HP dx5150 Small Form Factor review

Price when reviewed

When we looked at HP’s current generation of Intel-based business PCs, the dc7600 series, we praised their versatility and ingenious design. Based on Intel’s 945G Express chipset, the dc7600 series utilises the silicon giant’s Stable Image Platform (SIP). This not only standardises the process of mass rollout with a single disk image across the range, but also provides a level of guarantee for future support.

HP dx5150 Small Form Factor review

As a range, the dx5150 is based around an ATi chipset and Socket 939 AMD processors. Like the dc7600, there’s a number of specifications available; in this case, everything from cheaper single-cored CPUs up to a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 3800+. Although there’s no specific equivalent of SIP here, you can still use a single disk image across the dx5150 range, as the chipset is common across all models. HP is only promising the platform will be ‘stable’ until April 2006 though.

The dx5150 Small Form Factor sits in the middle of the range, and our review specification included an AMD Athlon 3200+ processor and 512MB of RAM, achieving a score of 0.86 in our benchmarks. It’s a fast, everyday PC though, as its score of 1.15 in our Office tests show: that’s 15 per cent faster than our reference 3.2GHz Pentium D 840 PC. Those looking for after-hours entertainment will be disappointed, as the integrated ATi Radeon Xpress 200 GPU lacks the muscle for current gaming titles, but it’s sufficient to have these machines running Windows Vista when the time comes.

The hard disk is an 80GB Seagate Barracuda model; restrictive compared to modern consumer PCs, but still more than enough for most office uses. If not, there’s a spare 3.5in bay and a Serial ATA port on the motherboard for future expansion. The review specification also offers a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive rather than a DVD writer, so other backup methods would be preferable for mission-critical data.

You won’t have problems if you need to add external peripherals, though, as you’ll find a generous eight USB ports, two of which are on the front panel along with audio input/outputs. The mouse and keyboard are connected via the PS/2 ports, thus maximising the number of peripherals you can attach.

The keyboard itself is worthy of note too, simply because of how quiet it is. Unlike many others, there’s no rattling or clicking in evidence, so you can tap away in a quiet environment with impunity. One minor objection is the mouse, though, which is a ball model rather than a more robust optical one.

But we have no complaints elsewhere. We’re used to budget PCs – particularly when they’re this aggressively priced – looking and feeling cheap, but the dx5150 bears all of HP’s customary build quality and design features. Accessing the internals is easy, with just a slide-off tool-less lid in the way. You can then swing up the chassis containing the optical drive and hard disk, giving access to four DIMM sockets (two of which are free). There’s also a PCI Express 16x graphics slot, one PCI Express 1x slot and two traditional PCI slots, all of which are half height. Unlike the dc7600 Ultra Slim Desktop, which is even smaller than the dx5150, there’s no option to install a full-sized PCI card horizontally.

Sensible design and routing keep the power and data cables out of the way, and a duct on top of the heatsink/fan vents heat directly out the side, meaning there’s little in the way of heat build-up in the system. This has the twin advantages of increased reliability and reduced noise: the dx5150 produces a low-level hum that’s too quiet to hear in most offices and barely perceptible in a quiet room.

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