The processor is an Athlon 64 3400+ and runs at 2.2GHz with 512Kb Level 2 cache. Confusingly, this is an identical specification to that of an Athlon 64 3500+. The difference is that the 3400+ only runs on an 800MHz HyperTransport bus rather than the usual 1GHz. This is a very minor difference as there is an excess of bandwidth in an Athlon 64 setup as it is. If that is what hp has had to do in order to bring costs down, then that's fine. Being Socket 939, this will support any current AMD processor, making the dual-core X2 a possible upgrade path.
The main advantage of Socket 939 over Socket 754 is that it has a dual-channel memory controller instead of a single channel. Of course, to do this you need to populate two DIMM slots. In this case, hp has chosen to use a single 512MB stick of 400MHz Infineon memory. This means that the memory is only running in single channel mode. This effectively halves the memory bandwidth and can severely affect system performance.
In many respects, I’m happier to see a single 512MB over two 256MB sticks as this opens up more upgrade options. Adding another 512MB of memory would increase performance considerably by enabling dual-channel mode but also by having more memory for the system to use. Considering the memory is being shared with the integrated graphics, 512MB is a little on the low side.
The hard disk included is a 200GB SATA Seagate Barracuda 7200.8. This is an excellent drive – in fact we use the 400GB version in our test systems in-house. It’s amazing to think that a budget system now has 200GB of storage.
The supplied keyboard and mouse absolutely ooze budget – from the fact the mouse has a ye olde physical ball to the generally cheap feel of the keyboard. For the asking price though, the fact they have included anything at all is amazing.
The system comes pre-installed with Windows XP Home Edition and Microsoft Works, so you’re ready to roll straight out of the box. But on top of this, Norton Internet Security, with Norton AntiVirus included, is supplied - this is invaluable for those who aren’t net savvy. Intervideo WinDVD is also included for DVD playback and Sonic Digital Media Plus and My DVD Plus are included for creating and editing DVD’s.
Also installed are useful tools such as RealPlayer, Adobe Acrobat and Sun Java Runtime. Although these are all free to download, they are essential so it’s nice to see them pre-installed.
An area hp really impressed us with, is support. Should there be a major problem, there is a minimal one year pick-up and return warranty. But for minor problems, hp has it sussed. If you can still boot in to Windows, there are tools available for reinstalling any application or driver that came with the machine without even needing to put in a CD. There are also tools for repairing any minor issues, and even the ability to completely restore the system to how it was when first purchased. If you can’t boot in to Windows, you can access all these tools from a hidden partition on the machine that's accessible from the boot menu.
Included are several PDF documents on making the most out of the machine and even detailed instructions on maintaining the hardware should you feel brave enough to open the case up. These are really well written and worth a read.