Review: HP rp3000 Point-of-Sale System

Hewlett-Packard has been in the point-of-sale (POS) system business since 2003. But if you never considered its solutions for your small business, there’s good reason: The company concentrated most of its past efforts on solutions for larger regional and national retailers. But not any more. With the new rp3000 Point of Sale System, HP has taken what it has learned from its customers with 20,000+ checkout lanes and scaled it down into an affordable solution intended for small, retail businesses.

Intelligent Design

HP paid attention to the details. The compact terminal measures just 15.2 x 9.7 x 3.3 inches, saving you valuable counter space, and the steel chassis is built to withstand years of hard labor. Indeed, it has a built-like-a-tank feel to it. Even better, it is essentially silent in operation, so you don’t have one more machine adding to the background din. A matte black finish helps hide dirt and smudges on the terminal and matching peripherals.

HP included powered serial and USB ports for connecting the system’s cash drawer, credit-card reader, bar-code scanner, receipt printer and other peripherals. That means your entire POS system will have just two power cables—one for the terminal and one for the 15-inch LCD screen—rather than the bevy of power cords that some no-name systems require.

That said, you still need to plan for some cable-clutter management: Each peripheral has a cord running to the back of the terminal, which can lead to a tangle of black spaghetti you’ll want to hide from customers.

The terminal’s brain is a reliable Intel Atom 230 processor, which consumes very little power and generates very little heat. To be on the safe side, HP also designed in an oversized cooling system to keep the interior of the terminal cool even during extended use. The rp3000 comes standard with 512MB of RAM and can accommodate up to 2GB. A 160GB hard drive is standard, and you can opt for a 250GB drive.

The HP rp3000 POS System
The rp3000 system can include a range of accessories, such as a keyboard, credit card reader, cash drawer, pole display, receipt printer, touch-screen monitor and bar code scanner.

Our test system included HP’s 15-inch touch-screen LCD for data input and viewing, as well as a sturdy keyboard with an integrated magnetic-card reader. The monitor’s low-profile stand allows tilt adjustment, though not swivel or height adjustments. But it delivers a bright image that should be visible even in challenging lighting conditions.

HP also sent us its bar-code scanning pistol. The six-foot USB cable gives your cashiers plenty of leeway to scan bulky items in a shopping cart, and the gooseneck holder lets it do double duty as a stationary downward-firing fixed scanner.

Software Choices

For an operating system, HP offers Windows Vista Business, Windows XP, Windows Embedded for Point of Service or FreeDOS. Should your business rely on something else, the HP VARs (value added resellers) certified to sell and service the rp3000 can set you up with whatever that may be.

The same is true of the POS software. HP included Microsoft Dynamics Point of Sale on our test unit, but it has partnerships with a range of POS software developers as well as a certification program that assures certified applications will run on the rp3000.

If you choose to stay with Dynamics Point of Sale, your cashiers will appreciate the intuitive, graphical, color-coded interface. A pane on the left of the interface lets you add customized buttons to quickly ring up common items, while the main pane to the right shows a running list of items that have been scanned or punched in.

That list, too, takes full advantage of the touch-screen. To make a change (such as removing an item, entering a quantity or applying a discount), your cashier need only touch the item on the list and then select the appropriate on-screen button.

Long Life Cycle and Warranty

Beyond the hardware and software, HP backs the rp3000 with a three-year, on-site, next-business-day warranty standard. Even better, the company has pledged that it will not discontinue or substantially alter the rp3000 for at least three years from its September 2008 introduction date. That means if you commit to the rp3000 platform, you’re assured that as your business grows you can deploy the same system to your new locations, and that you’ll be able to get replacement parts should something break.

HP has also kept the price in check. The rp3000 Point of Sale system starts at $699 for the main terminal. A complete system with terminal, LCD monitor, retail keyboard, cash drawer, bar-code scanner, credit-card reader and software costs around $1,500.

HP noted that its resellers would typically handle the setup, software integration and training needed to get the rp3000 incorporated into your existing infrastructure. That said, we found setting up the rp3000 hardware to be as easy as setting up a PC system. Of course, you will need an integrator’s help to customize the POS software and tie it into your back-end inventory system. Thousands of VARs nationwide are certified to carry the rp3000; click on the “Find a Reseller” button at HP’s point-of-sale solution site to locate one near you.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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