It's been over a year since a vendor submitted a budget all-in-one, so I had to dig deep into the review archive to find comparisons for the Best Buy-exclusive HP Omni 120-1024. What I found is that this $499 PC offers almost as many raw features as a $699 unit this time last year, although its performance is not quite as fast as I had hoped. I can recommend the Omni 120 if you want a simple desktop as a basic home computing/storage hub, or if you intend to do a lot of stationary typing. For more entertainment-oriented family computing, your $500 might be better directed toward an iPad.
The Omni 120 is the most affordable model of the handful of new all-in-ones from HP released earlier this fall. Aimed at budget shoppers looking for a basic, non-touch all-in-one desktop, the Omni line, and the 120 model in particular, features an inoffensive design (some might say bland), and a value-oriented assortment of components. You won't play demanding games with this PC, and I wouldn't recommend you use it for regular content creation, but it's perfectly serviceable as a light-duty, day-to-day home computer.
|HP Omni 120-1024||Lenovo C315||HP Pavilion All-In-One MS225|
|Display size/resolution||20-inches, 1,600x900||20-inches, 1,600x900||18.4-inches, 1,366x768|
|CPU||1.65GHz AMD Dual-Core 450E||1.6GHz AMD Athlon II X2 250u||1.6GHz AMD Athlon II X2 250|
|Memory||4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||384MB AMD Radeon HD 6320 integrated graphics chip||512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530||256MB ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics|
|Hard drives||500GB 7,200 rpm||500GB 7,200 rpm||320GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
Compared with HP's January 2010 non-touch Pavilion All-in-One MS255 (its Omni precursor), the new Omni 120-1024 offers a much improved assortment of features for a lower cost. You get a larger monitor with a higher display resolution in the new model, as well as a larger hard drive and true high-bandwidth 802.11n wireless networking. The features in this new HP are almost identical to those of the Lenovo C315 budget all-in-one, which cost nearly $700 last summer. In any case, HP has hit all of the basic computing hardware notes with the Omni 120-1024, and for a reasonable price.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
Unfortunately, the Omni 120's performance does not offer the same degree of improvements compared with the older models. The AMD E-450 chip in the new model has the same core clock speed as the Athlon II X2 in the Lenovo and the older HP, but it's built around a new design that emphasizes graphics processing as much as performing standard computing tasks. That design, combined with the fact that the E450 is a budget-class mobile chip, means this system will not fare well next to other CPUs, even older ones, designed for raw application processing. It's not entirely unreasonable for a $499 desktop like the Omni 120 to lag behind an older system like the Lenovo C315 that sold for $699 a year ago. But it's clear that although the Omni offers better features for the dollar than you would find a year ago, you cannot say the same about its performance.
I suspect most of the likely purchasers of this PC won't mind the comparatively slow speed, since it handles basic tasks like Web surfing, running office applications, and playing media files with no obvious difficulty. I can also report that the Omni 120 was able to play Portal 2. I couldn't use most of the advanced graphics settings, but the Omni was at least able to play the game smoothly at the display's native 1,600x900-pixel resolution. I would not expect the same success with more-demanding titles like Battlefield 3, Rage, and the upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but you may have success with older PC games.
The potential to run into applications that won't work on the Omni 120-1024 is one of the reason why I suggest that you might consider an iPad if you have $500 or so to spend. With an iPad and its Apple-curated App Store, you will essentially never run into software that you can't use. With the more open PC software universe, you can fairly easily find a game or a higher-end media-editing program that the Omni 120 can't run.
I don't intend for this review to devolve into a dissertation on the merits of tablets and traditional computers, but the rise of tablet computing, and the iPad in particular, means that those shopping for lower-cost computers now have a more complicated tech landscape to consider before making a purchase. A desktop still makes sense for a lot of users (students with papers to write, or those with large music, photo, or movie libraries, to name two), but if you're looking for a computer for basic entertainment, social networking, or other predominantly light-duty activities, a tablet could very well serve all of those needs in a more compact package.
Along with only a basic set of core features, the Omni 120-1024 provides a similarly spare set of external connectivity options. It has six USB 2.0 jacks between its left edge and rear panel. You will also find two analog audio jacks and an SD Card slot along its left side. On the back, you get an Ethernet input and another analog audio output. HP includes no hard display or volume controls on the system itself, but the wired keyboard does offer basic volume buttons.
|HP Omni 120-1024||Average watts per hour|
|Raw (annual kWh)||124.18614|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$14.10|
Although its power consumption comes in at a modest annual average of $14.10, the Omni 120 seems to commit the cardinal sin of drawing more power than another system that has better performance. I say "seems to," because the Omni also has a larger monitor, and a higher display resolution than the Pavilion MS225, which means the Omni has to power more pixels than its forebear. With only $1.82 between the two, the gap is not worthy of criticism, and in general, the Omni 120-1024 is as power efficient as it should be.
HP includes a basic one-year parts and labor warranty with the Omni 120. You also get 24-7 toll-free phone support and a variety of support resources available on HP's Web site, as well as on the system itself.
HP's low-cost Omni 120-1024 delivers exactly what I'd hope to find in a sub-$500 all-in-one. It's fast enough to serve as a basic day-to-day home desktop, with enough functionality and connectivity to accommodate average technology consumers. You will quickly find its limits if you try to branch out of those mainstream tasks, and I'd also suggest that you consider whether a tablet might fill your needs instead. On balance, I recommend the Omni 120-1024 most for those who need to produce regular written content or who want a large amount of storage space for digital media files.
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HP Omni 120-1024
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz AMD E450; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 384MB (shared) AMD Radeon HD 6320 integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion All-in-One MS225 Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz AMD Athlon II X2 250; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) AMD Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
Lenovo C315 Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz AMD Athlon II X2 250u; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530; 500GB Seagate hard drive