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Desktops

Compaq Presario SR5085

A solid family desktop system best suited to e-mail, Internet browsing, school projects and the odd game when the kids are in bed, it's home computing on a modest budget.

HP's desktop strategy is aimed squarely at improving the user's experience through their industrial design, simplicity and innovation. We think that's marketing code for "put more ports on the front and paint it two-tone". The SR5000 series is pitched at the "high performance power user" and is based around an AMD platform, unlike it's slightly cheaper but similarly specced Pavilion a6060a brother which makes use of an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU.

Upside
Interestingly enough, while the two are differently branded, the AU$100 price difference between the Pavilion a6060a and the Compaq Presario SR5085 represents only minor changes in memory and the graphics offering. The Pavilion stocks one gigabyte of PC 4200 533MHz while the Presario boasts double that at 2GB of the same speed memory.

On the video front the inclusion of an NVIDIA GeForce 7600GS card, even as a slightly lower clocked version of the middle-of-the-road GeForce 7600 represents enough grunt to give you a reasonable experience if you're a casual gamer. The biggest advantage of this card is its greater amount of dedicated video memory, meaning your graphics subsystem will borrow less from the PC's memory pool when it comes to graphics intensive applications.

The differences between the two may not seem like much on paper, but since both machines feature the more expensive version in Windows Vista Home Premium, we immediately lean towards the Presario's 2GB of memory, smoothing out your interface experience and generally making things a little more pleasant as you navigate and run your apps.

The only other major difference between the two models is their accessibility and expandability. While the Pavilion offers three PCI slots on top of the user replaceable PCI-Express graphics card, there's no option to install PCI-Express 1x devices. The Presario features one 1x expansion slot for future cards such as additional network interface cards, dedicated physics processors, and soundcards. There aren't a huge number of 1x products available, but there are likely to be more over the hill than continuing to make traditional PCI products.

On the accessibility side, the SR5085 has three front mounted USB ports, one FireWire, three 3.5mm audio sockets as well as composite RCA ports and S-Video inputs. Unless you kick out the monitor cable, you shouldn't ever need to be crawling around under your desk trying to plug in a printer, video camera or mp3 player.

Downside
From our initial comb over of the spec break down there's not a lot to dislike about the SR5085; like its Intel brother the HP Pavilion a6060a, it's not an all-out speed machine, but a multimedia style system for families, with school projects, Internet, e-mail and the odd game thrown in because you can. That said while the graphics hardware is a little better and certainly outdoes an integrated component such as the Intel Extreme offering found on some bargain basement machines it's certainly not the top of the tech heap -- but consolations have to be made somewhere to hit the price point. Like the Pavilion though, the motherboard supports other 16x PCI Express devices, so if you find it's holding your usage back, you can always chuck something else in.

Overall
We'll hold back on passing judgement on the system until we can have a play with one in the flesh. If you find yourself looking at machines in this price bracket, for your hard-earned two large, you're better off spending the extra hundred dollars for double the memory and a better-rounded graphics card. Both will improve the overall system performance, as well as give the machine a little more longevity in the legs department if you don't plan on upgrading for a while.

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