We write a lot of articles here at AnandTech about the latest and greatest hardware. Computer enthusiasts like that sort of stuff, but let's be honest: your average person would read one of our articles and probably end up scratching his/her head. More importantly, it's unlikely that a large business is going to read an AnandTech Buyer's Guide or Price Guide and decide to go out and hand-build 150 computers. Doing a cost benefit analysis on that would show it to be a waste of time and money.

That's how OEM companies like Dell, HP, Gateway and others came into being. With their assembly lines and bulk discounts, large OEMs are able to deliver more computers in less time, while still delivering reasonable quality. The standard warranty and support that comes with OEM business computers is also catering to that market. Note that we're not talking about their home computers, which is often a different story.

Just by way of introduction, most of you realize that I already write a lot of our buyer's guides. Outside of AnandTech, I've spent several years working in a large corporation, providing computer, network, phone and technical support. There are over 150 PCs, 15 laptops, and 12 servers. Besides the large IBM mainframe, every one of the computers is from Dell. Are they great computers? Not really, but they also aren't bad, given how they're used. The fact of the matter is that modern PCs are so fast, most home and business users don't even need to buy a high-end system. We have 1.13 GHz Pentium III systems (Dell GX150) that are still more than sufficient for running Windows XP, Word, Excel and browsing the company intranet. Having spent several years supporting Dell desktop computers, I have a pretty good feel for how reliable they are. After three years, the number of failures begins to rise. Of course, after three years, it's probably time to upgrade anyway. That's all part of the business computer market.

When HP offered to send me one of their small to medium business desktops for review, I wasn't entirely sure that the AnandTech readership would appreciate such an article. Hopefully, you won't all think that we've "sold out". Let's make this clear: this system is not meant for the computer enthusiast. It's meant to be reliable, reasonably fast, and easy to set up and use. It's not dirt cheap, but it also includes a legal, preinstalled copy of Windows XP Pro and three full years of next-business-day on-site support. For businesses, those aren't just nice things to have; they are required. The goal of this review is not so much to show how the system performs, but instead to look at the entire package. Is this the sort of PC that you want to use in your business, or perhaps even in your home? Let's find out.

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  • falcc - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    Thanks for providing this review. I would love to see more reviews like this but with comparisions to similarly specced options from DELL, Lenovo etc. No one seems to do reviews like that.

    We have 100 of the SFF 5150's on order. If we are happy with them we will be ordering another 700 or so next year.

    I would have liked to of seen some testing on Windows Vista beta. Most corporates lease, and any machines leased now for 3 years could easily be running Windows Vista in a couple of years time when the company updates their SOE.
  • sprockkets - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    I remember when HP used Delta power supplies. Who makes that one inside the computer? HP? Sure. Dell has been using low quality power supplies and their systems fail to properly turn on all the time, and for what, $5-10 dollars savings on a system?

    Better to get an AMD system. Use any application that requires the cpu in a prescott based system to go 100% and the cpu fan turns on full blast. I found out that can happen just by scrolling up and down a pdf document (Acrobat's fault). Out of say 100 Dell prescott systems at work, 3 of them have their cpu fan stuck on full speed, which is extremely annoying to other workers. Well, these are the small factor pc's though. But since they are so cheap they are not going to pay $500 for their own internal IT staff to fix them (different accounts within the business).
  • WackyDan - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    What a lot of people miss when comparing OEM systems to DIY for business use is what to do with the systems 3 or 4 years down the road.

    You just can't throw them in dumpster anymore, and most of the time you can't donate or you don't want to sell to employee's as if they dispose of them improperly, you can still be one the one getting fined by the EPA.

    Buying OEM systems allows you the opportunity to lease, at very attractive rates, and if you don't lease, every OEM has a decent asset recovery/disposal service. You'll get a higher return at end of lifecycle with OEM boxes every time.
  • MrEMan - Monday, December 19, 2005 - link

    Are you sure that the disposal rules apply to low quantity home DIY PCs?

    And what is to keep you from various parts in with your normal trash and letting the scavengers take the case if you don't plan to reuse it (I actually reused 2 Zeos desktop cases to build 4 different PCs over the years until Baby AT, Super Socket 7 boards were phased out)? Most likely the LCD display will be transferred to a new PC anyway or can be sold or give away.
  • Jellodyne - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    We OEM our own corporate systems at work. I think that some of the specs in the DIY system were overdone, especially when compared to the HP. First, using a 4000+ in this type of system is unbalanced, and a waste of money. The processer outclasses the rest of the system. A 3200+ or 3400+ gets you most of the performance for a lot less money. Also, a 250 GB hard drive is great if you're ripping movies and mp3s and installing games, but most corporate users never need more than 20GB. 80 GB drives are more than enough, and a huge cost savings. Premium memory is also a waste. As you say, CL3 memory is somewhat more reliable, and significantly cheaper, if a bit dowdy, but we use it for those reasons, just like HP. Finally, the case and power supply is the hardest part of the equation, but we finally settled on an awesome Chenbro case with a 380 watt PS, which we were able to buy in pallet quantities for about $45. Each of these things saves a little money but the end result is a lot.

    Last years build was as follows:

    $80 MSI RS480M2-IL Radeon Xpress 200 board
    $160 Socket 939 3000+ (Retail) (This was months ago, would be a 3200+ now)
    $90 2x512 Kingston PC3200 (CL3)
    $70 WD 80 GB SATA HDD (this would be 160GB now for same price)
    $18 DVD-ROM
    $45 Chenbro MicroATX 380 watt case
    $9 FDD (Some people still need 'em)
    Total < $500

    No warranty, that's in house. Most of the parts come with a warranty. If you can build 'em you can support 'em. Furthermore, once your staff has built 'em they are better at supporting them then if they hadn't. Assembly is a pain, but we come in on a couple of Saturdays to get it done 1 person can easilly assemble 4 an hour so even at overtime rates, total cost is still under $500. We assemble 80-100 once a year and roll out most of them ASAP, and keep some on hand for spares and growth needs. No OS either, but we license Windows through an entrprise agreement. If you don't have this you need to include an OEM copy of Windows.

    I think you would find it tough to beat this system for anywhere near this price -- it has 80-90% of your $1100 system performance at less than half your cost. Shop the $500 price point anywhere and you're not getting a gig of memory, and you're getting Celeron doggy CPUs. And it also has the capability of accepting A64x2 CPUs -- in fact we're starting to use this motherboard with A64x2s in a rackmount case for low end servers.
  • gdtaylor - Sunday, December 18, 2005 - link


    No OS either, but we license Windows through an entrprise agreement. If you don't have this you need to include an OEM copy of Windows.

    I hope Microsoft or BSAA never audits your company. You CANNOT use the Enterprise Agreement upgrade licences for Windows on machines purchased without an OEM version of Windows.

    Questions & Answers
    Q: What if a volume licensing customer purchases new machines that do not have an operating system pre-installed (“naked” PC)?
    A: Customers should request that their new machines come with a desktop operating system pre-installed (i.e., Microsoft Windows XP Professional, OS/2, etc.). Microsoft’s Volume Licensing programs only offer upgrade licenses for the Windows desktop license. A customer will not be legally licensed for Microsoft desktop operating system software if they acquire a PC that does not have a full desktop operating system license preinstalled and then use the Windows upgrade license media acquired through a Volume Licensing program to install a full operating system license.">Microsoft Operating System Licence Requirements

  • Wellsoul2 - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    I would agree the 4000+ is kind of a waste for an office system though the dual 3800+
    might be useful.

    You can't beat the 3000+/3200+ Compaq versions (1610NX I beleive)
    of these - I've bought four over the last month -
    3200+ (939skt)
    256MB @ 400MHZ
    DVD Rom/CDRW
    80 GB HD
    Radeon 200 graphics

    We paid $380 US after the way you can beat that.
    We picked up 512K extra memory for $37 after rebate.

    This computer is so much better than the usual crappy Celerons I am priced into buying
    for my company.
  • razor2025 - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    IMO, the pre-built OEM systems are the best way to go for business. Sure, having in-house built system could save you money, but you lose one key element of business-computing. CTO. By doing it in-house, you have to be able to provide the same support/service as an OEM without the cost benefit of being an OEM. HP can store their spare parts much more efficiently than almost any IT department. However, since I've never done IT support for business, I'm not too sure on how the cost/benefit in service turn-around "time" is for prebuilt vs in-house.

    OEM systems like these are also great for enthusiast. I.E. I just bought a Dell E510 desktop off Dell outlet for mere $310 shipped/taxed. It had P4 3ghz/ 1x256 DDR2 / 80gb WD SATA/ DVD-CDRW. It has a BTX case and motherboard, so it's relatively small (size of typical retail HP/compaq case), and it only has 1x 120mm fan to cooling. It's extremely quiet (to the point of danger, as I actually attempetd to install a video card without noticing that the computer was still on). I added about $100 worth of upgrades, mainly 1 more stick of 256mb DDR2, a used 6600 PCI-E, and a Buffallo USB Wireless aadpter. I installed my spare TV-tuner and a Chaintech AV710 I had as spare. So, for mere ~$400, I built myself a quite respectable HTPC that is dangerously silent, small, and looks nice. Overclocking and tweaking options are non-issue for its HTPC role. If I want to game, another kit of 512mb or 1gb DDR2 (for ~$40 - $70) will let me play BF2 and DoD:S quite nicely. If I went to self-build route for everything, I'm sure I would have to add about $100-200 to the equation. Also, the Dell came with Windows MCE, so that's another $100-150 savings on top.

    Don't dismiss OEM as "PC for Noobs". OEM setups can be great for non-gaming use, and they certainly can be a good base for nice systems at significant discount.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    The system that I reviewed was obviously a bit on the high end for the processor. That's what HP chose to send me, but many people would probably be happy with the lower end configurations. If you want to check those out, here are the links:">Desktop Models">Tower Models

    The $600 models are pretty good deal. 80 GB hard drive, 3200+ processor, and 512 MB RAM. It only comes with a 48X CD-ROM, but everything else is sufficient. Remember, that still includes the three-year on-site next business day warranty. For about half the price of the system I reviewed, it provides 80% of the performance.
  • Questar - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    Nice article.
    I wonder though, why all the game benchmarks for a business machine?

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