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HP Vectra VL420

WHAT'S HOT: The latest entrant in HP's Vectra line of corporate PCs, the HP

Vectra VL420 we tested purred its way to a PC

WorldBench 4 score of 97. That number falls below the

benchmark score of 100 established by our baseline

system (a 1.2-GHz Athlon with 128MB of RAM), but it's

still impressive for a compact desktop system. Powered

by a 1.8-GHz Pentium 4 and carrying 256MB of PC133

SDRAM memory, our Vectra VL420 outperformed a

similarly configured Dell OptiPlex GX240 by six points (7


Aimed squarely at the corporate workplace, the Vectra runs Windows XP

Professional and ships with a solid suite of client management software, including

HP's Toptools and EDiagtools and Rembo's Auto Deploy and Auto Backup for

deploying software and creating and restoring backup sets. Other corporate

features include chassis intrusion detection (at boot-up, our system reported

when it had last been opened) and a Kensington lock slot (the lock is an optional

extra). The VL420 puts two USB ports up front--an unusual plus in a corporate

PC. Two more USB ports are situated on the box's back panel, and all ports can

be locked out through the BIOS to prevent users from connecting unauthorized


And it's truly a value system: $1259 is a great price for a corporate system with

convincing performance.

WHAT'S NOT: To rein in the price on this system, HP had to install some

low-budget components. Our review unit came with a 20GB hard drive (adequate

for average business users, but leaving little room to grow), a slimline 10X-24X

CD-ROM drive, and integrated audio and speakers.

Like most compact desktops, the VL420 has a cluttered interior with little

expansion room. There are no open drive bays, though there are open PCI slots.

WHAT ELSE: The bundled 17-inch HP P720 display delivers good enough image

quality to have made our Top 10 17-Inch Monitors chart in the past. In our tests,

the P720 displayed crisp, easily legible 12-point Arial text with only minor

ghosting of characters. Colors were rich and flesh tones looked very natural in

our test photo, though in past tests of this monitor, some images' colors have

appeared too dark.

Opening the small, white-and-blue desktop model requires you to flip up a switch

on the back of the top panel. The sturdy panel pops off easily but takes some

aligning and effort to snap back into place.

You can easily swap out the floppy, CD-ROM, and hard drives without tools, by

snapping off the system's front bezel and then sliding the drives out the front.

Three available slots ,which accept half-height PCI cards, can also be accessed

sans tools. But removing the slot cover wasn't an easy task.

Thanks to HP's Ultraflow cooling system, the VL420 runs very quietly. Between

the system's small stature and its lack of noise, you can place it almost anywhere

and it won't intrude.

Documentation consists of a color setup poster and a skimpy user's guide, but

more extensive docs--including technical manuals and troubleshooting

guides--are available on HP's Web site.

UPSHOT: Small size, moderate power, and a solid list of IS management features

make this Vectra right at home in the land of cubes. By Joel Strauch

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