For HP's first evaluation with us, we look at one of our systems from our Retail Purchasing experiment. This bargain system from HP represents one of the best bang-for-the-buck purchases that we've made so far, but at what expense to the customer experience?
As many of you might know by now, [H] Consumer doesn’t "review" systems; we evaluate the experiences they facilitate. We order the system the same as you would and evaluate every aspect of the end-user experience. Not only does this give us a better idea of what hardware an end user actually receives, it also allows us to obtain a more accurate picture of just how each company functions and treats its customers. As fast as PC hardware has become over the years, we think giving a personal computer "5 stars" based on a synthetic benchmark is simply irresponsible. We think service, support, and reliability are much more important factors in today's climate than speed. Fast is easily bought, but purchasing and ownership satisfaction can be elusive.
This process allows us to not only evaluate the system, but the OEM that builds it. Our goal is to give you the wide-angle lens view of the computer and the company so that you can make informed and educated decisions about what you purchase or recommend to clients, friends, and family.
One of the most talked-about OEMs on our forums is Hewlett-Packard (HP). It’s one of the “Big Three” of Tier I computer manufacturers: Dell, Gateway, and HP-Compaq. This will be the first HP we’ve taken a look at. We picked up our machine as part of the research for our Retail Purchasing article and decided that since we had it sitting around, we might as well put it through the [H] Consumer ringer.
As a part of our Retail Computer Purchasing experiment, we went to Fry’s Electronics here in Austin, TX and stated that we were in the market for a budget PC that could handle basic personal computing tasks, but could also be upgraded with a gaming-quality video card. The representative stumbled and fumbled a bit, but we ended up walking out with a very nice machine. You can see the detailed specifications below, but we got an AMD Athlon64 3800+ processor, a gigabyte of PC3200 RAM, a DVD burner, and a 250GB hard drive for about $550 before rebates. It came complete with a support package that we’ll go into later and had a PCI-E x16 expansion slot for a graphics card.
For the hardware we got, we took this system home for a very low price. We’re looking to see just how good of a deal we got. Did HP cut corners with the integration? Is our system loaded down with bloatware? How feasible is an upgrade? We’re also interested to see what our technical support is like. There are a lot of things that an OEM can do to still profit off their product at a lower price. We’re looking to see what HP had to sacrifice in order to do that.
Here’s what we have in our HP:
*Note: The a1330n model is no longer offered by HP, but we were able to configure an essentially identical system on the HP website, the a1330e.