HP dc5100 SFF PW187ET review

£598
Price when reviewed

The dc5100 is HP’s mid-range business system, with only the top-spec dc7100 sitting above it. That shares a similar small-form-factor (SFF) chassis, but the dc5100 is designed for those who need greater performance and more recent technology – such as Serial ATA – than offered by the HP’s lower-end PCs but who don’t want to pay out too much cash.

As you’d expect with a business machine, the case is tool-free: just press a button on each side, pull the lid forward and off, and the innards are laid bare for servicing or upgrades. You also have access to the front, since the fascia is attached to the lid. The 240W PSU is hinged at the rear edge of the case floor, so it can swing up and out the back. This exposes the hard disk hidden beneath, which can then be released with a catch and lifted free after the optical drive cage is out of the way. The motherboard is held in place with a thumbscrew, and once undone it shifts forward slightly, unhooking from studs rising from the case. At the back, a single locking bar releases any expansion cards you’ve fitted.

The basic design is sound, although there’s room for improvement. The optical drive caddy is released via a tab and a spring pushes it slightly forward, although it requires some force to click it back into place. Once the cage is fully extended, the optical drive can be lifted straight out. You might want to do this to replace the 16x DVD-ROM with a CD or DVD writer at a later date. The optical and hard drives’ power cables run a tight loop round the back and the cage’s sharp edge scuffs the insulation, although it’s unlikely you’d slice through. The main power loom also obstructs two of the four DIMM memory sockets, causing a lot of unnecessary fiddling about when fitting memory upgrades.

Sitting underneath the PSU is an 80GB Samsung SATA 7,200rpm hard disk with an 8MB buffer, and it’s here that you get a glimpse of how carefully HP considers maintenance issues. There are spare guide-rail screws for the drives threaded into the front of the chassis, and the excellent CD documentation even explains that the black screws are metric and the silver ones imperial. Mind you, the screws require a Torx T15 screwdriver. There’s a spare 3.5in slot at the bottom of the optical drive’s cage for expansion. The standard fascia blanks this off, so if you want to install a floppy, Zip or other removable-media drive after purchase you’ll need to order the appropriate fascia.

One 512MB stick of PC3200 (400MHz) DDR2 SDRAM is supplied in this configuration. The maximum layout is 4GB of PC4300 (533MHz) memory in a dual-channel configuration across the four DIMM sockets. Intel’s 2.8GHz Pentium 4 520 CPU tackles the processing, pushing the system to an overall 2D benchmark of 1.56, which is what we’d expect for this specification, although other dc5100 options range all the way from a 2.66GHz Celeron D to a 3.4GHz Pentium 4. Graphics come courtesy of the integrated Intel 915GV Express chipset, which dynamically shares up to 128MB of system RAM. It provides PCI Express, albeit just a single x1 slot beside the two standard PCI expansion slots. All cards must be low profile.

At the back of the case, there’s a padlock tab to secure the lid, and you can order a security clip if you want to use a Kensington lock. The multilingual BIOS has the usual setup and power-on passwords, but you can also ‘hide’ physical items such as the USB ports (or just the front ones), the system’s audio and the network controller.

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