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HP's shines up its back-to-school desktops

HP announces four new desktops in time for the back-to-school shopping season

HP hasn't made many major changes to its back-to-school desktop line-up. Of the four new systems, each has a slightly updated chassis design from preceding models, but from the components to the pricing, HP largely stays within its mainstream comfort zone. We hoped for a more thorough revision at some of HP's clunkier design elements, but aside from that these systems appear to offer the same aggressive mix of pricing and components we expect from HP, if not much in the way of headline-friendly innovation.

HP

HP Pavilion SlimLine s5000 Series

We reviewed a SlimLine s3000-series desktop just last month, but it seems with this new announcement that system is now out of date. This new model features a sleeker front panel, and what seem to be generally lower prices. You can still find the same spread of AMD and Intel CPUs from AMD Sempron and Athlon X2 chips, all the way up to lower-end Intel Core 2 Quad chips. Prices start at $290, but add a Blu-ray drive, 802.11n networking, and other options and you can easily cross over into $1,000 territory. Your dollar also seems to go a bit further with the s5000 series. We configured an s5110t to match our $870 s3170t review unit from last month and the price came in at a much more attractive $710.

HP

HP Pavilion p6000 Series

We last saw HP's mainstream desktop in the Pavilion a6750y. Like the SlimLine, its front panel has also received some smoothing, but that's about all that's new from a design standpoint. Pricewise, however, HP has become very aggressive with these new models. The AMD-equipped p6100z starts at $270. It can't be long before a desktop from a major manufacturer hits $199. HP has to be careful to keep the Pavilion from eating into the Pavilion Elite's sales, so the specs are decidedly limited here, with the AMD options even more restricted than before. You can't get beyond 4GB in an AMD-based p6000, for example, although HP has at least bumped the baseline graphics card options up to 512MB. As usual, these middle-of-the-road desktops trade mostly on their cost effectiveness, as opposed to design or new technology.

HP

HP Pavilion Elite e9000 Series

The new Pavilion Elites benefit most from HP's design tweaks, as the almost uniformly piano-black front panel seems most befitting HP's highest-end PCs. Unfortunately, HP failed to address the feature we most dislike about these systems, which means the case is still crowded with a pair of bays for HP's proprietary external hard drives. We've complained about this for years. Otherwise, these systems have a wide range of dual-core, triple-core, and quad-core chips from AMD's Phenom line as well as Core 2 Quad and Core i7 quad-core CPUs from Intel, including the Core i7-975 Extreme Edition. The graphics card selection is strangely capped at AMD's and Nvidia's lower midrange cards, which limits the appeal of the Elite e9000 series for serious PC gamers, but for mainstream gaming as well as even semi-hard-core multimedia editing, the Pavilion Elite e9000 offers most of the necessary options.

HP

Compaq Presario CQ5000 series

Finally, apparently after all these years the Compaq brand still has some mileage left. HP calls this a series, but from what we can tell there's only one, non-configurable Compaq model available at the moment. The CQ5100F is a $370, dual-core 2.5GHz AMD Athlon 7750-based midtower with a respectable budget configuration. In addition to the AMD chip, you get 3GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, integrated Nvidia graphics, and 32-bit Vista Home Premium. The design for this model also looks sleek enough, although we find it interesting how a piano black finish has become the new apparent tech industry standard. As long as it's not beige.

We actually have three of HP's four new back-to-school desktops on hand already, so look for reviews in the coming weeks. Also keep in mind that like most PC vendors, HP is taking part in Microsoft's free Windows 7 upgrade program, which gets you a free voucher for a Windows 7 upgrade with the purchase of any new Vista PC between now and the end of January 2010.