HP Compaq dc7800 Ultra Slim review
Attractively small and aggressively priced, the Ultra Slim is an interesting proposition for businesses.
Review Date: 10 Oct 2007
Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson
Price when reviewed: (£586 inc VAT)
The dc7800 Small Form Factor is an undeniably practical size for a PC, particularly if you're likely to upgrade your work PCs during their life. But if desk space is a greater concern than upgrade potential then the Ultra Slim is a worthy contender for any IT budget. The smallest system in the outgoing dc7700 range was only slightly smaller than the system opposite: the new Ultra Slim is much more deserving of the name.
The case doesn't offer much in the way of flair - rounded edges are the closest HP comes - but the dimensions speak for themselves. It's comfortably under 30cm wide and an impressively slender 6.6cm tall.
The Ultra Slim's tiny dimensions are down to its nearly exclusive use of laptop components. The 1GB of RAM is installed on a single SODIMM; the hard disk is a 2.5in model. Even the optical drive is the kind of spring-loaded tray design normally found on laptops. Only the processor - a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 - is a full-blooded desktop unit.
Our test system was a pre-release sample: the final version (part code GV968ET) has a 160GB disk to the 80GB in our unit. With otherwise identical specs to the SFF opposite, it was no surprise that the two systems performed almost identically in our benchmarks - the only area where the Ultra Slim fell significantly behind was in our disk-intensive Photoshop test, with the 2.5in disk making the Ultra Slim 30% slower here.
Aside from allowing the Ultra Slim to be so compact, the smaller components do have plus points: they draw less power and, in the case of the hard disk, generate less noise. But there are also drawbacks: not only is the Ultra Slim more expensive than the almost identically specified SFF, upgrade options are decidedly restricted. There are no spare drive bays at all, and 2.5in hard disks will never offer the same capacities as their 3.5in brethren. Run out of space in the Ultra Slim and you'll need to turn to external storage.
Although the spare SODIMM socket is welcome, SODIMMs are significantly more expensive than plain old DIMMs. One further drawback is the presence of an external power supply. It means the volume of the Ultra Slim's chassis can be kept down, but the adapter itself measures 167 x 64 x 45mm (WDH), and is yet another thing you'll need to keep hidden behind a desk.
Like its larger sibling, the Ultra Slim is largely tool-less. Popping off the lid takes under a second, and once you're inside, everything presents itself logically and tidily. Admittedly, there's less room to manoeuvre compared with most desktops, but whipping out a dead hard disk or installing more RAM should take only a few minutes for the experienced.
Like the entire dc7800 range, the Ultra Slim comes with a useful range of diagnostic and maintenance tools, including Intel's vPro technology. Its software features are identical to the SFF's - so there's a wealth of BIOS options, including hardware security and the ability to set the Ultra Slim to start up at a predetermined time of the day.
It all makes the Ultra Slim a desirable PC for many environments. It's small, functional and powerful. Again, the strengths of Fujitsu Siemens' Esprimo E5916 are worth considering, but the Ultra Slim offers some tangible benefits for the £500 price.
HP L1906i monitor
Much of HP's marketing for the Ultra Slim mentions its "zero footprint". To get that, though, you'll need the L1906i monitor (part code GJ099AT), a standard aspect 19in TFT with a 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. The supplied mounting kit allows you to fix the Ultra Slim to the monitor's back, which in effect means your entire PC's footprint is no bigger than the screen (422 x 59 x 362mm).
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