capsule review

HP Pavilion d4650y

At a Glance
  • HP Pavilion d4600y

    PCWorld Rating

    The d4650y is a fast system that can handle just about any demanding task. It's easy to upgrade, too.

Like most models in HP's Pavilion line, the Pavilion d4650y costs a bit more than most comparably equipped systems, but its excellent performance, user-friendly design, and storage options make it a good value for buyers who want an well-designed PC that should remain useful well into the future.

This midrange PC's greatest hedge against obsolescence is its speed, owing to Intel's new 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU. The $2454 (as of October 6, 2006) system includes a $320 display and is the speediest Pavilion yet. In fact, it posted one of the fastest WorldBench 5 scores to date--a distinction rarely achieved by Pavilion models. The d4650y should easily handle any computing task thrown at it, and it packs plenty of processing power to handle a future transition to Windows Vista.

Graphics and gaming performance were merely adequate. Our review unit came with ATI's Radeon X1600XT graphics card--the best card available in HP's set of configure-to-order options--and it delivered acceptable, midrange frame-rate scores on our tests involving Return to Castle Wolfenstein. But the Pavilion's Unreal Tournament test score of 199 at 1280 by 1024 resolution fell disappointingly short of the average score of 484 posted by models ranked in our Top 10 Power Desktop PCs chart. It's a shame that HP doesn't offer a more game-friendly graphics card.

Actual game play on Return to Castle Wolfenstein at the highest quality setting was fast and smooth, and looked crisp on the 19-inch F1955 display. Tiny 6.8-point text was impressively sharp and readable on the display, too.

The system features two 250GB drives configured for top performance in a RAID 0 array. The easy-off case cover opens to reveal a spacious interior that permits easy upgrading. You can add storage via HP's Personal Media Drive--an external hard drive that slides into a bay on the front of the case--without opening the case. Our test system came with a 160GB Personal Media Drive ($139), which can connect to HP or non-HP systems via a USB connection. Currently, HP offers 300GB ($219) and 400GB ($319) Personal Media Drives at prices slightly higher than those for an equivalent, garden-variety external drive.

As a Media Center PC, the d4600y carries the requisite remote control and two TV tuners. HP's LightScribe optical drive is designed to label recorded media by using a laser to etch text and images directly onto the top of specially coated discs. (The discs cost $1 apiece, unfortunately.)

You get a good selection of S-Video and composite ports for moving video into and out of your PC. Mercifully, HP has lost the annoying small doors that used to cover front-of-case ports on some earlier Pavilions.

As usual, HP supplies excellent manuals with clear illustrations that are especially useful to novices setting up a home entertainment center. Ports on the back and the front of HP's signature gray midsize tower case are clearly labeled.

A final plus: The silver HP keyboard feels solid and has an excellent layout that includes big, easy-to-reach volume and multimedia control buttons.

Power users and hardcore gamers can get better value from systems offered by manufacturers like CyberPower or even Dell, but the d4650y should appeal to anyone who likes user-friendly design and needs a fast system that can handle almost any demanding task.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The d4650y is a fast system that can handle just about any demanding task. It's easy to upgrade, too.

    Pros

    • Includes dual TV tuners
    • Solid performance

    Cons

    • Has no open PCI Express slots
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