HP dc7600 Series – Small Form Factor review
HP is also taking a commendable approach to the environment. Each of these machines is virtually lead-free (the hard disks and optical drives are exceptions), and depending on the quantities involved, HP will recycle your old PCs when you buy new ones (www.hp.co.uk).
Both the Convertible Minitower and Small Form Factor machines have at least one spare internal drive bay free, so you can take advantage of the spare SATA ports. All the machines also have at least one PCI slot free, although the Small Form Factor only supports half-height PCI cards, and the Ultra Slim Desktop requires an optional horizontal riser card to install standard-sized PCI cards.
All these systems can be either vertically or horizontally mounted, and the SFF and Minitower have feet on the sides and base; the Ultra Slim Desktop has a detachable stand. A pair of USB 2 ports, as well as microphone and speaker jacks, are mounted on the front, and each machine has a speaker built in, although this is only adequate for Windows noises.
For added security, each machine has a Trusted Platform Module to supply hardware authentication over a network. A modular Smart Card Reader (£27) is also available to further bolster security.
There’s the same standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse combination across the range. The keyboards were pleasant to type on, but note that the mice aren’t optical.
HP recommends its 1740 17in TFT as an accompaniment to the dc7600 series, but unless you can negotiate a substantial discount, its poor performance leaves it looking expensive at £189. Even dragging a window around the Desktop resulted in noticeable smearing, and horizontal viewing angles are poor.
Like Dell, HP offers a zero footprint option with the Ultra Slim Desktop model, via the HP Integrated Work Center (£44 exc VAT, pictured above). The chassis screws on to the back of the stand, and a 17in or 19in TFT can be screwed on using a standard VESA mount. It’s height-adjustable too. You can also purchase wall mounts for the Ultra Slim Desktop and SFF machines (£26 exc VAT), allowing you to hang your PCs on the wall for added security.
From most angles, the dc7600 range compares favourably with Dell’s OptiPlex range – there’s the level of support that we’d expect from a business vendor, a single disk image across the range, and a broad choice of components and options.
The best value machine in the dc7600 range is the Ultra Slim Desktop. Most office users won’t need the upgradability of the other two, and the price is very competitive.
However, there are a few areas that allow the GX620 USFF to keep its spot on the A List. The most compelling is the price – if you buy the dc7600 closest to the specification of the Dell, the price rises to £585, which is a few pounds more than the smaller, more attractive GX620. While the dc7600 chassis looks consummately professional, we preferred the dark styling of the Dell machines, which lend them a touch of understated class.
HP’s ordering system is less customisable, too. When buying a Dell OptiPlex, anyone – from the smallest one-man business to a corporation employing 30,000 people – can choose the exact specifications they require. With HP, your reseller must be part of the TopConfig program; this allows your account manager to specify the machines you want, and they will then be custom-built by HP. However, if your reseller isn’t part of this scheme, you’re left with the 23 ready-built configurations (three of which we review overleaf).