HP Presario SR1910NX (Sempron 1.8 GHz review: HP Presario SR1910NX (Sempron 1.8 GHz

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The Good Meets basic computing needs at a bargain-basement price; 24/7 phone support; strong software bundle.

The Bad Shared graphics memory eats away from system memory; PCs that cost $200 more are more than twice as fast and will handle Windows Vista (this one won't); no media card reader; desktop and start menu cluttered with trial offers.

The Bottom Line The HP Compaq Presario SR1910NX is as strong a system as any other $400 computer, but that's not saying a lot. Spend a bit more--while still staying firmly rooted in the budget class--and you can push its replacement date back a couple years.

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5.1 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 5
  • Performance 5
  • Support 6

We'd like to thank HP and its $400 Compaq Presario SR1910NX for helping us illustrate an important point: the gap between a $400 PC and the $600 PC is a wide one. If you're considering a budget PC purchase and can find a way to make the extra $200 leap, we highly recommend it, because you can get much more computer for your dollar. This is not a knock against the SR1910NX in particular; for the price, it's about as powerful and as feature rich as you might expect. It's just that you can't expect much. And while you can certainly make the argument that many people need no more than a basic PC such as this for e-mail, browsing the Web, and running the occasional office app, the upcoming release of Windows Vista and Vista-level applications changes the landscape somewhat. This system barely meets the basic requirements for Windows XP, and with its 32-bit processor, it's not making the leap to Vista. To stretch your PC dollar further, we recommend moving up a bit within the budget class and considering the HP Pavilion a1510n or the Cyberpower Back to School 2006.

In order for Windows XP to really run smoothly, you need 512MB of RAM. The Presario SR1910NX has that much, but it also has an integrated graphics chip that steals some of the system memory, so at no time are you actually running Windows with the full 512MB allotment. You can get by with the variable amount (which will never dip below the Windows XP minimum of 256MB), but you can also expect noticeable slowdowns whenever you run graphically intense media. A graphics card with its own dedicated memory will alleviate the problem, and HP accommodates such an upgrade via the system's free x16 PCI Express graphics slot.

Unfortunately, you can't make any upgrades prior to purchase; the Presario SR1910NX is a fixed configuration, available only in retail stores. If you want a model you can customize, look to the Compaq Presario 1900Z series, available on HP's Web site. There you can add memory, hard drive capacity, and other upgrades. The costs of the various extra parts are reasonable, but the selection is limited. HP offers no dual-core processors for a Presario 1900Z series PC, for example.

The processor you get with the Presario SR1910NX is befitting of a system in this price range. It's a single-core, 1.8GHz AMD Sempron 3200+. AMD's budget processor is neither dual core nor 64-bit capable (both of which will matter more with Windows Vista), and its lack of power contributes to the SR1910NX's low scores on CNET Labs' benchmarks. But really, the major performance issue has to do with the memory. Our multitasking test is a good indicator of how sharing the system memory with the graphics chip hurts performance. On that test, the SR1910NX took 8 minutes, 32 seconds to finish our simultaneous run of a virus scan, a video encode, and a file copy. For $200 more, you can purchase HP's own Pavilion a1510n desktop, which completed the same test in 6 minutes, 20 seconds or, better, pick up the dual-core CPU-powered Cyberpower's Back to School 2006, which finished the test in 4 minutes, 28 seconds.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Multitasking test

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Microsoft Office productivity test

If you don't care about raw performance or transitioning to Vista next year and you simply want a computer for basic tasks, the Presario SR1910NX will suffice. It also makes a good choice for a cheap second computer. It has a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive for burning CDs and watching movies. You don't get a DVD burner, but there is a spare optical-drive slot if you want to add one in later. We're also pleasantly surprised to see that at the low end of the budget price range you can still get a moderately roomy 120GB hard drive. There's no media card reader, though, an omission that seems especially lame, since it's only a $10 add-on on HP's Web site.

We have to give HP credit for the amount of free software that comes with the Presario SR1910NX. It provides a broad collection of applications that any user will find useful, including Microsoft Works 2006, Quicken New User Edition 2006, Norton Internet Security 2006, Sonic DigitalMedia Plus for burning CDs and making printed labels, as well as a collection of handy application, driver, and operating-system backup tools. We wish HP held back a bit on the baitware, though. The desktop and start menu are cluttered with 30-day and otherwise limited trial versions of various games and services, as well as links to Web sites inviting users to purchase extended HP service plans and added Web security. More useful are the desktop shortcuts pointing you to eBay and HP's SnapFish Web photo sharing service.

HP's service package for the Presario SR1910NX is mostly on a par with those from other PC vendors, with a few downsides. It covers the hardware with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, but the software gets only 90 days of coverage. Phone support is toll-free and operates 24/7. Its Web site offers real-time support chat, e-mail response, as well as comprehensive, system-specific driver downloads and recovery software.

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