HP Compaq dc7800 Small Form Factor review

Price when reviewed

HP has a strong track record when it comes to business PCs. Well-built, cleverly designed systems with keen prices, such as the dc7700 (web ID: 104794), perform the tricky task of keeping users, IT administrators and accountants happy. The dc7800 range replaces the dc7700 and, as before, splits the desktops into three units: the Small Form Factor (SFF), the Ultra Slim and a larger desktop-sized unit.

HP Compaq dc7800 Small Form Factor review

Every PC in the dc7800 range, except those with Celeron processors, is compliant with Intel’s vPro platform. This is a double-edged sword: while system administrators will appreciate the kind of remote access, diagnostic and troubleshooting vPro allows, the system requirements for the badge – a Core 2 Duo, Intel’s Q35 chipset and Intel Gigabit Ethernet – are reflected in the price.

The dc7800 SFF is a good example. In our application benchmarks, it scored 1.21, courtesy of 1GB of RAM and a 2.66GHz E6750. It’s a fine result, and one that makes this configuration (part code GV965ET) suitable for intensive applications such as media handling. But it’s a gratuitous amount of power if all you need is a system for tapping out emails and gentle web browsing.

With dimensions of 340 x 390 x 105mm (WDH), it’s perfect for hiding away under a desk. But, unlike the Ultra Slim, it’s built entirely from desktop-sized components. This is a clear benefit when it comes to replacing parts, with desktop components easier to handle and cheaper than their laptop equivalents.

The hard disk, for instance, is a standard 3.5in model. The 160GB capacity is practical for Vista and a comprehensive application library, plus a healthy smattering of after-hours music. The three hard disk options range from 60GB through to 250GB.

There’s similar flexibility when it comes to the core components. While the model we looked at comes with a Core 2 Duo processor, those with more modest performance demands will be happy with the bottom-of-the-line Celeron 420 version. But the systems available “off the peg” all have Core 2 Duo CPUs – for anything else you’ll need to call HP.

It’s all housed in a well-designed chassis. Push the two buttons on opposite sides of the case simultaneously and the lid pops off, although there’s a padlock lug at the back to prevent illicit access. Everything is neatly put together, with most component replacements a mere five-minute job. It isn’t entirely tool-less, but even relatively advanced tasks such as installing a PCI card or exchanging the hard disk don’t require a screwdriver.

There’s even some upgrade potential, with a spare PCI slot, as well as a spare 16x PCI Express slot for adding a half-height card later, and a pair of PCI Express 1x slots. Two of the four DIMM slots are spare, too, and there’s even a free 3.5in drive bay. A spare SATA port on the motherboard allows for another hard disk here, although the slot has a removable faceplate, so you could install a floppy drive instead. There aren’t any spare USB headers, with the only header on the board connected to a 1GB ReadyBoost module, rather clumsily secured to the inside of the chassis with Velcro.

On the sysadmin front, there’s an ultra-configurable BIOS. It’s quick and easy to navigate, with plenty of options to control who can do what to the system. Those with security concerns can lock out some or all of the USB ports, as the supplied keyboard and mouse are PS/2 models. Those with environmental concerns, on the other hand, can specify a startup time for the system, so you can have it springing into life in the morning, five minutes before your staff arrive.

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