HP Pavilion a6750y
Thanks to a smart balance of components and features, we're actually charmed by HP's Pavilion a6750y. Unlike the disappointing lower-end model, this $710 mainstream desktop packs in the right amount of horsepower alongside some useful extras. Yes, you can spend an additional $70 for a more capable Gateway, but at some point we have to recognize the value a product brings at its given price. We like this HP because it's a relatively clean and capable slate for a standard midtower. You might also use it as a base for modest upgrading. In either case we think you'll be happy with this PC.
The Pavilion's case is a straightforward glossy and matte black combination. It's unobtrusive enough, and we like the fact that HP situated the media card slots conveniently at the top, unobstructed by any kind of sliding panel. We dislike the internal hard-drive cage, however, which is needlessly convoluted and makes adding a second drive more difficult than it needs to be.
|HP Pavilion a6750y||Dell Inspiron I530-120B|
|CPU||2.3GHz AMD Phenom X4 9650||2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7400|
|Memory||8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB 800Mhz DDR2 SDRAM||128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||750GB, 7200 rpm Hitachi||750GB, 7,200 rpm Seagate|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless||10/100 Ethernet|
|Operating system||64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1||64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1|
This HP sits right between two other retail desktops, Dell's $650 Inspiron I530-120B, and Gateway's $780 LX6810-01. We've chosen the Dell for the direct match-up because it's close in price, and with no discrete graphics cards the two make a good performance match-up. We also like the Gateway system for its 3D card, which is rare at that price. Budget-bound gamers especially should be sure to give that system a look. For the features of the HP compared with the Dell, HP gives you more RAM and the benefit of wireless networking. Dell has only wired Ethernet. As we've said before, Wi-Fi in a desktop might not be necessary, but we'll credit HP for adding it here without a major sacrifice to other system specs.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
As we mentioned in our review of the Dell system, these two PCs help us show the various benefits right now of quad-core and dual-core CPUs. For straight-ahead application performance, the fast Dell system outperforms even the $780 Gateway. But in multitasking and multithreaded programs, the HP and its quad-core chip leaves the Dell behind. We'd like to see a point where this either/or performance scenario goes away. For now, we tend to value multitasking capability more than single program speed, especially in lower-end PCs that aren't meant for gaming or serious digital media editing.
We mentioned this HP's Wi-Fi networking, and that's about it for extra features. The DVD burner has become the de facto standard for all PCs with an optical drive bay, and while we're certainly glad to see the USB 2.0, FireWire, and coaxial digital audio outputs on the back, for the most part those features are only notable when they're absent. What we're interested to see is just how soon eSATA and HDMI outputs become equally common to PCs in this price range. Acer's $450 Aspire X1700 has them, and it makes every other system that doesn't look behind the times.
The 300-watt power supply in the Pavilion is also standard for this price, and while the low wattage will prevent you from dropping in a $500 graphics card, you can definitely turn this system into a more modest gaming or digital media-oriented system. The spare optical drive bay can accommodate a Blu-ray drive, and with a PCI Express graphics card slot, and three 1X PCI Express slots, you can add at least a midrange 3D card, as well as a TV tuner or other expansion cards. The system comes with a generous 8GB of RAM, and as such all four RAM slots are taken, but we suspect that will satisfy most of you for at least the near future.
HP backs the Pavilion with one year of parts-and-labor coverage and 24-7 toll-free phone support, as well as onsite support at HP's discretion. You can also find help online through various FAQs and drive download pages, as well as live tech support chat.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell Inspiron I530-120B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7400; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 500GB Samsung 7,200rpm hard drive
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.8GHz AMD Phenom X4 9100e; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
HP Pavilion a6700y
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.8GHz AMD Phenom X4 9150e; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia Geforce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 500GB Seagate 7,200 rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion a6750y
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.3GHz AMD Phenom X4 9650; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 750GB, 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive