Budget buyers, HP has your number: 349. That's the number of dollars it'll take to own the new Pavilion a210e, the lowest-priced Windows-based PC we've seen to date. So, what does $349 get you these days? A PC with an Athlon 2000+ processor, 256MB of DDR memory, a 40GB hard drive, integrated graphics, and a CD-ROM drive--but no monitor or speakers. As expected with a budget system, it's fine for basic use, but it drags when multitasking or running high-end graphics apps. Luckily, the Pavilion a210e has room to add a graphics card, more memory, and a CD-RW drive. For budget-conscious novices, students, and those looking to add a PC to their home network, the Pavilion a210e is a smart budget buy.
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Behind door number one: USB ports and a floppy drive.
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|Basic though it is, the a210e gives you room to grow.|
Two captured thumbscrews offer easy access to the Pavilion a210e's interior. It's neatly organized, but the basic specs naturally keep the mess minimal. The Pavilion a210e's good expandability includes an open AGP slot for adding a graphics card, plus two free PCI slots and an unoccupied memory slot.
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We suggest adding a CD burner in the open bay below the a210e's CD-ROM drive.
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|Blue of a kind: peripherals share the Pavilion's new color scheme.|
Unless you're using the Pavilion a210e as a second or third PC, you'll want to add a few features to make it more capable. A 48X CD burner bumps the price of the PC past $400. Adding a monitor such as the HP m703 that we received, a 17-inch CRT with the updated blue color scheme and a sharp picture, tacks on an extra $150.
The keyboard and the mouse also share the new color scheme. We enjoyed the keyboard's responsiveness and its shortcut keys but were disappointed to find that the mouse used an old-fashioned roller ball rather than an optical sensor.
We're not sure whom HP is trying to fool, but stuffing a system with trial offer after trial offer does not a better value make. We counted 26 desktop icons upon first powering up the system, 10 of which were useless promotional offers. Once you cut through the clutter, you'll find Corel's WordPerfect 10.0 and Quattro Pro 10.0 for your word processing and spreadsheet needs. ArcSoft's PhotoImpression 4.0 is a basic photo-editing program that will appeal to novices. Application performance
The HP Pavilion a210e will suffice for basic computing tasks, but its benchmark performance was woeful. The chief culprit for its poor showing was the aging Via KM266 chipset and a shared-memory architecture. Had HP chosen to couple the Athlon XP 2000+ processor with a more current chipset--Nvidia's Nforce-2 springs to mind--you'd see vastly improved performance. Even with mainstream apps, you might have to wait for some menus to load or tasks to complete.
Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Note: In order to find acceptable comparison systems we had to include a number of system configurations that are no longer available.|
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
Budget systems are rarely the right choice for someone looking to play games and educational titles with heavy-duty 3D graphics demands. That's because most budget systems use integrated graphics solutions, which typically lack significant 3D graphics power. Unfortunately, the Pavilion a210e, with its integrated S3 ProSavage graphics engine follows this trend.
3D graphics performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark 2001 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)
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.
Windows XP Home; 2.12 AMD Athlon XP 2600+; Via KM266 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; WDC WD1200AB-00DBA0, 120GB, ATA/100, 5,400rpm
Freeway Tech Innovation A2800M
Windows XP Home; 1.67MHz AMD Athlon XP 2000+; Via KT266A chipset; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; ATI Radeon 9700 64MB; Maxtor 6E040L0, 40GB, ATA/133, 7,200rpm
HP Pavilion a210e
Windows XP Home; 1.67GHz AMD Athlon XP 2000+; Via KM266 chipset; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Maxtor 2F040L0, 40GB, ATA/133, 5,400rpm
HP Pavilion 734n
Windows XP Home; 2GHz AMD Athlon XP 2400+; Via KM266 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Samsung SV8004H, 80GB, ATA/100, 5,400rpm
Sony VAIO PCV-RS100
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel P4; Intel 845G/GL chipset; 256MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Maxtor 4R060L0, 60GB, ATA/133, 5,400rpm HP's service and support options are acceptable. While archcompetitor Dell offers a year's warranty and onsite service, plus lifetime tech support, HP's standard one-year warranty does not include onsite service, and tech-support lasts for only the length of the warranty. Two- and three-year plans are also available. If you buy the system retail, you can take it back to the store for service. HP also offers an end-user parts-replacement program. The system ships with a PC recovery tool and PC Doctor--a hardware troubleshooter. Although not system-specific, documentation is comprehensive, as is online support.