Technology

Skinny Desktop, Big Features


By Mariaelena Quale Compaq's new, $1585 Evo D500 Ultra-slim boasts an innovative desktop design that's sure to please IT departments and small offices. It comes with attractive components--including a 15-inch LCD monitor--at a fair price, as well.

The new case of the D500 weighs less than 12 pounds and is only 12.4 inches in depth, yet our preproduction unit still packed a 1.3-GHz Celeron CPU, a 20GB hard drive, 256MB of SDRAM, a DVD-ROM drive, integrated ethernet, and an optional 802.11b wireless networking module that plugs into a special USB port ($189, included in price above). But its real strength is its design.

FLEXIBILITY. One obvious advantage of the D500 Ultra-slim is the system's petite size, sure to be appreciated in cramped settings. Other slim desktops share that advantage, but Compaq goes a step further by including a notebook-style MultiBay for modular components. That extra provides businesses with true flexibility and cost savings: Small or medium-size offices can stock the same MultiBay parts for both desktops and notebooks, and can easily replace and reconfigure units (as long as those offices are Compaq shops, of course). Popping the included DVD-ROM drive in and out of the MultiBay was a cinch.

The D500 Ultra-slim can also switch quickly from a desktop to a tower configuration, using an included stand. Given the slimline design, you might expect the case's interior to be cluttered or crowded--it was neither. The case was also easy to open: I simply took off two thumbscrews and popped the lid. You can remove the hard drive without tools by unhinging the latch and sliding out the drive. I also found that adding the machine to my wired home network was a breeze.

On the other hand, as you might expect, there are no available drive bays or slots. As a result, your only expansion option is the MultiBay.

You get the usual audio and video ports as well as five USB ports. Ports for a headset, a microphone, and one USB device are conveniently located on the unit's front panel. Our system also came with an optional module ($49, included in the price above) that provides serial, parallel, and PS/2 ports for legacy devices; it snaps on in the back. Unless you really need the legacy ports, however, I would stick with the USB ports.

STEADY, NOT SPEEDY. Though the D500 should be adequate for standard office tasks, as you might expect of a Celeron-based unit, it won't win any speed races. It had sufficient muscle to let me watch a DVD movie with smooth picture and stable sound even as I worked in another application. Its performance was good for a 1.3-GHz Celeron system; the unit earned a PC WorldBench 4 score of 96. However, that fell just short of the performance of a similar value-oriented Sys unit that used AMD's 1-GHz Duron chip and was tested with half the memory: The Sys machine had a PC WorldBench 4 score of 100. (Both models ran Windows 2000 Professional; the Compaq unit is also available with Windows XP Professional.)

You get a good deal for your money, though, especially given the included 15-inch Compaq LCD monitor with its crisp and clear picture. And I was impressed with the comfort afforded by the bundled Compaq keyboard. It has standard shortcut keys, allowing one-button access to e-mail, Internet searching, and Compaq help, among other things. The integrated SoundMax Digital audio was less pleasing--while even and adequate, it was sometimes tinny. The unit also came with a three-button USB mouse.

The Evo D500 Ultra-slim's design, price, and features, along with a three-year on-site parts and labor warranty, make this system a good choice for small to medium-size businesses or for home offices with little space. From the March 2002 issue of PC World magazine


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