So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Hewlett-Packard Australia Pavillion a6160a
- It has a quad-core CPU, it's stylish, it has a media card reader, it has FireWire, it ships with Windows Vista Ultimate edition
- It wasn't a quick performer in our tests, it could use a bigger hard drive and more RAM
Overall, this is a well-equipped family PC that's perfect for storing photos, home videos and music. We wish its hard drive was a little bigger, and we also wish it had 2GB of RAM, but it's still more than capable of handling everyday multimedia tasks with its current components.
Price$ 1,650.00 (AUD)
Exuding good looks and occupying only a small footprint on a desk, this Pavilion is perhaps the perfect family PC. Its quad-core CPU means that it will perform exceptionally when multiple programs are running, and it has enough speed to run all sorts of video files and even some games.
However, it isn't the quickest quad-core machine we've tested; it scored 91 in WorldBench 6, which is about ten per cent lower than what we were expecting, and it was particularly slow in the Adobe Photoshop CS2 test. Only 1GB of RAM is installed, so adding another 1GB of RAM might claw back some performance. It was also a little slow in our MP3 encoding tests, but CDs can be converted to MP3 files in well under 2min.
The Pavilion has only a modest graphics card installed, which is based on NVIDIA's GeForce 8400 GS graphics processing unit (GPU), so it can't be used for much gaming. Even with low image-detail settings and at a resolution of 1024 x 768, F.E.A.R ran at a rate of 34 frames per second, which isn't conducive to smooth gameplay. Games from a two or three years ago should run much better though. However the graphics card does give this PC an advantage over other family-based PCs, as it has an HDMI port. This port can be used to connect the PC to a big-screen TV (or a monitor that supports HDMI), so that it can be used as a media centre. It also has a regular DVI monitor port and an S-Video output.
On the front of the panel, HP has included useful features such as a media card reader (perfect for getting images off a digital camera), as well as FireWire and USB ports. The FireWire port allows video from a camcorder to be transferred to the PC, so embarrassing family memories can be edited and burnt to DVD for all to see. To facilitate burning, a DVD burner is installed, and it supports LightScribe which allows labels to be burnt directly onto compatible LightScribe disks.
The rear panel has more USB and FireWire connections, and it also includes digital audio output ports, PS/2 ports and a gigabit Ethernet port.
For tech-minded buyers, the inside of the case is interesting. The micro-ATX motherboard has been installed on the left-hand side of the case (when looking at it from the front) and it's upside-down. That means the keyboard and mouse connections are right at the bottom. The motherboard has two PCI Express x1 slots and one PCI slot, which can be used to add a wireless networking card or a digital TV tuner, and it has four free Serial ATA ports for adding more hard drives. However, the case can only accommodate one more drive. There is an external expansion bay for adding one of HP's own Pocket Media Drives.
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