Priced at $1,264 and designed for medium and large businesses, the HP dx5150 combines versatile design with top-notch customer service. It's also whisper quiet, something to consider if you're planning to deploy several of them in a service center or other noise-sensitive environment. Wherever it goes, you'll appreciate the dazzling 17-inch LCD bundled with our test system. The HP dx5150's subpar performance disappoints, but the PC also costs $200 less than the competing , which included only a 15-inch LCD. Therein lies the trade-off.
The HP dx5150's attractive silver-and-black tower keeps things refreshingly quiet. Measuring about 16 inches deep and 14.5 inches high, the dx5150 is compact enough to sit on a desk without overwhelming your work space. Even so, it's surprisingly spacious on the inside (more so than HP's microtower moniker suggests), offering unobstructed access to its expansion slots, RAM sockets, and drive bays. Indeed, the dx5150 has room for a little of everything, so you could add up to three more memory sticks to our test system's lone DIMM, as well as a full-height PCI Express graphics card and a second hard drive. That's the advantage of choosing a tower over HP's small-form-factor desktop case, which accommodates only low-profile expansion cards and has fewer bays.
Although there's only a single captured thumbscrew holding the HP dx5150's side-access panel in place, we had a difficult time sliding the panel loose. Thankfully, once you're inside, it's a simple matter to pop out a drive for replacement or to drop in another RAM module. You can also connect a near-endless supply of external components, thanks to the dx5150's eight USB 2.0 ports, two of which are located in the front (along with headphone and microphone jacks).
Our HP dx5150 test system's no-frills configuration included an AMD Athlon 64 3500+ processor, 512MB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM, a 40GB hard drive, and a CD-RW burner. The motherboard's ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset manages multimedia duties with its integrated Radeon 9600 graphics processor and onboard sound chip. Although the dx5150 ships without external speakers, there's a speaker built into the tower so that you can hear system sounds in all their tinny glory.
The HP L1740 monitor comes with both VGA and DVI inputs, so you should have no restrictions if you decide to upgrade to a discrete 3D card that has only one type of port. The L1740 can rotate 90 degrees and rise up several extra inches, so it's easy to see if you're working from a standing position, for instance at a countertop. Its base also acts as a keyboard cradle, which lets you tuck your keyboard away beneath the screen to save space. The monitor comes with a pair of USB 2.0 ports, though you may not want to endure the hassle of reaching them. They're recessed far behind the screen and accessible only by tilting it way back--an effort that requires a fretful amount of muscle.
Although the HP dx5150 and the L1740 both have DVI video connectors, HP supplies only a VGA cable. Fortunately, the monitor manages to produce sharp, colorful detail even with an analog connection. Its high-contrast, ultravivid images struck us as good enough not only for everyday business use but for professional graphics and video work as well.
We're not sure the same can be said of the HP dx5150 itself. On both our SysMark 2004 application test and our Unreal Tournament 2003 3D test, the dx5150 trailed the competition, even when compared to the HP Compaq dc7100 Business Desktop, which came out 11 months ago. This is not to say that the dx5150 is a terrible performer. Its scores were in the same ballpark as its competitors'. Still, if performance is an issue (that is, if you need a business PC for anything other than word processing, e-mail, and surfing the Web), you'll want to configure a dx5150 with a faster CPU and a discrete 3D card. HP offers CPUs up to the Athlon 64 4000+, but the choice of graphics cards gets no better than the weak ATI Radeon X300 SE.