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John G. Spooner

Staff Writer, CNET

Gateway has begun selling a pair of desktop PCs with Advanced Micro Devices’ Athlon 64 processor inside.

Retailer Circuit City is offering a pair of multimedia-oriented desktops containing AMD Athlon 64 3400+ processors. The two machines are the first Gateway brand desktop PCs to contain AMD chips in several years. However, the models, which cost $749 and $899 respectively, were built exclusively for sale at Circuit City, instead of being offered broadly at retail or online, a Gateway spokeswoman said.

Gateway, which dropped its AMD Athlon-based Select desktop line in 2001 as part of a cost-cutting effort, only returned to offering AMD processors in Gateway brand systems after its 2004 acquisition of eMachines.

With a few exceptions, eMachines offered a mix of both AMD and Intel processors in its desktop and notebook computer lines. That seemed to rub off on Gateway, which continued offering eMachines models with both types of chips and then began to offer Gateway brand notebooks with AMD processors last October. Likening its methods to Toyota’s dual-brand Lexus and Toyota strategy, Gateway sells PCs with both Gateway and eMachines names via retail, positioning Gateway as the premium brand.

While the AMD-inside desktops will be sold only at Circuit City, Gateway has not ruled out offering desktops with AMD processors elsewhere in the future, the spokeswoman said.

Despite having no immediate plans to offer desktops with AMD chips outside Circuit City, Gateway’s revamped AMD processor-based notebook line has been earmarked for sale at other stores.

A Gateway 7422GZ portable PC, to be formally introduced later this month, is already available from stores such as Best Buy. The notebook offers an Athlon 64 3400+, a 15.4-inch wide-screen display, 1GB of RAM (random access memory), a DVD burner and an 80GB hard drive for a list price of $1,399, the Best Buy site says.

The two Gateway Athlon 64 desktops offered at Circuit City have the same basic features, including the 3400+ processor, 512MB of RAM, a DVD burner, a 200GB hard drive and a memory card reader. However, the more expensive model comes with Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center Edition software.

Still, the bulk of Gateway brand desktops and notebooks are based on Intel chips. The PC maker offers a number of Pentium 4, Celeron and Pentium M machines. It was also one of the first companies to adopt the Intel-driven BTX chassis design for its high-end desktops.