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
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