A Better-Than-Average Business PC

By Eric Grevstad | Posted August 05, 2005

Automakers call them fleet sales — high-volume, low-profit-margin purchases of scores of sedans by rent-a-car companies or government agencies. PC manufacturers' equivalent of the Hertz Taurus or Avis Impala is the enterprise desktop: your average office worker's mini-tower with adequate power for PowerPoint and Excel, a motherboard-mounted graphics chip with no ambition to play 3D games and legacy ports for IT departments still using their inventories of serial or parallel peripherals and PS/2 mice and keyboards.

Want an example? See the HP Compaq DC5100 — part of HP's mainstream or middle business-desktop series. It's available in a mini-tower or small-form-factor case, with various Intel Celeron D or Pentium 4 processors (but none of the 64-bit-capable or dual-core chips). It uses previous-generation Graphics Media Accelerator 900 integrated video and doesn't include an AGP or PCI Express x16 slot for upgrades (though you can order one with a vintage PCI graphics card). It's as plain vanilla as a PC can get. Instead of buzz, it has zzzzz.

But hang on a second: There's another, newer model in HP's mid-priced lineup. It's called the HP DX5150. It comes with AMD's Athlon 64 processor and you can order it with either 32- or 64-bit Windows XP Professional, as well as up to 4GB of memory. (Penny-pinchers can opt for AMD's Sempron CPU.)

Its ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset delivers business-class graphics, but with both analog VGA and DVI-D outputs standard, so companies can equip busy workers with the productivity boost of dual displays, plus a PCI Express x16 slot for high-performance upgrades. Order a DX5150 with dual Serial ATA hard disks, and you've got RAID 0 and 1 support for creating a single virtual drive or automated backup mirroring, respectively.

We don't expect enthusiasts to thrill to the DX5150, but we think it's more tempting than most of the fare offered to PC fleet buyers.

Price Du Jour
The most confusing thing about the DX5150 is determining its price by clicking on various listings on HP's Web site. Our mini-tower-case (HP calls it a micro-tower) configuration included a Socket 939 Athlon 64 3500+ (2.2GHz with 512K Level 2 cache) processor, 512MB of DDR400, an 80GB hard disk and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive.

In the best deal, the DX5150 was $759 under a "Save $207 Instantly" promotion good through September 19. In what we figure is its base price, it was $961 under the "Reseller Models" pointer to HP's authorized resellers. And in a this-week-only bundle, it was $1,039 with a 17-inch analog LCD monitor under a "Free Flat Panel" promotion that was only good through August 1.

Removing one screw at the rear (just fingers, rather than a screwdriver, required) lets you pop the top of the mini-tower chassis and check out the MSI motherboard. A few cables pose a minor obstacle to accessing the four memory sockets, two of which are occupied by 256MB sticks of PC3200. There's no obstacle to accessing the PCI Express x16, PCI Express x1, and two PCI slots, all of which are vacant.

Two cooling fans — one over the CPU and one at the rear of the system — are audible but not annoyingly loud. The 250-watt power supply strikes us as a bit skimpy, though buyers of the small-form-factor model get only a 200-watt supply as well as half- instead of full-height expansion slots and only half as many drive bays: Our mini-tower had two external 5.25-inch bays, the top one holding the 16X DVD-ROM, 48/32/48X CD-RW combo drive and two external and two internal 3.5-inch bays, one of the latter occupied by an 80GB, 7,200-rpm Western Digital Caviar SE Serial ATA hard disk.

Built for Office E-Mailing, Not 3D Rendering
Around the back, you'll find six USB 2.0 ports (no FireWire ports unless you spring for an optional PCI card); the RJ45 port for the integrated Gigabit Ethernet adapter; audio jacks; serial and parallel ports; PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports; and the VGA and DVI-D display ports. Two more USB ports plus headphone and microphone jacks are on the front panel.

The ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chipset swipes 64MB of system memory to deliver graphics performance that won't have IT managers worrying about employees playing 3D games on the job.

On the positive side, the Radeon Xpress 200 not only supports simultaneous analog and digital displays, but the SurroundView feature in ATI's driver lets it coexist with a graphics card installed in the PCIe x16 slot — so, depending on the card, you can work with three or even four monitors connected to the HP.

Though the pre-installed Windows XP Professional SP2 limited us to 32-bit applications, the Athlon 64 3500+ provided more than adequate performance for everyday office tasks.

The PS/2 keyboard has no frills such as special multimedia or program-launch buttons, but offers a solid typing feel. Our test system ditched HP's bottom-of-the-barrel mechanical mouse for a smooth USB optical mouse with scroll wheel, which should be the best five dollars any system configurator's ever spent.

White Bread Can Be Tasty
In addition to Win XP Pro, HP comes with InterVideo's WinDVD player pre-installed. Bundled CDs and setup utilities let you add Roxio's Easy Media Creator CD burner, Dantz's Retrospect Express backup program, Altiris' Aclient network agent, and Symantec's Norton AntiVirus 2004 (the 60-day trial version). The system carries a three-year parts, labor and next-day-on-site-service warranty.

Pros:

  • Serial ATA RAID, multiple-monitor support and PCI Express x16 graphics upgradeability and a 64-bit software path? If this is a "secretary's PC," sign us up

Cons:

  • Good expansion potential undercut by 250-watt power supply

Adapted from hardwarecentral.com.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

Comment and Contribute


     

    Get free tips, news and advice on how to make technology work harder for your business.

    Submit
    Learn more
     
    You have successfuly registered to
    Enterprise Apps Daily Newsletter
    Thanks for your registration, follow us on our social networks to keep up-to-date