capsule review

HP Compaq dc7900 Value Desktop PC

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At a Glance
  • HP Compaq dc7900

The dc7900 cruises in at a price of $919 (as of May 27, 2009, not counting its recommended $189 monitor, the HP L1945w). One of the cost-cutting measures it adopted to achieve that attractive price was to omit a discrete graphics card. Don't purchase this rig expecting to make an easy upgrade, either. Its smallish chassis is so tightly packed with components that you'd need a welder's torch to be able to manipulate its innards.

Still, for its size, the dc7900 is a powerful PC. The included 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor helped the PC deliver solid performance on a wide range of applications, leading to an above-average score of 112 on our WorldBench 6 benchmark test suite. That result is even more impressive in view of the modest 2GB of DDR2-800 memory that HP tosses into the mix--considerably less than most other value PCs we've tested provide. Even more startling is the system's painfully petite 160GB of storage, concentrated on a single Seagate drive. This is a very disappointing choice considering that the dc7900 is strong enough to handle any complex media task you might want to throw at it--unfortunately, you won't have room to do much of anything.

In place of a separate graphics board, the dc7900 relies on an integrated Intel GMA 4500 chip, which delivers all of the choppiness and stuttering you'd expect from a nondiscrete graphics component. The PC wouldn't run our Unreal Tournament 3 game benchmark at 2560 by 2100 resolution and high quality--go figure--and we couldn't get playable frame rates even after dialing the game back to 1024 by 768 resolution and medium quality. The only game in our current testing suite that the dc7900 managed to run was Far Cry, netting an average frame rate of 35 frames per second at 1280 by 1024 resolution with anti-aliasing off. Far Cry came out more than five years ago.

HP bundles an uninspiring combination of a basic two-button mouse and a generic keyboard alongside the dc7900. We realize that this is a value PC, but these boring peripherals reduce its appeal considerably. Elsewhere, a total of eight USB ports grace the front and rear of the dc7900, but you don't get FireWire, eSATA, integrated 5.1 surround sound, or a media card reader. For some reason, however, HP did opt to use a motherboard equipped with a DisplayPort connection.

Upgrading this PC is prohibitively difficult if the operation involves anything more intricate than replacing a hard drive. There's just no space. At least the dc7900's slim and compact case is pleasing to the eye.

The dc7900 has everyday performance chops, but its upgrade-averse design sharply reduces its desirability.

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At a Glance
  • The dc7900 is a powerhouse machine that comes saddled with a number of caveats.


    • Above average application performance


    • Difficult to upgrade
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