HP Compaq dc7900

The HP Compaq dc7900 is a solid business offering in the premium desktop space, but the competition is a small step ahead.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor and  Alex Serpo, Contributor

The HP Compaq dc7900 is a solid business offering in the premium desktop space, but the competition is a small step ahead.

Contrary to the position shown in the image to the right, the dc7900 is a small form factor PC designed to lie flat. It's about as wide as it is deep, at 33.7cm and 37.8cm respectively, and is about 10cm high. The colour scheme is the usual affair, black and HP grey with a touch of silver.

This machine managed to skip an evolutionary step when it came to port options by including a VGA port and a DisplayPort, but no DVI port. This may frustrate some users.

On the front of the machine you will find two USB ports and the standard 3.5mm in/out audio jacks. On the back are two PS/2 ports, six more USB ports, and the above mentioned combination of VGA and DisplayPort. There is also a serial port, two more 3.5mm jacks, and gigabit Ethernet.

A nice feature is the screwless access to the internals, with the top panel being able to slide away when the buttons on either side are pressed, but it didn't come away as easily as it could have. The internals of this machine are well designed: containing a large fan and heat sink that sits above the CPU, along with a second heat sink for the integrated graphics chip.

Both the optical drive and the power supply hinge give easy access to the four available RAM slots. There are four PCI slots for expansion, a standard PCI (8x), two PCIe (16x) slots and a tiny PCI (4x) slot. However, due to the size of the case you may need to get a half-size graphics card.

Our system came with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU at 3GHz and 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM. This fast RAM and high-end Core 2 Duo processor netted a PCMark05 score of 5948.

Graphics processing on this system was provided by the integrated 4500X chipset, which is an up-to-date Intel chip which produces good graphics performance, netting a 3DMark06 score of 1281. Businesses can still put a discrete graphics card in this system, but watch out for the case height.

Virtually all computers classified by vendors as business machines will be able to carry out normal business tasks such as word processing, web and email use and even basic image and video editing, although those with additional gaming or video rendering needs will likely require a discrete graphics card.

Because of this progress, such benchmarking scores only provide a general comparison of overall system speed between systems.

Our system came with Windows Vista 32-bit, the standard business affair. However, if possible, we would recommend that businesses look to acquire the 64-bit version of Vista Business, both for future proofing and to allow use of those extra RAM slots if necessary.

The dc7900 came heavy with pre-installed software, including a trial of Microsoft Office 2007 and McAfee's security offering, landing it a solid thumbs down. Other pre-installs included AOL taskbar, InterVideo WinDVD and PDF complete.

Businesses will be pleased by the inclusion of vPro, a technology that allows you to remotely access the system even in the event of a critical failure. This is because vPro is a separate chip on the motherboard, allowing out of band access. It also allows remote auditing of hardware, and thus any business desktop including vPro gets lots of additional review credit from us.

Storage on this system was provided by a Samsung 160GB 7200rpm SATA II drive. We would have liked to have seen more storage in a PC at this price, but it may not be a problem for most enterprise environments that use network storage.

We measured average power consumption over a five-minute period while playing a DVD, where the dc7900 averaged 49 Watts. This is quite efficient for a desktop with such a strong performance. Note that this only includes the PC, not the monitor.

Businesses looking to roll out desktops at this price will find HP well ahead of Lenovo's M57e, which is bigger, slower and contains more legacy ports and hardware.

However, Dell's offering in this space is a cut ahead of HP's. In conjunction with the HP dc7900, we reviewed the Dell OptiPlex 960, which is smaller, around 15 per cent faster and comes with a bonus eSATA port.

Both the Dell and HP systems feature three-year on-site warranties. While Dell is offering a slightly better system at the same price, businesses able to leverage existing contracts with HP should do so, both offerings are still very similar and very competitive.

Priced at $1,500 including GST, the HP Compaq dc7900 is a solid business offering in the premium desktop space.

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