Advantages Small and perfectly formed
Disadvantages Limited upgrade path
|Memory / capacity|
|Range of Extra Features|
Surprisingly good - considering the age and specification of the machine, were my second impressions of this system, and so far, nothing has led me to stray from that view.I first came across the Deskpro EN at work, around four years ago - my first impressions weren't altogether favourable, but that was almost entirely due to a somewhat overzealous security policy, using an outdated operating system, on an under specified system, with an excess of resource hungry applications.
I would be the first to admit how wrong I was.The design brief for these systems is simple; 'put together a small footprint system with everything onboard, and allow an upgrade path which should keep this system running well beyond your expectations' could quite easily have been what was asked for, as that's exactly what you get.
'Big box features in a small box format' could be another.COMPAQ have been known for many years to turn out exquisitely engineered computers, which punch well above their weight, the only downside in the past has been a somewhat fussy approach to third party upgrades.
Luckily for all of us, whilst the build quality hasn't suffered, the willingness to accept other people's cards and drives has been well and truly put behind them.My in-laws had been struggling for a couple of years with one of my old 'toss-out' PCs - a 64MB 166MHz Pentium system, upgrading to broadband was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back (they'd also been running Windows/98 SE for most of that time, and the registry was more shot-through than your average territorial army's rifle target)
Add to this an indiscriminate passion to install any old bit of freeware going, and you'll probably have no difficulty in believing that 'unstable' was a bit of an understatement.I put it to them that anything I did to resurrect the system was going to be temporary, and that they needed something with a bit more clout to see them through the next couple of years at least.
We ended up selecting a reconditioned Deskpro EN, with an 800MHz PIII processor 14Gb hard drive, and had been upgraded to 256Mb of memory.The cost from an ebay reseller was around £120 without operating system, in a 'buy it now' auction - when it arrived, it revealed it's 'enterprise culture' heritage by arriving with a 16Mb Token Ring card installed - this was immediately pulled & stuck in my spares box - somehow I just can't bring myself to throw these out, even though they are virtually useless in the 'real world'
The system is based on an 'all in one' ATX motherboard with video sound, graphics, and 100 megabit ethernet port, as well as the usual serial, parallel and PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports. A couple of USB sockets at the back complete the design.If the token ring card wasn't enough to confirm that this was originally installed in an office, the standard system comes fitted with a solenoid which can be set to 'lock out' any meddlesome users without access to the appropriate passwords on the system bios.
Luckily, this feature hadn't been enabled, and I was able to get into the guts fairly easily (otherwise it would have taken no more than a couple of minutes to drill out the security bolts holding the solenoid) - if you are buying one of these second hand, and are planning on upgrading your system at any stage, check this with the seller.There is a card riser, offering three PCI bays, which are mounted horizontally, and several memory sockets on the main board allow upgrading at a future date.
There is no provision for allowing an upgrade to the video systems, nor is there an AGP socket in the machine..I performed a 'scratch install' of Windows/89 SE without any major difficulty, making a 4Gb partition for programs, and a further 10Gb available for data, I can always change that with 'Partition manager' at a future stage if required.CD copying! - there isn't room for a second drive, and I doubt the power supply would be up to it.
Although I had encouraged my in-laws to back up all their own files, I was able to temporarily connect their old hard drive and perform a disk-to-disk copy of their personal data. This saved an enormous amount of time.I was able to download the Intel ethernet drivers from the COMPAQ support site onto my main home PC and burn a CD, and got it connected to the Internet over my home LAN. After that, picking up the remaining drivers was moderately easy, as was applying the service packs from Microsoft.
Having installed their familiar office-based software, I was able to connect the system to their USB ADSL modem, and get it working in minutes.The benefit of buying even older 'first tier' kit is that a lot of the hassles involved in getting something like this working are eliminated, it has proved to be highly stable, and as long as they don't start installing the same 'shovelware' off cover disks, they should be able to use it for some considerable time to come.
If you're looking to pick up a moderately inexpensive machine for undemanding users, you could do a lot worse than invest in this system.As long as you stick to the principle that 'older kit works best with older software', and don't try to install the latest 'bloatware' this ought to do you fine.
About the only 'fly in the ointment' experienced was the trouble my in-laws had in swapping their Outlook Express settings to use both their old and new Internet Service Providers, this was nothing to do with the hardware itself, and will doubtless feature in a further review.I have deliberately avoided quoting benchmark figures, compared to their old kit, it's at least ten times quicker, this was never designed as a 'speed demon' but on the other hand it performs perfectly adequately with any contemporary software.
This could be considered very much a 'safe buy' and whilst this particular model will always be sold at a premium, it's probably equivelant to buying a second hand Volkswagen - well built, reliable, possibly erring towards the expensive, but worth every penny
Attention, this is the first review from this author
Instead of giving a negative rating, consider:
Help this member by giving your advice
Report fraud (for example plagiarism) or other issue with the review to the Ciao support team
Add your comment