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HP Pavilion a210e (Athlon XP 1.67 GHz review: HP Pavilion a210e (Athlon XP 1.67 GHz

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The Good Free upgrade to 256MB of memory; AGP slot; responsive keyboard; new metallic-blue color scheme is sporty.

The Bad No CD-burning or DVD-viewing capabilities; outdated chipset holds back performance; way too much bloatware; outdated roller-ball mouse.

The Bottom Line The HP Pavilion a210e suffers from the usual budget woes, but it's still a good buy for basic computing.

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7.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Support 7

Review Sections

Review summary

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.

/sc/30464509-2-200-DT2.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
Behind door number one: USB ports and a floppy drive.

HP has ditched the Pavilion line's old silver-and-black color scheme in favor of a harmonious, two-tone, blue design that it calls "platinum and dusk blue." The system has two each of 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch external bays, plus two internal hard drive bays. One of each kind of bay is free (our test system included a floppy that adds $20 to the price). A sliding panel keeps two front-mounted USB 2.0 ports and the floppy drive hidden out of the way until needed. Around back, you'll find the typical ports, including parallel, serial, VGA, and audio, along with four additional USB 2.0 ports. A PCI modem card covers dial-up users, while the Via KM266-based motherboard delivers 10/100 Ethernet for the broadband set.

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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.
/sc/30464509-2-200-DT1.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
We suggest adding a CD burner in the open bay below the a210e's CD-ROM drive.

The HP Pavilion a210e offers a pretty good configuration for the price. The 1.67GHz Athlon XP 2000+ processor can handle basic tasks, such as word processing and Web browsing. The standard memory amount is 128MB, but HP is offering a free upgrade to 256MB. From past experience, we can tell you that the additional memory improves any Window XP-based PC's performance, although the a210e's performance merely goes from slow to adequate. The 5,400rpm, 40GB hard drive offers plenty of space to store digital photos, MP3s, and term papers. Gamers will need to invest in a graphics card; the Via KM266's integrated S3 ProSavage graphics are woefully inadequate for such activities.

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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)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark2002 office productivity  
Sony VAIO PCV-RS100 (2GHz Pentium 4, 256MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
HP Pavilion 734n (2GHz Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
eMachines T2625 (2.12GHz Athlon XP 2600+, 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
Freeway Tech Innovation A8200M (1.67MHz AMD Athlon 2000+, 256MB SDRAM 133MHz)
HP Pavilion a210e (1.67GHz Athlon XP 2000+, 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz)
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)
Futuremark's 3DMark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 (16-bit color)  
Futuremark's 3DMark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 (32-bit color)  
HP Pavilion 734n (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420)
Sony VAIO PCV-RS100 (Intel 845G/GL)
Freeway Tech Innovation A2800M (ATI Radeon 9700)
HP Pavilion a210e (S3 ProSavage DDR)
eMachines T2625 (S3 ProSavage DDR)

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)
Quake III Arena  
HP Pavilion 734n (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420)
Sony VAIO PCV-RS100 (Intel 845G/GL)
Freeway Tech Innovation A2800M (ATI Radeon 9700)
eMachines T2625 (S3 ProSavage DDR)
HP Pavilion a210e (S3 ProSavage DDR)

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:

eMachines T2625
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

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.

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