There’s nothing fancy about the keyboard and mouse—both rely on USB cables—but the keyboard offers solid tactile feedback and has buttons for controlling the software media player and the volume. Unless you’ve been blessed with extremely keen hearing, you’ll want to plug a set of powered speakers into the audio line-out in back, because the ones built into the machine are so weak that the fan noise from a nearby tower machine nearly drowned them out.
The MS225 itself is relatively quiet, but it’s louder than ViewSonic’s VPC100 all-in-one and, surprisingly enough, slightly noisier than HP’s much more powerful TouchSmart 300. The machine draws power from an external brick and is very energy efficient, drawing 44 watts of juice while idle and 55 watts while running our Photoshop benchmark test. It’s worth noting, however, that the Atom-powered VPC100 drew just 35 watts at idle and only 38 watts during our Photoshop test.
The presence of a dual-core CPU, on the other hand, renders the MS225 a much better productivity machine than the VPC100 could ever hope to be. Our benchmark test loads a digital photo (shot in raw format with an Olympus C-8080) into Photoshop and then sequentially applies and reverses every one of the program’s filters. The VPC 100 required 11 minutes and 11 seconds to run through the entire script; the MS225 required a somewhat more reasonable five minutes and 16 seconds. That’s still not as fast as a conventional desktop computer—HP’s Pavilion Slimline s5160f, for instance, completed the task in nearly half that time—but at least you won’t find yourself questioning your sanity over your decision to buy a budget box.
The HP Pavilion MS225 delivers better performance than we expected to find from a $600 PC. While there’s no getting around some of its limitations—you can’t drive a second monitor, for example—you can add many of the other features it doesn’t already have. You can plug a TV tuner into one of its USB ports, for instance, and add a network-attached-storage (NAS) box or a home server machine to augment its storage capacity. And wireless mice and keyboards are pretty cheap if you don’t like dealing with cables.
Just don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re going to find a powerhouse machine at this price point. If you’re planning to edit digital photos and video all day long or play the most demanding videogames, this is not the right system. But if you want a compact PC you can tuck in a corner of the kitchen on your bedroom dresser for watching DVDs and checking email, then the Pavilion MS225 is a compelling value.
- Equipped with a real desktop CPU
- 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium (which includes Windows Media Center)
- 320GB hard drive
- 4GB of RAM
- Not suited to demanding applications
- Wired mouse and keyboard
- Wired networking limited to 100Mb/s
- Wireless networking limited to 802.11b/g