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In September my games PC packed up in spectacular fashion, and I had to bite the bullet and buy a whole new one as the old one was really beyond economical repair. Being of extremely limited funds, it was hard to know whether I'd be able to afford anything capable of running current-day games, especially as I'm a custom content creator for The Sims 3 and therefore need a PC capable of running it with all the highest sim and texture resolutions and the highest poly 3D models.
An intensive hunt through the budget desktop PCs on offer turned up this nice little microtower as probably the best bang for the few bucks I had. Having had several HP or Compaq PCs over many, many years (I even still have my oldest one, a Compaq Portable III 386 from the 1980s which I'd lovingly upgraded to a 486 and Windows 3.1, and is still in perfect working order!), I liked the brand and decided to settle on this product.
It's sold as a 'Business PC', but if you upgrade the very basic onboard graphics it comes with by installing a decent graphics card of your choice, it's fine for games too. They come in a few slightly different configurations: mine has a dual-core Pentium E5200 processor running at 2.5Ghz, 2GB RAM (upgradeable to 4GB), a 320GB Serial ATA hard drive, a Serial ATA DVD writer with Lightscribe, and a built-in Integrated Intel Graphics chip. Thankfully it also has a PCI Express slot for you to upgrade the graphics, which you'll want to do if you want to run games on this PC, as the cruddy built-in graphics are not up to scratch. Equally thankfully, my NVidia GeForce graphics card survived the demise of the above-mentioned old PC, so I was able to put that straight in and get back to business.
As well as the graphics slot, it also has a PCI 2.3 slot and extra drive bay space for an additional internal 5.25" drive (in addition to the DVD drive) and two internal 3.5" drives. It can come with an optional multi-card reader, which my particular PC didn't come with. The power supply is 300 watts.
There are two USB 2.0 ports on the front and four USB 2.0 ports on the back, plus the usual standard input and output ports for keyboard, mouse, microphone and speakers/headphone, and an integrated Fast Ethernet controller. It also has a built-in sound chip, Realtek ALC662 High Definition audio, which I haven't found any need to upgrade as I find it fine for both my gaming needs and for watching DVDs or listening to music.
At about 15 inches high by 16 inches deep and weighing about 10kg, it's a nice compact little size for a tower unit. It's finished in a matte black body with a glossy black bezel front, and comes with a matching black keyboard and mouse. It has a nice quiet power supply and fans, so it's not much noisier than a laptop, which I find fantastic as I like a quiet environment and don't like noisy PC fans roaring away, so that was another huge selling point for me!
It was very easy to set up and use - once I'd installed my graphics card, it was just a matter of firing it up and going through the straightforward setup routine. My PC came with Windows Vista Business Edition with a voucher offering a cheap upgrade to Windows 7, which was not out yet for a month or two at the time I bought the computer. As the upgrade was only about £20, I went for it and am now running Windows 7 Professional, which runs fine on this machine.
So, having now had it for a few months, I'm finding no problems and am very happy with how well it runs my games. Your mileage may vary as to how spec-hungry your games are, but my most up-to-date game is The Sims 3 with all of its expansion packs as of the date of writing this and patched up to the latest patch, and The Sims 3 is a real resource hog, especially on its maximum graphics settings, which is how I run it, but it runs fine. My next newest game is Dead Space, which also runs OK. Your mileage may vary with the newest and most demanding games, but a good spec graphics card should help a lot here.
Aside from games, I also use this PC for graphics-intensive applications such as Photoshop, video editing and 3D modelling, and the performance is perfectly fine with no hanging about. If you're more of just a basic email, Internet and word processing type of user, you'll find this PC quick and far more than adequate, but it's good to know that it's capable of decent performance with more demanding apps as well.
I haven't yet used the Lightscribe feature, which enables you to print labels directly onto your DVDs and CDs in the DVD drive rather than having to make labels with a printer, as I have not got around to buying the Lightscribe-compatible disks which you need to use this feature (it doesn't work with regular disks), but this is a nifty extra to have and I do want to make use of it for archiving my huge collection of old public domain movies which are in computer video format.
All told, this is a decent budget PC. The only problem I've had with it at all, is a very minor one of the lettering wearing off of some of the keys on the keyboard. A shame, as the keyboard looks nice and of decent quality otherwise, but whatever their method of printing the letters and symbols onto the keys is, is obviously less than ideal - I wouldn't expect lettering to start disappearing from keys after only a few months use. That one hiccup aside, though, I've been very happy with this PC and feel it was good value at the £309 plus VAT I paid for it.
Link to HP's Product Overview and specs page for this model: http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/Document.jsp?objectID=c01711390
Also on Ciao as thereddragon and Helium as Esmeralda Draic.