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HP Pavilion 734n (Athlon XP 2400+ 2GHz review: HP Pavilion 734n (Athlon XP 2400+ 2GHz

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The Good Easy setup; attractive design; USB 2.0 and FireWire ports on the front panel.

The Bad Outdated chipset; performance doesn't live up to expectations; little room for expansion inside minitower case; lackluster, two-piece bundled speaker set.

The Bottom Line Despite its sleek design and solid mix of midrange features, the HP Pavilion 734n's performance fails to impress.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 5.0
  • Support 7.0

Review Sections

HP sells both customizable and ready-to-ship systems. The midrange Pavilion 734n falls in the latter category, which is unfortunate because this system's preconfigured specs stick you with an outdated motherboard. The Via KM266 chipset holds back the performance of this Athlon XP 2400+ processor-based PC. Casual gamers looking for a bargain will appreciate the Pavilion 734n's GeForce MX 420 graphics card, and light home users will find sufficient power for running today's productivity apps, but don't expect blazing performance on either end. We suggest that you take a spin through HP's customizable-PC selection for a more up-to-date motherboard--you'll get the same sleek Pavilion design with better performance. The Pavilion 734n is an attractive system with steel-gray components that look at home inside or outside the office. Corners and edges on the Pavilion 734n are rounded and sleek. The HP flat-panel monitor that the company sent with our test system (the monitor is sold separately, however) ensures a small footprint on any desk without sacrificing screen space. The system has two USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire port off the front and four additional USB jacks off the back, as well as ports for speakers, PS/2, serial, and parallel connections.



The Pavilion's minitower case makes up for a lack of expandability with its sleek design.


The keyboard is Internet-friendly, and the mouse is optical.


The 734n's minitower case has a side panel that slips off easily with thumbscrews and a sharp tug. There's some room to grow inside the tower, but you'll have to navigate the tangle of cords. Four of the five total drive bays--both of the 5.25-inch and two of the three 3.5-inch bays--were occupied on our test system, leaving one free internal 3.5-inch drive bay. You'll need this bay if you're hurting for disk space or you desire another removable storage drive.


Legacy ports can still be found on the back panel. We appreciate the convenience of both USB 2.0 and FireWire ports up front.


The Pavilion 734n has one AGP slot, which is occupied by the graphics adapter, and three PCI slots. Fortunately, the Ethernet adapter and the sound components are built on to the motherboard. But with both a FireWire card and a WinModem card on our 734n test system, we were left with just one open slot. There is an extra DIMM slot for additional memory.


Full house: HP leaves you with only one free internal, 3.5-inch drive bay and a single unoccupied PCI slot.


As for the Internet buttons on the keyboard and the CD holder built in to the top of the tower, well, it's the thought that counts; both walk a fine line between useful and goofy. We do, however, appreciate the inclusion of an optical mouse.


The Pavilion 734n's Athlon XP 2400+ processor, 512MB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM, and 80GB hard drive are worthy components in a midrange system, especially considering that many midrange desktops provide only 256MB of memory and a 60GB hard drive. The included Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420 graphics card is a smart choice, giving mainstream users modest 3D graphics ability without the premium of a high-end card. Unfortunately, Via's KM266 chipset is getting long in the tooth and holds back this machine's performance.

A useful optical drive combo includes a speedy 40X CD-RW drive and a DVD-ROM drive. The 15-inch HP f50 flat-panel monitor that we tested with this system is bright and crisp, and it's large enough for moderate use, but business users may feel a space crunch with several apps open at once. And the f50 isn't a vast screen for DVD viewing, but it is doable at close range. Keep in mind, however, that HP sells the Pavilion 734n without a monitor, so the f50 will run you an extra $400. With integrated audio and a Polk Audio MM-1 two-speaker set, however, audio is clearly an afterthought.



A 40X CD burner and a DVD-ROM drive.


The f50 LCD is sold separately, and it adds $400 to the bill.


If you're not happy with the standard configuration of the HP Pavilion 734n or any of the other ready-to-ship Pavilion models, HP offers customizable systems in its 700 series. The online system configurator is easy to use, and it gives you several upgrade options. For instance, you can opt for the AMD Athlon 2600+ processor or a Pentium 4 ranging from 2.4GHz to 3.06GHz. But keep in mind that even though you can upgrade your processor or choose a GeForce4 Ti graphics card, you may pay several hundred dollars more, and your midrange price can easily fly out of control.

The Pavilion 734n ships with Windows XP Home. HP also bundles an extensive system-recovery program, preinstalled drivers for any HP peripherals you already own, and a quick-start wizard for connecting to the Internet. As for HP's animated "tour guide" on the desktop, let's just say that he actually makes us long for Clippy, the Microsoft guide. For software, HP throws in a few useful programs, such as Quicken 2003 New User edition, WordPerfect 10.0, and Norton AntiVirus, as well as ArcSoft's PhotoImpression and Showbiz for pictures and video, respectively. You also get InterVideo WinDVD 4.0, RecordNow Max, and MusicMatch Jukebox to make the most of your multimedia drives--but that's where the useful apps end and the worthless promos begin: HP clutters the desktop with a glut of Internet promotions and ads for other products.


Application performance
With an Athlon XP 2400+ and 512MB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM under its hood, the HP Pavilion 734n does not live up to its specs. The 734n's overall application performance is actually slower than what we've seen from the vast majority of Athlon XP 2200+-based systems we've tested, such as the eMachines T2200SE. This is the same level of overall application performance we've seen from similarly configured 1.8GHz P4-based systems. Contributing to the 734n's disappointing performance are a relatively slow hard drive subsystem and an older motherboard chipset, the Via KM266. Every system we've tested that uses this chipset has slower-than-expected performance. All that aside, the level of performance that the 734n puts out is adequate enough for most of today's mainstream applications.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark2002 office-productivity rating  
Gateway Profile 4 (2.4GHz Intel P4, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
230 
320 
166 
MPC Millennia 910a Pro (AMD Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz)
201 
247 
164 
eMachines T2200SE (AMD Athlon XP 2200+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
181 
212 
154 
HP Pavilion 734n (AMD Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
165 
218 
125 
Sony VAIO PCV-RX670 (1.8GHz Intel P4, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
164 
217 
124 
Note: In order to find acceptable comparison systems, we had to include a number of system configurations that are no longer available.
 
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics and gaming performance
An Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420-based graphics card is a solid choice for a midrange system. The 734n should easily be able to run the vast majority of the games that have been on the market for a while. But if you are trying to keep up with the Joneses, advances in today's graphics hardware and the latest-and-greatest games will shove the 734n's 3D graphics performance toward the low end of the spectrum.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Second Edition Build 330 (16-bit color)  
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Second Edition Build 330 (32-bit color)  
eMachines T2200SE (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
11,823 
11,670 
MPC Millennia 910a Pro (Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4200)
11,591 
10,962 
HP Pavilion 734n (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420)
4,927 
3,997 
Gateway Profile 4 (Nvidia GeForce2 MX 400)
3,973 
2,886 
Sony VAIO PCV-RX670 (Nvidia TNT2 Model 64)
N/A 
N/A 
Note: 3DMark2001 was not run on the Sony VAIO PCV-RX670.
 
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Pro Second Edition, Build 330. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at both 16- and 32-bit color settings at a resolution of 1,024x768. A system that does not have DX8 hardware support will typically generate a lower score than one that has DX8 hardware support.

3D gaming performance in FPS  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Quake III Arena  
MPC Millennia 910a Pro (Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4200)
203.9 
eMachines T2200SE (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
180.4 
HP Pavilion 734n (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420)
85.7 
Gateway Profile 4 (Nvidia GeForce2 MX 400)
59.2 
Sony VAIO PCV-RX670 (Nvidia TNT2 Model 64)
13.2 
 
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Quake III Arena. Although Quake III is an older game, it is still widely used as an industry-standard tool. Quake III does not require DX8 hardware support--as 3DMark2001 does--and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low- to high-end graphics subsystems. Quake III performance is reported in frames per second (fps).

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.


System configurations:

eMachines T2200SE
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz AMD Athlon XP 2200+; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Radeon 9700 Pro 128MB; Western Digital WD1000JB-00CRA1 100GB 7,200rpm

Gateway Profile 4
Windows XP Home; 2.4GHz Intel P4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; integrated Nvidia GeForce2 MX 400 32MB (shared memory); Western Digital WD120BB-53CAA1 120GB 7,200rpm

HP Pavilion 734n
Windows XP Home; 2GHz AMD Athlon XP 2400+; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420 64MB; Samsung SV8004H 80GB 5,400rpm

MPC Millennia 910a Pro
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz AMD Athlon XP 2400+; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 64MB; Seagate ST380021A 80GB 7,200rpm

Sony VAIO PCV-RX670
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz Intel P4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia TNT2 Model 64 32MB; Maxtor 4D080H4 80GB 5,400rpm




HP's full-color setup poster will get you up and running in no time.
HP does an excellent job of helping you get your system up and going, and it provides you with easy fixes for basic tech problems. HP's quick-start paper guide and its online support are both easy to follow; they can guide you through small emergencies. However, the printed user manual is a general guide for the HP Pavilion series; it's not specifically tailored to the 734n.

For more-serious issues, HP's standard warranty-and-support policy includes parts and labor coverage for one year and 24/7, toll-free phone and Web support for the life of your system. To repair the system, you'll need to either send it to an HP support center or bring it to your nearest authorized HP dealer. If you buy the system directly from HP, the company will pay shipping to and from an HP support center. HP can also provide you with the part you need, which you can then replace yourself, but HP doesn't make house calls. The company offers several warranty upgrades; we like the three-year warranty upgrade for $99.


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