HP Compaq dc7900 Small Form Factor PC review

£649
Price when reviewed

Desktop PCs are finding themselves usurped by laptops in more and more workplaces, but if power and value are more important to you than portability, a compact business desktop should still be at the top of your list.

HP Compaq’s dc-range of desktops are a familiar sight in PC Pro’s labs, but now its small-form-factor model has received an internal makeover courtesy of Intel’s latest Q45 Express chipset. Don’t be misled by the SFF moniker however, the dc7900 isn’t nearly as compact as the likes of HP’s own dc Ultra-slim models, nor the likes of Transtec’s Senyo 610. Its 378 x 337mm footprint is hardly giant-sized, but if desk space is at a real premium, it’s worth bearing in mind.

However, if you can make the room, the dc7900 has plenty to recommend it. Where more compact models have to resort to cramming laptop components inside their more diminutive chassis, the dc7900 makes room for fully-fledged desktop parts, which makes both upgrading and replacing broken parts significantly cheaper and easier.

And, although the core specification may not look like much, it punches far above its mid-range price. The Core 2 Duo E8500 processor is one of Intel’s recent 45nm parts, and its efficiency helps keep cooling, noise and power consumption to an absolute minimum. The whole PC is amply cooled by a quiet 92mm fan which draws air in through the front vent, over the passive CPU heatsink and out the back of the case. At idle, the dc7900 consumes just 35W.

Push the E8500 to its limits and its power consumption rises to 69W, but thanks to its two cores running at 3.16GHz the performance on offer is staggering. Our benchmarks returned a score of 1.94 – that’s no doubt aided by the presence of XP Professional as the OS of choice, but it still amounts to by far the best benchmark result we’ve ever seen from a business PC.

3D performance isn’t quite so remarkable, or necessary for that matter given the dc7900’s target audience, but the Intel GMA 4500 graphics are more capable than the generations they replace. A result of 14fps in our least demanding Crysis benchmark is a reasonable showing for an integrated graphics chipset, but it’s hardly what you’d call playable.

Externally, that austere silver and black plastic fascia is the same as ever, with two front mounted USB ports sitting below two handy, front-facing audio minijacks. Move to the rear and you’ll find another six USB ports, a serial port, a VGA socket and, more notably, DisplayPort makes its debut in HPs business range, too.

Look closer, however, and there’s more of evidence of keen and sensible attention to detail. Indeed, removing the top cover is as simple as depressing two buttons on each side of the chassis. Peer inside and although the innards look relatively cramped, HP has made it easy to get at everything. For example, the 250GB hard disk sits underneath the PSU, but press the green tab and the PSU neatly tilts back out of the way, allowing for easy access.

The 2GB of DDR2 memory is comprised of two full-sized 1GB sticks in dual-channel operation, and two slots are left empty for future upgrades. There are two spare SATA ports, a PCI slot, two PCI-E 16x slots and one single PCI-E 1x slot too. Plenty of room for any kind of necessary expansion, in other words.

Elsewhere, there’s little that disappoints. Intel’s vPro technology is present and correct, and a higher level of security is catered for by an embedded TPM 1.2 chip. There’s no accompanying fingerprint reader, but it still adds a welcome layer compared to a standard unencrypted Windows password. HP rounds off the package with a reassuring three years of next-business-day on-site warranty.

Warranty

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Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 250
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Screen size N/A

Processor

CPU family Intel Core 2 Duo
CPU nominal frequency 3.16GHz
CPU overclocked frequency N/A
Processor socket LGA 775

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots free 1
Conventional PCI slots total 1
PCI-E x16 slots free 1
PCI-E x16 slots total 1
PCI-E x8 slots free 1
PCI-E x8 slots total 1
PCI-E x4 slots free 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots free 1
PCI-E x1 slots total 1
Internal SATA connectors 4
Internal SAS connectors 0
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR2
Memory sockets free 2
Memory sockets total 4

Graphics card

Graphics chipset Intel GMA X4500
DVI-I outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 1

Hard disk

Capacity 250GB
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk 2 make and model N/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speed N/A
Hard disk 2 cache size N/A
Hard disk 3 make and model N/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 4 make and model N/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacity N/A

Drives

Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical disk 2 make and model None
Optical disk 3 make and model None

Monitor

Monitor make and model N/A
Resolution screen horizontal N/A
Resolution screen vertical N/A
Resolution N/A x N/A
Pixel response time N/A
Contrast ratio N/A
Screen brightness N/A
DVI inputs N/A
HDMI inputs N/A
VGA inputs N/A
DisplayPort inputs N/A

Additional Peripherals

Speakers N/A
Speaker type N/A
Peripherals N/A

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