HP's "making the computer personal" slogan is a pretty easy one to throw around, but it's slightly harder to back up. This is especially true in a market so heavily saturated with top tier players and whitebox manufacturers working on shoestring margins that everything has become a bit faceless. HP yesterday announced the launch of their HP Pavilion a6000 series of PC desktop systems, a series they hope will change that perception. Finished in a modern-home friendly black piano finish, granted looks are important, but people buy on spec and spec makes or breaks sales.
AU$2,299 gets you the Pavilion a6060a model, packing an Intel based Core 2 Duo E6400 chip clocking in at 2.13GHz and packing a 2MB L2 cache. It's not the highest end chip available on the market, but this isn't a PC pulling out all the stops with performance in mind. The now common 1GB of DDR2 memory is here, although the machine ships with Windows Vista Home Premium, so you may want to consider dropping in an extra gig for a smoother desktop experience with all the visual effects enabled.
Storage is in good condition with a nice big 320GB hard drive, enough for family photos, home movies and school projects. Should you find you're hitting the space ceiling, there's always the integrated DVD burner (with Lightscribe technology to label them) to back up the older files and stuff you may not need straight away.
Graphics are taken care of by NVIDIA's GeForce 7500LE card, by no means the top of the graphics food chain, but grunty enough for the odd game, the Vista Aero interface and to drive the supplied 19-inch LCD monitor. The card supports TurboCache, meaning when the graphics get heavy the system can borrow from your RAM to render images, but this also means you're eating into your system memory. On the plus side, this is a stand-alone PCI-Express card, letting you swap it out down the track if you ever find you want something with a bit more go.
Despite Windows Vista Home Premium including the Media Centre component as part of the offering, there's no TV tuner to be found in the HP Pavilion a660a, although there are three free PCI slots for expansion, or there's always USB tuners if you're not experienced with PC gut tinkering.
Your memory expansion is slightly hampered by HP's choice of filling two of the four DIMM sockets with 512MB sticks rather than a single 1GB piece, meaning you can go to 3GB before you'll need to junk the two 512MB sticks to make the maximum 4GB of RAM the machine supports.
About average for a desktop in this price bracket, Dell's AMD offering does include an additional gigabyte of memory to smooth out the Vista performance and comes in about AU$30 cheaper than the HP machine.
On paper it's by no means the fastest or highest spec machine available, but you'll know that in advance if you plan on buying one. It does however have what families are after, with the ability to grow as your uses do.