HP Desktop SKUs to the Left

You don’t have to lean to the left to appreciate a computer that runs cooler and uses less energy; you just have to pay your electric bill. HP says that replacing an older PC with one that meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Energy Star 4.0 specification &#151 a voluntary standard set to take effect July 20 &#151 can yield annual cost savings ranging from $6 to $58 per desktop. Naturally, the company will be glad to sell you Energy Star 4.0 configurations of business PCs such as the HP Compaq dc5750 small-form-factor system seen here.

The result? We think it’s power- and penny-saving frosting on an otherwise tasty if plain vanilla cake. For the record, the dc5750 provided for this review was not equipped to meet the EPA’s July targets (which, among other things, dictate awake-but-idle and sleep-mode power ceilings of 65 and 4 watts, respectively, for multi-core PCs with 1GB of RAM).

For instance, our unit had the 65-watt version of AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 3800+ &#151 a 2.0GHz dual-core CPU with two times 512K of Level 2 cache &#151 instead of the 35-watt model, a $40 option. Nor did its 240-watt power supply reach the required 80-percent efficiency to reduce the amount of energy dissipated as waste heat; that’s a $20 upgrade from a run-of-the-mill (nowadays, that’s 60- to 70-percent-efficient) power supply.

It also made us think twice about price: Going through HP’s order menu to specify our system’s processor, 1GB of DDR-2/667 memory, 80GB hard disk, DVD-ROM, ATI Radeon Xpress 1150 integrated-chipset graphics, and Windows Vista Business yielded a bottom line of $902 without monitor. That seemed a little steep to us, but then we noticed a special offer: the same system upgraded with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo instead of DVD-ROM drive, selling for $749 through May 29, 2007. Here’s hoping HP stages such sales often.

Corporate à La Carte
The dc5750 is the AMD-based cousin of the Intel-powered HP Compaq dc5700, both positioned in the middle of HP’s office-desktop line between the entry-level 2000 and deluxe 7000 series. IT managers can order machines with a variety of up-to-date Athlon 64 X2 or Core 2 Duo &#151 or, to crush employee morale, Sempron or Celeron &#151 processors.

They also get a choice of two cases or chassis, the 15.5 by 13.5 by 4.5-inch small-form-factor desktop seen here or a micro-tower with extra drive bays and room for full-height instead of low-profile expansion cards. The standard warranty provides three years of parts, labor and next-business-day on-site service.

Our system’s software bundle was minimal, combining Vista Business (never mind the front panel’s “Designed for Windows XP, Windows Vista Capable” sticker) with InterVideo’s WinDVD player and a starter version of the PDF Complete alternative-to-Adobe PDF creator and viewer.

Speaking of the front panel, it offers two convenient USB 2.0 ports as well as microphone and headphone jacks, the latter muting the built-in speaker when used. The Lite-On DVD-ROM occupies the sole 5.25-inch drive bay, with a front-accessible 3.5-inch bay beneath if you’re looking to fit a floppy drive or flash-card reader.

Around the back, you’ll find USB ports three through eight, along with old-school parallel, serial, and twin PS/2 ports; audio line-in and line-out jacks; and a Gigabit Ethernet connector.

HP Compaq dc5750
The sturdy and reliable, if not glamorous, HP Compaq dc5750.

Dual Displays, Squished Slots

Also present on the HP’s rear panel are VGA and DVI ports. The Radeon Xpress 1150 chipset’s integrated Radeon X300 graphics core supports both analog and digital output, which let you connect a CRT plus an LCD monitor. The feature worked flawlessly in our testing, making a dual-display setup a real temptation for anyone who wants to boost productivity or execs that want to show off.

Pushing a button and pulling back the top lid (with considerable force; we thought for a minute we weren’t going to be able to get into our system) gives you access to a motherboard with four nicely accessible expansion slots and four not-very-accessible memory sockets.

The latter &#151 two occupied by 512MB PC2-5300 DIMMs, two vacant &#151 are made more reachable via a tool-free process of unplugging, then pushing back and removing, the optical drive, which sits atop a short stack in one corner: the DVD-ROM, the empty slot for a 3.5-inch floppy or flash reader, then the 80GB, 7,200-rpm Samsung hard disk at the bottom.

Both the Lite-On and Samsung are Serial ATA drives. Two additional SATA connectors are on the motherboard for microtower rather than small-form-factor users, who get one external and two internal 3.5-inch and two external 5.25-inch drive bays.

In the opposite corner, you’ll find one PCI Express x1, one PCI Express x16, and two PCI slots, all available but limited to half-height cards. For a perkier alternative to the Radeon X300 integrated graphics, HP offers single- and dual-video 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 cards as $95 and $110 upgrades, respectively.

Sufficient Unto the Workday
HP gives buyers a choice of PS/2 or USB mice and keyboards. Our system came, oddly enough, with a PS/2 keyboard and USB optical scroll mouse; both were thoroughly satisfactory, in a generic sort of way. A more pleasing part of the everyday experience was the dc5750’s quiet operation — we heard a faint cooling fan now and then, but there may be something to this AMD Cool ‘n’ Quiet stuff.

The HP Compaq dc5750 isn’t the flashiest or most glamorous desktop on the market. But it’s a solid, straight-arrow performer, and anyone using it for the office-productivity work for which it was made will find the HP more than adequately quick and responsive.

Adapted from hardwarecentral.com.

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