capsule review

HP Pavilion A706n

At a Glance
  • HP Pavilion a706n

HP Pavilion A706n
Photograph: Rick Rizner

The Pavilion A706n was the belle of our recent budget-PC ball. It comes in a silvery lavender case with dark gray accents. Flip-down doors discreetly cover the front drive bays, and a sliding door hides a recessed front panel holding headphone, microphone, and line-in audio jacks; three USB 2.0 ports; a FireWire port; and a media card reader.

The case opens up easily through a side panel held in place by two thumbscrews. However, upgrades are not as easily performed on this system as on its cousin, the Compaq Presario SR1214NX. The two 5.25-inch drive bays use latches instead of screws, but removing the hard drive, card reader, and expansion cards requires a Phillips screwdriver. Removing the front panel involves pushing multiple plastic tabs, at the risk of pinching your fingers in the process.

The Pavilion A706n had no problems with basic computing tasks such as word processing, simple photo editing, and DVD movie playback. It scored 70 in our WorldBench 5 tests, about 20 points below the average for value systems on our Top 15 Desktop PCs chart that cost about twice as much.

Graphics performance, however, was ridiculously slow. The A706n posted 6 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 2003 at 1024 by 768 resolution and 32-bit color. Playing an action game on this machine is not recommended (although the system does have an available AGP slot for installing a graphics card that could significantly boost performance). Additionally, in our informal test, the A706n took 12 minutes to rip a music CD--painfully poky, and almost twice as long as other budget desktops in the roundup took.

HP does offer a few good amenities on this PC: It has a 160GB hard drive (the largest in our recent budget-PC roundup), a sturdy keyboard, and useful software, including HP's Image Zone (for organizing and sharing digital photos), Microsoft Works 7, Microsoft Money Standard 2004, and Quicken 2004 New User Edition.

At first glance, you might think you're getting lots of documentation: a Getting Started Guide, a PC Basics Guide, and an Upgrading and Servicing Guide. A closer look reveals that the manuals lack information specific to this model, though you can find more information on HP's site.

The handsome Pavilion A706n is inadequate for gaming and only so-so for daily computing.

Seán Captain

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At a Glance
  • HP Pavilion a706n

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