HP's Pavilion 700 series runs the gamut from basic productivity systems to fully loaded multimedia powerhouses. These compact computers won't take up much space on your desktop, but each small case limits room for growth, so it's important to make the right component choices when ordering. Thankfully, you have plenty of options: these Pentium 4 machines can be customized in configurations ranging from less than $1,000 to more than $4,000. And although these systems won't break any benchmark records, they're still respectively speedy. Overall, the 700 series is an excellent choice if you're more likely to replace a system than to crack it open and upgrade individual components. We suggest bypassing the base 2GHz model, however, unless you'll never need 3D graphics.
|Two USB and one FireWire ports up front. Four and two, respectively, in the back.|
The one component that remains constant throughout the HP Pavilion 700 series is the minitower case. We tested the 792, which has a case that measures 15x14x8.2 inches (HWD). Although the case boasts a reasonable five drive bays, its design requires a motherboard with just three PCI slots. Both the entry-level 752n and the high-end 792n systems come already equipped with a modem and a FireWire card, which leaves available only a single 3.5-inch drive bay and one PCI slot. The 700 series' motherboards are equipped with built-in sound and 10/100 networking as well as six USB slots, so the minimal upgrade opportunities may not be much of a factor since you are provided with most--if not all--of the tools you'll need. Two of the USB slots are on the front of the case where they're easy to access, as is one of the three FireWire ports.
Your biggest fan (cover).
I will call it a "mini spindle."
Thumbscrews make for easy case entry, but to get access to the HP 700 series' second open DIMM slot (for adding additional memory), you'll have to remove the large, plastic fan vent and hard drive cage. Plastic covers that pop open upon disc ejection hide the optical drives. This creates a sleek, almost art deco look for the case.
One final note on design: HP makes use of the top of the case by including a short, 10-disc spindle to hold your most used CDs and DVDs. Just flip the lid closed, and your discs will be protected from dust and stored out of sight.
Expansion minded? Beware the HP Pavilion 700 series' video configuration. HP's base model with a 2GHz Pentium 4, the Pavilion 752n, relies on the video capabilities built into the Intel i845GL motherboard chipset, omitting an AGP slot. This commits you to poor 3D performance with no chance of upgrading in the future. On the upside, the 752n includes 512MB of memory, so you won't take a performance hit from the 40MB of RAM that the video subsystem grabs.
The 792n leaves some room for expansion.
HP's MX70 CRT monitor is a nice if unexceptional 17-inch display. But if you have the budget for it, we suggest the Pavilion f70 17-inch LCD instead. Sharp and bright, the 1,280x1,024-resolution f70 has a quick refresh rate and can keep up with the fastest 3D games without the smearing that's evident on some LCDs. Note: HP does not include a monitor in the prices it lists for its desktops; you must purchase one separately or use the customization feature to add one to your PC purchase.
Although the f70 LCD monitor includes a digital visual input (DVI) in addition to the traditional analog SVGA connector and there are numerous GeForce4 Ti 4600 cards available with digital output, the card included with our Pavilion 792n came with only an analog output. The display's image was outstanding, but with a DVI connection, it could have been even better, since with DVI you can avoid the digital-to-analog conversion that occurs with CRTs.
We also tested the three-piece Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speaker system included with the Pavilion 792. If you choose to custom configure your Pavilion, you'll have plenty of speaker options, ranging from dinky two-piece sets to 5.1 surround-sound systems.
HP's software package is bountiful. The Pavilion 700 series ships with Microsoft Windows XP Home and the Microsoft Works suite, or you can choose Microsoft Office Small Business Edition with XP Home ($100) or XP Professional ($200). The start menu overflows with additional applications to the point that it's likely to overwhelm novices. (HP should group similar applications so that the menu doesn't spill over into two columns.) These programs are of varying utility. Some are obviously useful, such as Quicken New User Edition, InterVideo WinDVD, HP RecordNow CD-Writer software, and Sonic MyDVD 3.0, which you'll get if you opt for HP's DVD+R/+RW writer option. Others, including the HP Center launch bar (click it only if you want the support updates, product news, and special offers from HP) and demos of apps such as WordPerfect Office, IntelliMover, and various WildTangent games smack more of marketing than utility.
With top-of-the-line components under its hood, it's no wonder that the HP Pavilion 792n turned in excellent application scores; it certainly has enough power to handle even the most demanding applications. This top-notch office-productivity muscle as well as excellent content-creation performance is right on target for similarly configured 2.53GHz P4-based systems using DDR SDRAM. But if you want to maximize every iota of horsepower that the processor has to offer, RDRAM, which you'll find on the Gateway 700XL, is still the way to go.
Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
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
Combine one of the fastest processors on the market (2.53GHz P4) with one of the speediest graphics engines (GeForce4 Ti 4600), and you have a solution to which even hard-core gamers would give an enthusiastic thumbs-up. While you might see slight 3D-graphics performance differences among systems using the same CPU and graphics card combination, the variation is often merely from different display driver versions--nothing a quick download and install can't fix. The bottom line: The 792n will satisfy the needs of the entire spectrum of gamers.
3D graphics performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at both 16-bit 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 (Longer bars indicate better performance)
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-end to high-end graphics subsystems. Quake III performance is reported in frames per second (fps).
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell Dimension 4500
Windows XP Home; 2.53GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB; Western Digital WD1200JB-75CRA0 120GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.53GHz Intel P4; 512MB RDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB; Western Digital WD120BB-53CAA0 120GB 7,200rpm
HP Pavilion 792n
Windows XP Home; 2.53GHz Intel P4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB; Western Digital WD1200BB-22AA0 120GB 7,200rpm
Systemax Venture EXU24
Windows XP Home; 2.53GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB; Western Digital WD1200BB-00CAA1 120GB 7,200rpm
HP's standard Pavilion 700 warranty-and-support policy covers parts and labor for one year, with toll-call diagnostic tech support for the lifetime of your system. We suggest the $99.99 upgrade, which extends this to three years of parts and labor coverage with lifetime toll-free diagnostic support. Whichever plan you choose, you'll need to either carry the system into an authorized service center, ship it back, or install replacement parts yourself; onsite service is not an option.