HP Compaq dc7700 review
Of the Intel vPro machines that have made their way through the Labs, the HP dc7700 is one of the cheapest. This is broadly a good thing – it’s all very well having a PC that can open Word in less than half a second, but not if it’s beyond the financial reach of most IT departments. Since the beginnings of the A List Business PC category, only one PC has broken the £700 barrier, with the majority costing less than £500. It’s clear that for vPro to enter the mainstream, prices will have to drop.
Other than the £237 price differential, the most immediate difference between the Dell OptiPlex 745 and the dc7700 is that Dell’s system is a good deal smarter – there’s no mistaking HP’s system for anything other than a business PC. The roomier chassis has been used to good effect, though. Everything is a little less cluttered inside, and HP has installed a cheaper, desktop-sized optical drive. The chassis is unchanged from the dc7600 series and, although it won’t add anything to a fashion-conscious office, the design is functional. A major plus is that we’ve found it to be very quiet in the past, and this refresh is no different. It’s noisier than the Fujitsu Siemens Esprimo range, but still quiet enough not to be heard in most offices.
There’s more good news when it comes to speedy access, as gaining entry to the internals is tool-less, as is the removal of the optical and hard disks. The dc7700 is a little more upgradable than most business PCs too. The RAM is open to expansion thanks to just a single DIMM being installed, leaving three sockets free. Towards the back of the chassis are two half-height PCI slots, one PCI Express 16x slot and a 1x slot, with the option of purchasing a PCI riser to install a full-sized card horizontally. There’s also a spare internal 3.5in bay that could be used for installing another hard disk.
The existing hard disk is a little small at 80GB, although you’ll easily get an install of Windows and core applications on there, with room for everything but masses of media files. A further practical and economic concession has been made in the choice of CPU, which is an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400. Although the 2.13GHz per core may sound slow compared to the 2.4GHz version inside the OptiPlex 745, it’s unlikely to be stressed to the maximum during everyday use – a point proved by our overall benchmark score of 1.28. In other words, this PC is 28% faster than our reference 3.2GHz Pentium D system
The BIOS is well featured. As with the OptiPlex, for data security you can select which, if any, USB ports work, as well as setting a time for the PC to turn on each day. HP supplies its excellent ProtectTools Security Manager and, as well as providing management tools for HP’s Credentials Manager and TPM chip, it permits many BIOS features to be changed under Windows. A system restart is required before changes take effect, but it’s a more administrator-friendly way of making important changes than using the BIOS.
The most relevant business PCs we see at PC Pro are those that offer good initial value and economic running costs. And although vPro offers businesses some compelling new features for out-of-band access to PCs, it’s difficult to justify a dual-core CPU and 1GB of RAM for running day-to-day office applications. Luckily, the dc7700 isn’t a single SKU – HP is currently advertising 22 other PCs in the dc7700 range across three chassis and with CPUs ranging from a Celeron D. It’s this level of flexibility that makes the dc7700 appealing – you could use a single disk image across an entire company and have an appropriately specified PC for each user.