While most people look at HP and think of their consumer Pavilion (and now Compaq) lines, this area only constitutes one part of their overall business strategy. Now the number one computer manufacturer worldwide,
HP offers product lines that span just about any spectrum you can name. The HP Compaq dc5850 falls in the business line of products and while, at its core, it's a basic business desktop, HP has managed to add in features that make their machines stand out. Read on for our full review.
Our HP dc5850 desktop came with the following specifications:
This configuration has a suggested retail price of $865.00. For just an extra hundred bucks, you can upgrade the warranty to five full years, which can give a much-needed sense of security to small businesses.
Build and Design
Whether it's in the consumer or business segments, inexpensive desktop computers often come with inexpensive cases. Lots of ugly plastic that gets easily scratched or damaged, with cases being difficult to open and/or remove. Fortunately, HP avoided such messy scenarios by opting to give their business desktops solid metal cases. Five of the six sides are made of metal. This is one area in which HP continues to impress me; every desktop we've gotten in has had a consistently high build quality. They're consistently solid without being overengineered. While the design itself isn't really anything to write home about, the desktop maintains a professional and staid demeanor, and could easily fit into any office environment.
The dc5850 can be purchased in either minitower or small form factor configurations, with the biggest difference being expandability between the two. This model was a minitower, and as the name suggests, is somewhat diminutive in nature. As it doesn't take up too much space, you could easily sit this on your desk, if there wasn't room beneath, without worrying about losing most of your working area.
The right panel of the case slides off after loosening a screw (and they use thumb screws, thankfully), allowing burdened IT workers to quickly and easily get inside the computer. The dc5850 is essentially clutter-free inside, with lots of room for necessary expansions.
Cooling fans are strategically placed to maximize airflow, with the heatsink fan attached to a sleeve that exhausts in the front of the machine. A second cooling fan is placed directly behind this, helping cool the rest of the machine. The downside to this is that all of the hard drive space is concentrated in the upper left of the computer, largely removed from the main flow of air in the case. It shouldn't be much of a problem, even with the rest of the drive bays full, but it bears mentioning. I will say, however, that the entire machine remains very cool. Even the exhaust air doesn't feel much warmer than room temperature; when idling, it actually feels cooler.
Inputs and Expansion
Expansion is probably the most important aspect of desktop computing; it allows end users to easily add additional or upgraded components. The dc5850 doesn't disappoint. Inside, there are two PCI-e x1 slots, one PCI-e x16 slot and one PCI slot. Since it's a minitower as opposed to a small form factor model, this edition can accept full-height cards in all of the slots.
There is also significant room for expansion in the drive cage of the computer, too. One 5.25" bay is taken by the optical drive and one 3.5" bay is taken by the included 80 gigabyte hard drive. This still leaves one 5.25" bay and three 3.25" bays. That could be four more hard drives, or three hard drives and a second optical drive or maybe even a fan controller or something similar. Our review unit came with two gigabytes of RAM, but the dc5850 can take up to eight.
The front of the computer has two USB 2.0 ports as well as headphone and microphone jacks. In addition, when no headphones or speakers are plugged in, users can take advantage of a small speaker directly in the front of the machine. While it's not going to win awards for audio fidelity, it's incredibly useful to check on small things or listen to podcasts (especially if you're the only one in the office at the time). I did jump a little bit the first time it turned on, simply because I had no idea that there was one there.
On the back, there are more audio in and out jacks, as well as six more USB 2.0 ports. Interestingly, there are a selection of legacy ports on the back as well, including one each serial and parallel ports, as well as PS/2 inputs for both keyboard and mouse. When I asked HP about that (especially considering that there are an adequate amount of USB ports available), they mentioned that this is a desktop machine aimed directly at businesses. Many businesses must support legacy hardware and peripherals. More importantly, however, it's becoming a very big trend to simply disable all USB ports on computers nowadays. Sometimes they're disabled in software and sometimes they just get filled with cement to cut down on security risks. Without these PS/2 ports, business are faced with either being unable to connect keyboards and mice or foregoing the security lockdowns. Neither situation is particularly attractive, so OEMs like HP keep the legacy ports alive.
The best feature about the dc5850, however, is the inclusion of both VGA and DVI-I ports. Why's that? Out of the box, you can set up the desktop to use two displays, one on each of the ports, without requiring any extra hardware or software. This is a great value for buyers as computers traditionally require an extra video card in order to set up a second display.
HP's business desktops come completely clean of the traditional crapware consumers are often stuck with when they order pre-built computers. They do have, however, a couple of HP-specific additions. As is the trend these days, the dc5850 comes pre-formatted with a recovery partition on 6.5 gigs of the hard drive. When you log into Windows, a screen pops up asking you to burn an optical disc with the necessary information to restore the computer should things go awry. HP's business desktops also come configured with HP's Client Automation software, allowing businesses to immediately place the desktop as a managed node within their pre-existing network. The automation software lets IT workers track both software and hardware inventories, provision applications and deploy Microsoft patches. Even the BIOS feels geared toward business users, with the ability to flash the system ROM in the BIOS itself via CD-ROM. Users can also take advantage of setting up OS power policies, idle fan speeds (I didn't realize just how quiet the fans were until I turned them on maximum by accident), and configuring DriveLock via the installed TPM chip.
Keyboard and Mouse
The included keyboard and mouse were typical generic OEM peripherals. Solid, usable, but not amazing. While users requiring additional functionality will likely buy a new set, including a basic keyboard and mouse with the dc5850 will still save businesses a little money.
Performance and Benchmarks
The HP Compaq dc5850 is not performance-oriented; that is not to say that it is lacking in that area, but that they are aimed at traditional office productivity tasks.
wPrime is a PC performance benchmarking program that forces the computer to perform recursive mathematical calculations. This program is multithreaded, meaning we can take advantage of more than one core of a processor at a time, resulting in a more realistic estimate of a computer's performance.
wPrime benchmark comparison results (lower numbers mean better performance):
|Desktop||wPrime 32 time|
|Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850 @ 3GHz)||13.869s|
|Lenovo ThinkCentre M57 Eco (Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3GHz)||25.879s|
|Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400 @ 2.1GHz)||27.65s|
|HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f (Athlon X2 5400 @ 2.8GHz)||29.733s|
|HP Compaq dc5850 (Athlon X2 5000B @ 2.6GHz)||31.421s|
|Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz)||35.582s|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850 @ 2.16 GHz)||39.544s|
PCMark05 overall system performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):
|Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850 @ 3GHz)||9,999 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkCentre M57 Eco (Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3GHz)||5,275 PCMarks|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850 @ 2.16 GHz)||5,189 PCMarks|
|Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400 @ 2.1GHz)||4,981 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion Slimeline s3500f (Athlon X2 5400 @ 2.8GHz)||4,593 PCMarks|
|Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz)||4,305 PCMarks|
|HP Compaq dc5850 (Athlon X2 5000B @ 2.6GHz)||3,986 PCMarks|
3DMark06 overall gaming performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):
|Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850, NVIDIA FX4600)||10,327 3DMarks|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850, NVIDIA 9300M GS)||1,714 3DMarks|
|HP Compaq dc5850 (Athlon X2 5000B, ATI HD3100 IGP)||1,041 3DMarks|
|Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100, Intel X3100)||528 3DMarks
|Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400, NVIDIA 6150SE)||403 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion Slimeline s3500f (Athlon X2 5400, NVIDIA 6150SE)||350 3DMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkCentre M57 Eco (Core 2 Duo E8400, Intel X3100)||240 3DMarks|
You might not be gaming much on your lunch hour with this box, but it certainly holds its own against comparable machines. The dual-core processor will power through most office tasks without trouble.
Power Consumption and Noise
The dc5850 is a pretty lightweight box in terms of both power consumption and noise pollution. While I didn't actively measure the sound emitted with a decibel meter, the fans rarely had to spin above their minimum operating levels. What noise there was easily blended into background office sounds.
When it comes to power consumption, the dc5850 used no power at all when turned off. When idling, it used around 42 Watts of power, and around 50 when actively churning the hard drive. At max, it would only use 92 Watts, less than a traditional incandescent. While in standby, it only used between one and two Watts of power.
While not a game changer in terms of business desktops, the HP Compaq dc5850 offers good value for the money. Its solid construction, large expandability and dual display capability all begin to add up. While I wouldn't call it a powerhouse, the dc5850's hardware are more than capable of meeting any traditional office tasks and then some. The addition of the HD3100 integrated graphics from ATI is a nice bonus, as ATI has some pretty good integrated graphics performance right now. If I were looking to outfit an organization with a basic, dependable desktop, I'd definitely put this one on the list.
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