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The HP Pavilion a6620f desktop PC gives you plenty of features at a price that won't leave a smoking hole in your wallet. For $570, you get a dual-core 2.5GHz Intel processor, 4GB of RAM, a low grade integrated video chip, and 500GB of hard-drive space--a solid configuration for the price. The case itself is easy on the eyes and will blend into any home-office environment, and we also like the integrated digital-audio port on the back of the chassis. Dell offers another budget computer with better features, but it doesn't have a digital-audio connection and it costs $30 more. The HP Pavilion a5520f is an acceptable budget PC for audio enthusiasts who might want a digital output, but if you use programs that display intense graphics or need the extra storage, the competition gives you a better system for a little more money.
Like many desktops in the HP Pavilion line, the tower integrates a media-card reader onto the top of the chassis for transferring files directly off a number of different card types including SD, MMC, Memory Stick Pro/Duo, Compact Flash I/II, SmartMedia, etc. A dual-layer DVD burner sits below the card reader, and under that there's an expansion bay for portable hard drives. Finally, a covered slot at the bottom hides microphone and headphone ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and a FireWire 400 port. The rear is standard for a budget PC, except HP includes ports for digital-audio out and in, something we hardly ever see in this price range. Home audio engineers might be glad to see those ports, but anyone with a digital-only display will be disappointed, because this system only has a VGA video output. Fortunately, most LCDs include the adapter you'll need; aftermarket adapters are also available for cheap.
The HP also provides a wide array of internal expansion options. You can add a secondary hard drive as well as an extra portable hard drive through the front bay. You can also put in a third-party video card or add two 1x PCI Express cards to your system. You can also squeeze in another PCI slot if you gut the inside and pull out the 56k modem. It's possible to increase the 4GB of RAM, but be prepared to sacrifice at least one gigabyte for future upgrades--all four slots are already filled with 1GB sticks.
|HP Pavilion a6620f||Dell Inspiron 530-115B|
|CPU||2.5GHz Intel Pentium E5200 Dual Core||2.66GHz Intel E7300 Dual Core|
|Memory||4GB 832MHz DDR2 SDRAM||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||128MB (shared) Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3100 integrated graphics chip||256MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||500GB, 7,20 rpm||640GB 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||10/100 Ethernet||10/100 Ethernet|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
For our side-by-side comparison chart, we're using the Dell Inspiron 530-115B, another off-the-shelf Best Buy computer similar to the HP Pavilion a6620 in both price and components. The two standout differences between these computers are processor speed and hard drive space. The Inspiron's 2.66 GHz processor is slightly faster than the 2.5GHz HP, but it adds an extra 140GB of hard drive space. Both computers offer an integrated Ethernet card and have the same amount of onboard memory, but the HP gets an extra point for the aforementioned digital audio in/out. For a paltry $30 difference, we argue that the Dell offers more generally useful features for your dollar.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
Although both systems are faster than the rest of the computers in the lineup, the Dell emerges as the leader in all four system-speed tests. Its increased processor speed yields winning results in the iTunes and Photoshop application tests, and it even finished the multicore CineBench test faster than the HP Pavilion. We were impressed to see the Inspiron best a triple core system in its original review, so this time around, the repeat victory against a weaker competitor is no surprise.
HP backs the Pavilion a6620 with an industry-standard one-year limited warranty that covers parts and labor. Phone support is available 24-7 in addition to real-time online troubleshooting through remote service. Users can send help requests via e-mail, and HP claims all questions are usually answered within an hour. Finally, a desktop icon is already installed onto the desktop that gives one-touch access to online technical support, FAQs, downloads, and driver upgrades.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
HP Pavilion a6620f
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Pentium X2 E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive.
Dell Inspiron 530
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.8GHz Intel Pentium E2160; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8300 GS graphics card; 320GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Pentium E5200 Dual Core; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) NVidia GeForce 7100 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Acer Aspire X3200
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X3 8400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8200 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.
HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.8GHz AMD Athlon X2 5400+; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150 SE; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive.