HP Compaq dc7600 Ultra Slim Desktop review

£682
Price when reviewed

It must be nice to work in one of those offices where everything is tidy, and a PC takes pride of place smack in the middle of each desktop. But in the messy real world, workers appreciate a PC that gives them elbow room to get on with the job, and the HP Compaq dc7600 Ultra Slim Desktop comes in a tidy little package designed to do exactly that.

Measuring 315 x 345 x 75mm, it doesn’t need much room, and a display can perch on the solid metal casing. It even has a notebook optical drive for a low profile. If you need a bigger case, the dc7600 range includes a larger desktop chassis and a tower case.

Processor choices start with a 2.66GHz Celeron D 331, and HP will offer a dual-core 2.8GHz Pentium D 820 at the top end if you need to run multiple intensive applications. The fastest Pentium 4 option will be a 3GHz 630 processor (although our review sample came with a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 640), combining an 800MHz FSB with 2MB of Level 2 cache. This will pump out more than enough power for most business tasks now, and for a good while ahead. We recorded a healthy 1.73 overall in our benchmarks.

All processor options use the 945G Express chipset, the cornerstone of Intel’s new Professional Business Platform. It introduces Intel Active Management Technology (IAMT), an incredibly useful feature that allows remote access even to PCs that have been shut down or have failed to start, so that monitoring, asset tracking, fault diagnosis and recovery actions can still be carried out.

The chipset also uses Intel’s GMA 950 graphics core, sharing up to 128MB of system memory. This new integrated system will be fine for tackling video playback and any other standard business graphics activities. The chipset’s Matrix RAID technology can’t be exploited, since there’s only space for one hard disk. But there are still features that work with a single disk, such as NCQ (Native Command Queuing), and RAID options can be fully explored in the dc7600 tower case.

It’s unlikely you’ll need more than the 512MB of PC4200 DDR2 SDRAM for most applications. It’s set in a dual-channel configuration of two 256MB sticks, and there’s one DIMM socket free – the maximum you’ll be able to fit is 3GB of PC5300. The 80GB 7,200rpm hard disk in our review sample is mid-way along the dc7600’s 40GB to 160GB range, and our standard CD-ROM drive could also be replaced with a CD or DVD burner. It’s also nice to see a TPM 1.2 chip (Trusted Platform Module) as standard, to boost security options.

Anyone who has worked near a noisy PC before will appreciate the sheer quietness of the dc7600. There are three fans: one in the fascia to suck air in; one on the back of the heatsink to draw air through; and one in the 200W PSU. Even while working hard, the system never became noticeably noisy and, although the slow draw through the CPU heatsink meant it got rather hot, it cooled down quickly on return to idle.

Apart from being quiet, a business PC worth its salt must also be easy to service, and the tool-free internals are remarkably tidy. The optical drive is easily ejected, and a solid riser connects it to the motherboard without messy cables. The drive cage comes away with the fascia, but here we hit a snag with our early review sample. Captive speaker and fan wiring was too short to let the fascia out of its guide slots, and we needed pliers to reach the plugs on the motherboard. Longer wiring or plugs at the fascia would solve this and we’re confident HP will address the issue in final production units. It’s important, because this assembly needs to come away before you can pull out the hard disk underneath.

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