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HP d325 business desktop review: HP d325 business desktop

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The Good Attractive design; well-stocked and quiet case; fast for a business PC.

The Bad Subpar monitor; covers repairs for the first year only.

The Bottom Line The d325 business desktop is both faster and easier to configure and expand than most cubicle-minded minisystems. Consider it for either small or medium-sized offices.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

Review Sections

Intro

Bucking the trend toward ultracompact business systems such as the Gateway E-4000 and the IBM NetVista S42, Hewlett-Packard has engineered its d325 business desktop as a more traditional midsized PC. As a result, this machine arguably has wider appeal than those cubicle-minded minis; not only is it more expandable, it's also equipped with a speedy AMD processor, a huge hard drive, dual optical drives, and a dedicated graphics card. Though IT management software doesn't come preinstalled, as it does on HP's enterprise-minded d500 line, it is available as a free download for the d325 (and all d300-series models, for that matter). With all it has to offer, the d325 deserves serious consideration for home headquarters and small and medium-sized businesses alike.

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Two USB 2.0 ports and audio ports are up front for the convenience of office-dwellers everywhere.

If there's any doubt that the coffin has finally closed on basic business beige, HP's d325 business desktop puts it to rest. The tower, the monitor, the keyboard, and the mouse mix silver and black to achieve an attractive yet understated look.

The midtower case stands exactly the same height as the monitor and looks natural sitting next to it. Plus, it's whisper quiet, despite the presence of CPU and tower fans, so you needn't banish it to the floor just to keep the noise level down. Two of the system's six USB ports reside handily on the tower's front bezel, just above headphone and microphone jacks. (This should serve as a blueprint for all computer makers.) To open the case, you need to remove only one single, captured thumbscrew.

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For a business-minded machine, there's lots of room to grow.
Inside the tower, there's just enough expandability to please SOHO users and IT managers, too. Our test system arrived with the three PCI slots unoccupied, along with one free memory socket and an open 3.5-inch internal bay for a second hard drive. Speaking of which, drives are relatively easy to swap out, though you do have to remove the front bezel. Our HP d325 business desktop test system was surprisingly well-equipped for a business machine. HP paired AMD's Athlon XP 3000+ processor with 512MB of 333MHz DDR SDRAM and a 160GB hard drive, which placed our d325 test system at the high end of the d300 series. You can dial back the price a bit by choosing a slower processor--both Intel and AMD CPUs are available--and less memory, although we recommend at least 256MB. You can also select a smaller hard drive; they start at 40GB.

The included Nforce-2 motherboard offers an AGP slot for gaming when the workday's done. Our test system included a GeForce4 MX440 card--not state-of-the-art, but a far sight better than the integrated video found in most business boxes. You can skip the AGP card altogether in favor of the onboard GeForce4 MX chip, which includes dual VGA ports for connecting two monitors. It's not quite as fast as the MX440, but it's vastly superior to integrated Intel graphics.

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Most businesses won't need two optical drives, but it is an option, should you so choose.
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Pick another monitor from HP instead of this Compaq 7500 CRT.
With such high-end specs, the d325 is suitable for just about any kind of software you care to throw at it, from mainstream to mission critical. Alas, the conspicuous lack of a FireWire port could get in the way of the video applications you might want to run, as you can't connect a camcorder. (The abundance of PCI slots at least opens the door to FireWire expansion cards.)

Another business-machine anomaly: the d325 includes not only a CD-RW drive, but also a DVD-ROM. Before you bring your movie (or music, for that matter) collection to work, however, keep in mind that the d325 comes with no external speakers, only an internal speaker--a nice amenity if you're trying to save space. It's located behind the case's front panel and is loud enough for basic business audio, but it sounds tinny and shrill with music. At best, we'd use it for background music played at a low volume.

We were generally unimpressed by the d325's Compaq 7500 monitor, an average, entry-level, 17-inch CRT. We had to fiddle quite a bit with the brightness and contrast settings to find comfortable levels, and even then the picture looked a bit dull and washed out. A system with this much horsepower deserves a better tube. Thankfully, HP offers a wide range of monitors--both LCDs and CRTs--from which to choose.

The d325's software bundle consists of the bare essentials. HP includes Roxio's Easy CD Creator and Norton AntiVirus 2003 but leaves out the IT management software, since the d325 isn't aimed at big businesses. If you feel the need for enterprise IT software, HP makes it available via a free download on its site. Something every office needs regardless of size is a productivity suite, such as Microsoft Office. Our d325 test system lacked such an app, and it'll cost you extra to add one; you can do so using HP's online configurator. Application performance
Using an Athlon XP 3000+ and 512MB of 333MHz DDR SDRAM, the HP d325 business desktop is one speedy business PC. It shares the same processor as some high-end gaming PCs we've seen recently, such as the Hypersonic Cyclone and, not surprisingly, turned in stellar application performance. It held its own against the Hypersonic and Polywell systems here, even though it has a single IDE hard drive and slower memory (and less of it) than these two gaming PCs.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark2002 office-productivity rating  
Polywell Poly 880NF2-3000 (2.17GHz AMD Athlon XP 3000+, 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
268 
344 
209 
Hypersonic Cyclone (2.17GHz AMD Athlon XP 3000+, 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
259 
338 
199 
HP d325 business desktop (2.17GHz AMD Athlon XP 3000+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz)
250 
326 
192 
Systemax Venture LP U26R (2.66GHz Intel P4, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
247 
346 
177 
ZT Group Home Office Desktop A5003 (AMD Athlon XP 2500+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz)
225 
287 
177 

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
Because it is a business-class system, the HP d325 does not use a high-end graphics card. A business has no need for a graphics card that's aimed specifically at games. The d325's GeForce4 MX400 keeps the overall cost down and will still be able to handle almost any of today's games. The MX440 is not DirectX 9 certified, however, so it will have problems with games in the near future using DirectX 9.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 (16-bit color)  
Futuremark's 3DMark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 (32-bit color)  
Hypersonic Cyclone (Nvidia GeForce FX 5800 Ultra)
16,478 
16,052 
Polywell Poly 880NF2-3000 (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
15,807 
15,436 
ZT Group Home Office Desktop A5003 (Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra)
10,048 
9,618 
HP d325 business desktop (Nvidia GeForce4 MX440 AGP 8X)
6,225 
4,978 
Systemax Venture LP U26R (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440)
5,198 
4,077 

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  
Hypersonic Cyclone (Nvidia GeForce FX 5800 Ultra)
279.7 
Polywell Poly 880NF2-3000 (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
258.1 
ZT Group Home Office Desktop A5003 (Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra)
207.0 
HP d325 business desktop (Nvidia GeForce4 MX440 AGP 8X)
105.0 
Systemax Venture LP U26R (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440)
86.0 

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:

HP d325 business desktop
Windows XP Professional; 2.17GHz AMD Athlon XP 3000+; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 AGP 8X 64MB; Maxtor 6Y0160L0 160GB 7,

Hypersonic Cyclone
Windows XP Professional; 2.17GHz AMD Athlon XP 3000+; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5800 Ultra 128MB; two IBM/Hitachi IC35L180AVV07 180GB 7,200rpm; Promise FastTrak TX2/TX4 controller

Polywell Poly 880NF2-3000
Windows XP Professional; 2.66GHz Intel P4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX440 64MB; Samsung SP8004H 80GB 7,200rpm

Systemax Venture LP U26R
Windows XP Professional; 2.66GHz Intel P4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX440 64MB; Samsung SP8004H 80GB 7,200rpm

ZT Group Home Office Desktop A5003
Windows XP Professional; 1.83GHz AMD Athlon XP 2500+; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra 128MB; Seagate ST3120023A 120GB 7,200rpm HP's warranty falls shy of ideal, covering the d325's parts for three years but labor for only one. You also get a year of onsite service as part of the deal, along with 24/7 toll-free phone support that spans the life of the system. A printed, multilanguage quick-setup guide will help HP's color-blind customers connect the right cables to their corresponding ports. The user manual, contained on a CD-ROM, is thorough and includes information on desktop-management issues for larger offices and a troubleshooting guide that any office will find useful.

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