 to 30 percent of U.S. IT spending, are an underserved group. Although there is a variety of needs in the space, most of these customers are looking for performance at a good price, Boggs said.

"Despite the incredible diversity, the common denominator is being sensitive to price and not having a dedicated IT staff," said Boggs, in Framingham, Mass. "The challenge is you dont want to really dumb this stuff down just to make it cheaper."