HP Compaq dx2300 Runs Strong and Silent

by Jamie Bsales

This affordable business desktop packs plenty of power for business chores into a compact, quiet tower case. Best of all, on-site service comes standard.

The HP Compaq dx2300 is a no-nonsense business desktop that delivers more power and features than its $519 price tag would suggest. It isn’t flashy, but it’s backed by a one-year warranty that includes on-site service, which is the kind of small-business bling that will help you sleep at night.

The dx2300 is aimed at business buyers with “essential” computing needs, meaning your typical productivity chores (e-mail, Web, office apps and so on). You can either opt for one of HP’s pre-built “Smart Buy” SKUs (available direct as well as through HP’s channel partners) or configure your own. If you chose the latter, you've got some decision making in your future.

You can choose from a whopping two dozen Intel processor options (ranging from Celeron D on up through Intel Core 2 Duo), five operating systems (Windows Vista and Windows XP flavors, plus FreeDOS), three hard drives and five optical drives to pick from, and so on. In short, you should be able to build the exact machine you need.

A Not-So-Basic Box
The black mid-sized tower case is attractive enough for a business appliance, and places the optical drive bays up high (convenient for people who place the unit on the floor under a desk). Two USB ports front and center (literally) let you easily connect thumb drives and the like. You'll find four more USB ports on the back along with the standard cadre of connectors (parallel, serial, VGA, LAN, audio). The only items missing are a FireWire port and DVI connector (for digital-capable monitors).

Unlike other low-cost machines, the dx2300 allows for easy upgrading down the road as your needs and budget dictate. Simply remove the two screws holding the side panel in place, and you gain ready access to the case interior. The motherboard offers a slot for a full-height PCI card, plus two open PCIe (PCI Express) slots. That means if you want to add a dedicated graphics card, you can; just note that the dx2300’s 250-watt power supply limits you to a mid-range card at best, since higher-end graphics cards require at least a 450-watt supply. There’s also room in the case for a second hard drive, a second optical drive and a floppy disk drive and/or media-card reader.

As with all modern PCs, setup is simple: Connect the keyboard, mouse, monitor (sold separately) and power cord, and you’re ready to go. The dx2300 bundle includes a comfortable, three-position keyboard (two levels of tilt, plus flat) and a basic laser mouse with scroll wheel. The tower’s built-in speaker is fine for communicating Windows’ alerts and even basic business audio, but you’ll want to add a set of powered speakers if you need higher quality audio output than that.

A Few of Our Favorite Things
We most enjoy what HP has deliberately left out: noise. Too often, low-cost PCs inflict you with an omnipresent humming from the cooling fans. But with the dx2300, after the initial whir as the machine boots up, the fan noise subsides to blissful silence. You have to lean toward the case and strain to hear if the PC is even on.

We also appreciate that HP has kept freebie and trial software to a minimum. In addition to the operating system and its utilities, you get InterVideo WinDVD (on models equipped with a DVD drive) for playing DVDs and the Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 suite (on disc) for creating CDs and DVDs (on models equipped with a writeable optical drive.

HP also includes its excellent HP Backup & Recovery Manager software, which features a simple, wizard-driven interface. And HP reports it tries to keep the hardware and driver configurations of the dx2300 as stable as possible, making IT chores easier when you deploy several PCs over a period of months.

HP Compaq dx2300
The HP Compaq dx2300 delivers essential business computing, plus some welcome extras.

Our test unit came equipped with the mid-level 3.2-GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 1GB of DDR2-667 SDRAM memory, an 80GB 7,200-rpm SATA hard drive, integrated Intel graphics, CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive and Windows Vista Business Edition. The system's overall performance was fairly robust, and it's more than adequate for business chores.

The integrated graphics mean this is not gaming rig for after-hours fun, but the configuration’s Windows Experience Index (a feature built into Vista to help determine how well Vista will run on a specific PC) of 3.6 (out of a possible 5.9) shows it’s more than capable of handling Vista’s demanding Aero interface tricks.

Pretty Picture
You’ll need a monitor for the dx2300, and for our testing HP sent along its HP L2045w Flat Panel monitor ($279). This 20.1-inch widescreen LCD is ideal for pairing with Vista, as the extra width gives room for the handy sidebar gadgets (or lets you see a document and your e-mail pane side-by-side). The 1680x1050 resolution is comfortable to work on with a panel this size, and the screen delivered crisp text and rich colors.

HP claims a pixel response rate of 5ms for the panel, which is quick. But in DVD playback, we nonetheless noticed motion blur, as well as dithering artifacts (where color gradations don’t blend seamlessly).

On the plus side, the L2045w’s stand is among the best we’ve seen. You can swivel the panel, tilt it, rotate it into portrait mode and raise or lower the panel a generous five inches at the touch of a button.

All told, the HP Compaq dx2300 represents and excellent value. You get a configurable business PC at a low price, along with the peace of mind of an on-site warranty and the sanity a quiet PC promises.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Jun 20th 2007
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