- Review Date: 02/03/11
- Bottom line:
With a quad-core processor and a large hard drive, the HP Pavilion p6710f desktop offers some fine performance potential for its sub-$500 price.
Large hard drive. Includes onboard Wi-Fi.
Bloatware. No monitor. No HDMI or USB 3.0 ports.
There have been many changes in the country and the world over the last several months, but there's seldom reason to expect too many from a budget desktop. Nonetheless, the HP Pavilion p6710f, available exclusively at Staples, offers some. Though in many ways identical to its predecessor, the Pavilion p6610f ($529.98 list, 3.5 stars), it introduces two significant changes that help keep this model relevant for 2011. First, it's bumped up the capacity of its hard drive a full third, from 750GB to 1TB. Perhaps even more significantly, it also costs less—whereas the previous machine cost about $530, you can get one of these for only $479.98 (list). You'll have to make the typical sacrifices about computing and graphics performance that almost any budget system requires, but even so, the p6710f gives you quite a bit for your money.
Like most other members of the Pavilion family, the p6710f's midtower case is equal parts bare-bones and sleek. It's mostly black, with a glossy front panel, silver trimming, and a power button that glows white when the computer is on. The two 5.25-inch drive bays (only the top of which contains an optical drive, in this case a LightScribe-capable DVD burner) are hidden behind hinged doors. The front-panel ports can be found by sliding down a panel beneath the second 5.25-inch bay: You'll find there headphone and microphone jacks and two USB 2.0 ports, but no faster USB 3.0 ports (which are to be found nowhere on the machine). A 15-in-1 card reader is located, unobscured, at the top of the case's front panel.
The rear panel of the desktop is where you'll find ports for digital audio, 5.1 analog audio, Ethernet, and four more USB 2.0 ports. Also present are VGA and DVI ports for hooking up two displays at once (unfortunately, there's no HDMI port for outputting high-definition video); and even an add-in card in the MiniCard slot that lets you connect the (included) external antenna you'll need for accessing 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi networks.
If you want to expand your computer's capabilities, you have a few options inside the case. In addition to the extra 5.25-inch drive bay mentioned above, there are also two empty spaces for 3.5-inch hard drives, two extra RAM slots if you want to increase your computer's memory, and four expansion slots (one PCI Express x16 and three using PCIe x1) if you want to bulk up the desktop's capabilities.
The Athlon II X4 640 CPU included with the p6710f sports four processing cores and a 3GHz clock speed, which nicely complements the 4GB of DDR3 memory that this desktop will be able to take full advantage of—thanks to its 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium operating system. The ATI Radeon HD 4200 integrated graphics system is a fairly standard choice, and sufficient for everyday computing if not serious game playing, but you'll need to supply your own monitor—this system doesn't come with one. The 1TB hard drive is a nice touch, giving you huge amounts of space for storing documents, photos, music files, videos, or almost anything else you can imagine. Unfortunately, the hard drive comes preloaded with bloatware and free trials for HP's own MediaSmart suite, Norton Internet Security, Microsoft Office Starter 2010, and so on.
The keyboard and mouse that come with the p6710f are of standard, remarkably attractive HP vintage, the former with wide and flat keys and the latter an optical model designed for both left- and right-handed users. The one-year limited warranty includes 24x7 support, both online and by toll-free phone.
Customers who buy this system from Staples can avail themselves of several services the retailer offers. This includes setting the new system up, data transfer from your old PC to your new one, software installation, and tech support and protection plans that range in price from $14.99 to $169.99.
In terms of performance, the p6710f offers about what you could anticipate from a desktop PC of this size and price: Decent day-to-day performance without much in the way of bells and whistles. It scored 6,081 on our PCMark Vantage full-system test; and 3.35 in the Cinebench R11.5 rendering benchmark. It needed 2 minutes 32 seconds to transcode a video file in Handbrake, and 5:52 to process a photo in Photoshop CS5 with 12 different filters and effects. In all cases, these results are about par for the budget-desktop course. If you want somewhat faster media-rendering times, you can get them from a more expensive desktop like the Gateway SX2850-33 ($549.99 list, 3.5 stars), which completed the Handbrake test in 2 minutes 24 seconds and the CS5 test in 4:15.
Its scores of 2,392 and 65 in 3DMark Vantage, respectively, at the Entry (1,024-by-768) and Extreme (1,920-by-1,200) presets, prove that gaming will not be this system's forte, particularly at medium resolutions and above. Because the ATI Radeon HD 4200 integrated graphics system does not support DirectX 11, we couldn't run our usual Lost Planet 2 test; and we were also unable to test the graphically-intense Crysis. Similarly priced and equipped systems like the Gateway SX2850-33, Acer Aspire AX3400-U2012 ($449.49 list, 3.5 stars), and even the HP Pavilion p6727c-b ($749.99 list, 4 stars), however, earned single-digit frame rates, so you can probably expect about the same from this desktop. If you're interested in doing any sort of serious gaming, you'll want to add a discrete video card to bolster the p6710f's weaknesses in this department.
Its lack of identifiable gaming prowess is one of the most significant strikes against the HP Pavilion p6710f, but even that can be fixed without jacking up the price too much (good, basic video cards are available for $200 or less). For a better-rounded experience, including a larger monitor and a longer warranty, our Editors' Choice, the HP p6727c, is overall a stronger bet. This desktop can be a workable solution if you need a machine that can do a little bit of everything but doesn't absolutely need to be a graphic dynamo or speed demon.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the HP Pavilion p6710f