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It's playtime

As PC makers and users are finding out, it can be a fun-packed tool for `edutainment'


SOMETIME last year, companies such as Microsoft and Intel had a flash of realisation: there is more to PC than productivity.

With a few subtle embellishments, it could be transformed into a fun thing; a family tool for education and entertainment. That was one reason why Microsoft began to plug the PC as a MediaCenter, which combined the functions of TV, music player and CD/DVD recorder.

Unfortunately, the first models these companies unveiled took the price range way beyond the reach of the mass family market they were aiming at. The MediaCenter was a great idea marred by lousy positioning.

At least one Indian PC maker got the message and did something about it. Zenith computers, who has been aggressively promoting the `Made in India' PC, launched its own Infotainer PC - a family platform to educate, inform, and entertain.

Latest model

Last month, the company unveiled Infotainer2, a model optimised as a gaming platform. To enable 3-D games and high-definition video, the Infotainer2 harnesses the well-known Nvidia graphics card and offers stereo sound quality that is close to Dolby or DTS.

Users can store, deliver and display audio, video and still pictures. And the built-in TV tuner includes a picture-in picture (or PIP) facility that is great if you want to make video recordings of live TV programmes.

The basic machine is a 3 Gigahertz Pentium 4 chip with an 80 GB hard disk, 512 MB of memory and a combo drive that plays DVDs and records CDs. The 17-inch monitor is a good enough substitute for TV viewing. The great thing about the Zenith Infotainer is that it does almost everything that the MediaCenter PCs offer, at much lower prices. .

HCL, another canny and aggressive desi player, has similar configurations in its Beanstalk range, and HP's Compaq Presarios are just coming out with some new home PC offerings. And companies such as Samsung are actively encouraging young games players by sponsoring richly-funded contests.

A. VISHNU

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