Review: HP Compaq dc7800 Integrated Work Center

Of course the whole “zero footprint” thing is an exaggeration. True, the HP Compaq dc7800 Ultra-Slim Desktop doesn’t touch your desktop when it’s riding piggyback on the company’s L1906i 19-inch LCD monitor. But the monitor takes some desk space, as do the keyboard and mouse — although when the system’s idle, you can stash the keyboard beneath the monitor to reclaim 30 square inches or so.

Nevertheless, the configuration HP calls an Integrated Work Center (IWC) is about as compact as an office PC can get, a classy way to reclaim elbow room in a crowded cubicle or to keep a bulky box from dominating a small-office desk. About the only negative is that any comparisons to Apple’s elegant, one-piece iMac are spoiled by the spaghetti of six cables spilling out of the rear (PC power, display power, display VGA connector, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, and presumably your office Ethernet). A snap-on plastic cover collects a few of the cords, but a wireless keyboard and mouse would be helpful.

And anyway, a better Apple allusion would be to the Mac Mini — the Ultra-Slim Desktop tops even impressively preshrunk PCs like the Lenovo ThinkCentre A61e in squeezing a full-fledged system into a seven-pound, dinner-plate-sized package at 2.6 by 9.9 by 10 inches. That’s why affixing it to the back of a flat-panel monitor is a no-brainer.

(Especially in our case: The first time we spun the four Philips screws that attach the monitor mounting bracket to the Compaq’s top, we turned out to be 90 degrees off, with the DVD±RW drive opening downward instead of sideways.)

Sorry, No Quad
Not every IT manager will pick the petite design seen here. The dc7800 is also available in more traditional mini-tower and small-form-factor cases. Those styles offer PCI, PCI Express x1, and PCIe x16 expansion slots — full-height with the mini-tower, low-profile slots with the small desktop — and four DIMM memory sockets. They can also be ordered with Core 2 Quad processors.

By contrast, the Ultra-Slim has no expansion slots — the Intel Q35 chipset’s integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 3100 is the first, last and only video option — and two notebook-style SODIMM sockets for a maximum 4GB of DDR-2/667 or /800 memory, along with a 135-watt, laptop-style external AC adapter.

HP doesn’t offer a quad-core CPU; the fastest on the menu is the 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo E6850. Our test unit had the next-best 2.66GHz dual-core with the same 1333MHz front-side bus and 4MB of Level 2 cache. It gave first-class performance, but struck us as overkill for a PC probably destined for nothing more strenuous than Word and Excel — especially considering its price tag.

When we visited HP’s Web store to configure a dc7800 matching our test unit — with the Core 2 Duo E6750; 1GB of DDR-2/667 memory; an 80GB, 7,200-rpm Seagate hard disk and HL-DT-ST double-layer DVD±RW drive; and a 1GB flash memory module for Windows Vista Business’s trivially-performance-enhancing ReadyBoost — it came to a hefty $1,192.

Add $348 for the L1906i monitor with the Integrated Work Center stand, and you’ve spent over $1,500 for an office productivity system. We were much happier to see a discount deal on a preconfigured Ultra-Slim good through January 31, 2008: It offers the same specs as our system with a perfectly adequate Core 2 Duo E4500 (2.2GHz with 2MB of L2 cache) for $829, bringing the package price down to $1,177.

HP Compaq dc7800 Ultra-Slim Desktop
Piggyback: The HP Compaq dc7800 Ultra-Slim Desktop hitches a ride on an LCD monitor.

With the previously mentioned four screws fixing the Ultra-Slim Desktop to its mounting bracket and two screws securing the latter on the rear of the monitor, you’ll have to reach a ways — or, more likely, leave your chair to stand and crane over the top of the display — to access the PC’s front-mounted power button, two USB 2.0 ports, and microphone and headphone jacks, as well as the DVD±RW drive.

At the rear of the diminutive desktop are six more USB ports, along with PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, VGA and DVI monitor connections, audio line-in and -out, and a 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet port. If you snap on the plastic end cap that routes some of the cords out straight down so you can route them through cable holders at the back of the monitor base, you’ll have some difficulty accessing any unused ports.

The dc7800 comes with a generic PS/2 keyboard; its typing feel seemed a little mushy at first, but we soon accustomed ourselves to it and returned to our usual blazing speed. The provided PS/2 mouse is nothing exciting, either, but it’s a smooth-gliding optical model with scroll wheel instead of a rock-bottom mechanical mouse.

Look Alive
The L1906i monitor provides a snappy 5-millisecond response time, though it’s faithful to the old 4:3 aspect ratio (1,280 by 1,024 pixels) instead of following today’s widescreen fashions. And accepts only old-school analog VGA input instead of adding a DVD connector — the 19-inch flat panel wears its Core 2 Duo backpack well.

A 500:1 contrast ratio isn’t exceptional these days, but text and edges were sharp, while 270 nits of brightness kept colors looking clear and vivid, with no bad pixels to be seen on our review unit. You swivel the screen by moving the whole monitor, but the IWC stand provides tilt and a welcome 5.1 inches of height adjustability, as well as the above-mentioned shelf to stash the keyboard during idle times. Neither portrait/landscape pivoting nor audio speakers are built in, though HP offers a snap-on speaker bar for $35.

Along with a three-year parts, labor, and next-day-onsite-service warranty, the dc7800 comes with a full array of HP and Intel software for IT managers, including credential-manager and drive-encryption utilities for security. InterVideo’s WinDVD is also preinstalled for watching movies after hours.

With the LCD-monitor tsunami washing CRTs off desktops everywhere, you can expect to see more and more PC makers unite the display and PC as a desk-space-saving duo. The HP Compaq dc7800 is a versatile example, even if it sacrifices expandability for size and its price climbs as you add extra options. It’s a worthy addition to the growing ranks of cool cubicle choices.

And if you don’t want to mess with mounting brackets, its desktop footprint is just as small if you put the PC on your desk and the monitor on top of it.

Adapted from

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