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HP Compaq Presario CQ5320Y review: HP Compaq Presario CQ5320Y

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MSRP: $409.99

The Good Average multitasking and multicore performance.

The Bad A Gateway system offers faster performance, twice the storage and memory, and more connections for an extra $100; expensive eco-footprint; lacks HDMI.

The Bottom Line The spare, affordable Compaq Presario CQ5320Y midtower desktop can hold its own in a light-duty multitasking environment, but that's really its only strength. We'd recommend saving up a few more dollars, which will net you a PC with far better features and performance.

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6.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Support 7

The Compaq Presario CQ5320Y is about as average as you can get in a budget desktop computer. The $410 midtower system throws together middleweight specs in a simple black case that can easily camouflage itself anywhere in your home. Thanks to a reasonably fast dual-core AMD chip, the CQ5320Y is a relatively fast multitasker, especially compared with the media-oriented PCs we've seen recently in this price range. Save a little bit more and you'll find desktops that provide a large jump in features and performance. If you're limited to this price range, however, the Compaq Presario CQ5320Y is a decent all-around computer.

We won't knock Compaq for its boring tower design, since most budget PCs tend to go for universal appeal, but we're growing tired of seeing the same glossy black tower over and over again. The top portion of the faceplate houses two LED lights that indicate power and disc access, and the dual-layer DVD burner sits just below them. There's also room in the expansion bay for another hard drive, and you can plug two externals or other peripherals into the dual USB 2.0 ports at the bottom. Two audio jacks for headphones and a microphone round out the front of the CQ5320Y.

  Compaq Presario CQ5320Y Gateway DX4831-01e
Price $410 $559
CPU 2.81GHz AMD Athlon II X2 240 2.93GHz Intel Core i3-530
Memory 3GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 500GB, 7,200rpm 1TB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100 Ethernet LAN Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)

We'll compare the Compaq against the Gateway DX4831-01e to illustrate what you can get in the next desktop tier up. In terms of core components, the biggest difference between the Compaq and the Gateway is the CPU. Compaq offers a slightly faster clock speed, but Gateway answers with a Core i3-530 chip that translates to faster performance, which you can see on our charts below. Otherwise, the Gateway's biggest advantage is its 1TB hard drive, which gives you twice as much storage space as the Compaq's 500GB drive. Our charts don't get into the various connectivity options available with each system, but the Gateway is the winner here as well, boasting HDMI, eSATA, and S/PDIF audio, as well as a media card reader. The Compaq offers only the most basic ports, with just a handful of USB 2.0 jacks, 5.1 analog audio, a 56k modem card, Ethernet, and no media card input.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Compaq Presario CQ5320Y
142 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Compaq Presario CQ5320Y
168 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Compaq Presario CQ5320Y
671 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Gateway DX4831-01
9263 
4018 
Compaq Presario CQ5320Y
6031 
3153 
Dell Inspiron Zino HD
2304 
1329 

We're not surprised to see the Compaq lag behind more expensive systems from Gateway and Compaq parent company HP. For a $400 desktop, the Presario CQ5320Y provides roughly the level of performance we expect. You could even argue that it overachieves a little on our multimedia multitasking test, where it bests the $510 HP Slimline s5310y by a noticeable three-minutes-plus. We don't really advocate processor-intensive workloads for any of the PCs in this price range, but if you're limited to the lower-end of the budget PC spectrum, at least the Compaq can get through the occasional multitasking job in a better-than-average amount of time.

A glimpse inside the Compaq shows a well-organized interior open for expansion by way of a slot for a standard PCI card, another for a 1x PCI Express card (two if you remove the modem), and one more for a 16x PCI Express. The motherboard has room for only two memory sticks, both of which are already taken by 3GB of SDRAM, and, bizarrely, you get only one free hard-drive bay. We can't get too worked up about that, though, since we don't recommend the Compaq as a launch pad system. If you have plans to upgrade, you'd be much wiser to save your money and buy a better system up front.

Juice box
Compaq Presario CQ5320Y  
Off (watts) 2.8
Sleep (watts) 3.89
Idle (watts) 52.24
Load (watts) 97.9
Raw (annual kWh) 218.24226
Energy Star compliant No
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $24.77

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