Few companies have done as much to advance the popularity of all-in-one PC designs as HP (except for maybe Compaq, and that was long before HP acquired the company). While the HP Pavilion MS225 doesn’t have all the sexy features found in HP’s more expensive TouchSmart series—it’s not endowed with a touchscreen, obvioulsy—but it’s a much better value than some of the other inexpensive all-in-one PCs we’ve seen lately. Read on to find out why.
Features and Design
Put simply, the difference lies in HP’s component choices. A number of manufacturers have elected to use inexpensive CPUs, such as Intel’s Atom series, in order to hold down costs. That choice, paired with just one or two gigabytes of memory, keeps price tags low, but it also leads to unpalatable performance and usability compromises. HP could never offer the Pavilion MS225 at just $600 without making its own dive into the bargain bin, but at least it comes up with a full-fledged desktop processor: AMD’s Athlon II X2 250u running at a modest 1.6GHz.
Admittedly, that chip’s not going to fuel anyone’s mad-scientist fantasies, but it does put a much bigger herd of horses under the hood than anything in the Atom line will. It’s a 64-bit, dual-core chip fully capable of running Windows 7, and HP pairs it with 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory (the system comes with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 so the machine can address all the memory). Unlike the TouchSmart line though, which features discrete graphics processors with their own frame buffers, the MS225 relies on integrated graphics (namely, AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 3200) that reserve 256MB of that system memory for its own purposes. Don’t buy this machine with the expectation of playing anything other than the simplest of mainstream games.
HP’s hard drive choice, a 320GB model that spins at 7,200 RPM, boosts the value proposition just a wee bit higher. There’s also a memory card reader integrated into the left side of the monitor bezel, along with a headphone jack and mic input. A fixed-position webcam is embedded in the top bezel. HP’s other component choices, on the other hand, are more what you’d expect in this price range: The vertically mounted DVD burner relies on a tray, the wired network adapter is limited to 100Mb/sec, and the wireless network adapter card supports only 802.11b/g. (The more elegant TouchSmart series features a slot-feed optical drive, gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11n wireless.)
The built-in 18-inch LCD delivers resolution of 1366×768 pixels. It can be tilted and swiveled, but it’s not height adjustable and cannot be pivoted (which isn’t unusual for this type of machine). As is typical of all-in-one PCs, your expansion opportunities are limited to devices you can plug into the machine’s USB port. There are two of these in the left side of the machine and four more in back, but keep in mind that the mouse and keyboard will consume two right off the bat.