Aside from the outdated processor, the fixed-configuration Presario SR2050NX features an impressive list of specs for a budget PC, including 1GB of DDR2 memory, a 250GB SATA hard drive, and a double-layer LightScribe DVD burner. The system relies on integrated graphics, courtesy of the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. The chipset supports dual-channel memory, but unfortunately, the Presario SR2050NX doesn't take advantage of it because it uses a single 1GB DIMM rather than a pair of 512MB sticks. The motherboard features not four but two memory slots, which isn't uncommon for a low-end PC.
Although the Pentium D 820 chip is capable of running Vista, you'll probably want to add in another 1GB of memory and also drop at least a low-end graphics card in the system's open x16 PCI Express slot before upgrading to Microsoft's upcoming OS--if you plan on running the premium version, anyway. The system is labeled as Vista capable, which means as configured, it will let you run a basic version of Vista. The lack of a graphics card is what will hold you back from Vista's Aero effects and other premium features. The system's Windows XP Media Center OS qualifies you for a free upgrade to Vista Home Premium when it is released.
With its glossy black exterior and gray trim, the compact, midtower system looks classy. There are flaps to cover the unsightly optical drives, and a handy media card reader sits prominently in the middle of the front panel. The front panel also features three USB 2.0 ports, a 6-pin FireWire port, and three audio jacks. You'll find four more USB 2.0 ports on the back panel, along with another FireWire port. The back panel also supplies two video ports--VGA and S-Video--but not DVI. A legacy parallel port allows you to connect an ancient printer. The integrated audio chip supports 7.1 surround, and there's also a coax audio-out port. Networking is handled via the 10/100 Ethernet jack or the 56Kbps modem connector.
To the Presario SR2050NX's credit, it bests the similarly priced eMachines T5212 on CNET Labs' benchmarks, a not unsurprisingly result given that the T5212 features more low-end processor from the same Intel Pentium D 800 series. The picture becomes less rosy when you look at the $599 Cyberpower Back to School. Thanks to its more advanced dual-core Athlon 64 X2 3800+ and dedicated graphics card, it was 8 percent faster on our multitasking test. The Cyberpower system showed an even greater advantage on our Photoshop and iTunes tests, finishing 20 and 18 percent faster, respectively.
The Presario's Pentium D 820 CPU really starts to show its age, however, when you look it up against the $999 Velocity Micro Vector GX Campus Edition and its entry-level Core 2 Duo processor. Granted, the Velocity Micro PC costs about double that of the Presario SR2050NX, but it was considerably faster on our of our tests. Most telling was the Microsoft Office productivity benchmark, where the Presario took more than half again as long to complete the test: 16.4 minutes to 10.6 minutes. In the end, the Presario SR2050NX provides a level of performance that's more than adequate for basic home and office use, but spending a bit more for a PC with a newer CPU will better protect your investment against obsolescence.
The Compaq Presario SR2050NX runs XP Media Center, but it does not include a TV tuner or a remote control for the full Media Center PC-as-DVR experience. You could, however, add in a tuner to one of the system's three PCI slots. The system does ship with a wired keyboard and a rollerball mouse. We're willing to forego a wireless keyboard at this price point, but an optical mouse should be standard equipment on all PCs, right down to budget models such as this one. Among the bloatware common to all HP computers, the apps you'll find useful are Microsoft Works 8 and Money 2006, Quicken 2006, Sonic's Digital Media Plus and MyDVD disc creation software, and HP's own Photosmart Premier photo editing and management software. You also get 60 days of Norton Internet Security.
HP backs the Presario SR2050NX with your average one-year parts-and-labor warranty, but the software is covered for only 90 days. Phone support is toll-free and operates 24/7. HP's Web site offers real-time support chat, e-mail response, as well as comprehensive, system-specific driver downloads and recovery software.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Cyberpower Back to School
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia 7300 GS; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm SATA
Dell Dimension C521
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4600+; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 Pro; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm SATA
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Pentium D 805; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; 200GB Seagate 7,200rpm EIDE
HP Compaq Presario Media Center SR2050NX
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 820; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM; integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip using 256MB shared memory; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm SATA
Velocity Micro Vector GX Campus Edition
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm SATA