Dell today launched what it says is its smallest desktop computer yet. The OptiPlex SX260 is 50 percent smaller than the company's current OptiPlex machines and comes with an LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor.

The machines, which were launched in Tokyo by Michael Dell but will go on sale worldwide, are designed to take up less space on the desk than current computers and can be placed either horizontally or vertically. Roughly square in shape, measuring 247x241x85cm, they weigh just 3.5kg — not much more than a notebook.

Continuing with the space-saving theme, an optional LCD monitor is available with a companion bracket that acts as the monitor stand and doubles up as a stand for the main PC, meaning the two take up even less desk space.

Part of the size reduction in the PCs has come about from taking out features like PCI or AGP slots, which means users won't be able to connect their own graphics boards or other add-in cards such as SCSI adapters. Dell has chosen Intel's 845G chipset which includes integrated graphics.

There is also no floppy disk drive as standard but the machines are the first OptiPlex line models that support booting from USB (universal serial bus) memory keys. Dell said it plans to launch such a device in November and that it expects the higher reliability and storage capacity to make such modules more popular than floppy disks for booting machines.

Should users want a floppy drive, the computer's hot-swappable media bay accepts the same modules as Dell's Latitude C range of notebook computers.

Users have the choice of Intel processors — Pentium 4 or Celeron — and up to 2GB of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM). Other technical features include six USB 2.0 ports (two front and four rear), integrated AC97 audio and integrated Intel Extreme graphics support.

A typical OptiPlex SX260 configuration will sell for £629. This includes a 2GHz P4 processor, 128MB of DDR RAM, 40GB hard drive, 24-speed CD-ROM, integrated graphics and network adaptor, 17in CRT monitor, Windows XP Professional and a three-year warranty.