Dell is sticking to what it knows best: a new line of desktop systems that use the newest chip sets, while backing off from its experiment with a new form factor for consumer PCs.

Dell's Dimension 4100 series desktop PC runs a range of Intel Pentium III processors and uses the new Intel 815E chip set.

The 815E and 815 are Intel's first chip sets to support the faster PC-133 memory. Via Technologies introduced a chip set supporting the memory last year.

In addition to PC-133, the 815E chip set is appealing because it supports ATA-100, the next high-speed hard drive standard, says Brian Zucker, Dell's technology evangelist for small business and consumer products.

The 4100 series will gradually replace the Dimension XPS-T line, which uses Intel's aging 440BX chip set and PC-100 memory, Zucker says.

The 4100 series fills the middle slot in the company's Dimension line. The top-end Dimension XPS-B series uses Intel's 820 chip set and Rambus memory; the entry-level Dimension L series uses the 810E chip set with PC-100 memory and integrated graphics.

Eventually the replacements for the XPS-B and L series will also use numerical names, which Dell deems less confusing than letters, he says.

You can configure Dell systems to order, but the company offers several basic configurations, all with Windows 98 Second Edition.

Excluding VAT, prices for a Dell Dimension 4100 series minitower begin at £699.

These prices are for a system that includes a 733 MHz Pentium III processor, Microsoft® Windows® 98 and WorksSuite® 2000, 64MB of PC133 SDRAM, a 15 GB hard drive1, 32MB M64 NVIDIA TNT2 graphics card, 20/48X CD-ROM drive, E770 17-inch monitor (15.8-inch viewable) and a Creative Labs SB 64vSound Card(tm), among other features.

While Dell executives trumpeted the arrival of the 4100 series, they made significantly less noise about discontinuing the WebPC.

Dell introduced the small, hourglass-shaped PC last November. It was widely touted by industry observers as a sign of things to come; reviewers applauded its smooth form and ease-of-use features. Consumers, however, apparently weren't as moved.