Top budget desktop PCs
Aimed at the value-conscious, these budget desktops will tackle your computing needs without breaking the bank
HP Pavilion p6720f Review, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal February 11, 2011
Massive (for the category) hard drive
Plenty of RAM
Very little room for expansion
Bottom Line: Swift and sporting generous amounts of RAM and hard-drive space, this PC is an excellent choice for people who need to focus on their work.
HP is generous with both hard-drive space and RAM in the HP Pavilion p6720f, but it skimps on the discrete graphics card. And by "skimps," I mean it didn't include one. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, though: This budget desktop is an excellent choice for workers who are easily distracted by gaming, as you won't be able to do much of it.
Our review unit, priced at $600 (as of February 11, 2011), came equipped with a 2.9GHz AMD Phenom II 840T quad-core processor, 6GB of installed RAM, and a whopping (for a budget machine) 1TB hard drive. It also packs a DVD burner, ATI Radeon HD 4200 integrated graphics, and 802.11n Wi-Fi.
The Pavilion p6720f is housed in a plain-looking black HP chassis. The glossy black plastic front hides an extra expansion bay that sits right under the DVD burner, in case you'd like to add a second optical drive (such as a Blu-ray player). The power button, located at the top of the chassis, is lit with a subtle ice-blue LED. The p6720f is fairly slim (about 7 inches wide), but otherwise unexceptional in appearance; the matte-black sides feature the HP logo and taper out toward the front.
This desktop comes with a generic mouse-and-keyboard set. Both peripherals are wired, so there go two of your six total USB ports. The two are pleasantly spiffy-looking: The mouse is a black, two-button-with-scroll-wheel affair with smooth lines, and the keyboard is flat and black with silver volume keys.
You won't find much included software, other than the requisite trialware and the HP MediaSmart video and music playback suite.
The front of the p6720f has a few useful ports, including a multiformat card reader bay. Also present are headphone and microphone jacks, as well as two USB 2.0 ports. I'd love a USB 3.0 port, or even an eSATA port, but remember: This is a budget machine, not a multimedia powerhouse. The back is similarly equipped, with four USB 2.0 ports, an ethernet port, an S/PDIF-out, one DVI-out, and one VGA-out. Support for 7.1 surround sound is included, too.
Open the p6720f's case, and you'll find a somewhat dismal amount of expansion room. Take note--the inside is a mess. The wires are all clumped in the middle and held together with cable ties. Fortunately, you can't do all that much to the inside, anyway. As I mentioned earlier, the machine has one free 5.25-inch bay; available as well are two additional 3.5-inch bays, one spare RAM slot, one PCI slot, and three PCIe x1 slots. Well, at least you'll be able to install that much-needed video card.
Now, the p6720f is a budget machine, so its performance is understandably subpar if you're used to checking out performance PCs. That said, this quad-core PC's WorldBench 6 score was 114, which is just below the mark of the $780 HP Pavilion p6540f.
Of course, if you're hoping to play games, you'll need to look elsewhere. The p6720f, with its integrated ATI graphics, managed only a pathetic frame rate of 3.9 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 tests (2560 by 1600 resolution, high quality). Lower quality and lower resolution didn't really get us anywhere, either; the best we ended up with was 21.5 fps at a 1024 by 768 resolution with medium quality settings.
So gaming is out, but the budget-PC category isn't really meant to handle heavy lifting anyway. Machines on our mainstream desktop charts are a better bet--the Micro Express MicroFlex 25B, for instance, will set you back $850, but it's far more generous in overall performance and digital entertainment. That said, the Pavilion p6720f offers a roomy hard drive and a fairly speedy quad-core processor, making it perfect for productivity. It's so effective, you'd be hard-pressed to get any of your interactive digital distractions running.