Pros: Athlon 64 processor, dual layer DVD burner with lightscribe, 200GB Seagate SATA hard drive
Cons: Onboard graphics with shared system memoy, not much room for expansion internally
I recently lost a couple of older computers in a basement flood that also took several printers and some musical equipment of mine. This computer was a replacement from our insurance company for an old Compaq 5050 desktop PC. I have not purchased a computer in quite a few years since I tend to build my own (which by the way, are far superior in every aspect) so I didnt expect much for an insurance replacement.
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box and saw some of the features of this computer. I have to say, Compaq has come a long way and it is most likely due to the merger with Hewlett Packard. This is not the most powerful PC nor is it a top-of-the-line model but it is a very nice toy for me that does offer plenty of processing power for home or office use.
The Compaq SR1550NX Desktop PC
The SR1550NX is a very nice looking machine with a lot of ports to plug things into. It is a black mid-tower PC with grey trim and a neat looking green power LED. But aside from the aesthetics it sports a nice little package. This computer is basically a secondary gaming machine for my guests who want to play on the LAN. It is a minor system compared to my main PC but in its own right it is a nice computer with well rounded features for the average PC user.
The computer uses the AMD Athlon 64 3400+ which runs at 2.41GHz. The computer uses smart regulation so that when the computer is idle or not using as much processing power it lowers the processor speed to 1.8GHz to save power. But when the computer needs the processing power it instantaneously bumps up to 2.41GHz again.
Compaq uses the common PC3200 DDR which runs on a 400MHz bus. The memory installed is 512MB but the onboard graphics borrows from this anywhere from 32MB to 128MB. So if you set the graphics to 128MB you only have 384MB of system memory. I dont much care for this shared memory feature but it is sufficient for Internet, word processing, email, playing or burning music and DVDs.
Ports, drives, connectivity and expandability
The computer sports a Seagate 200GB SATA 150 hard drive and has three ATA channels to support the Dual Layer (lightscribe) DVD-/+RW and CDROM drives as well as four more drives (although there is only room in the case for one more 3.5 hard drive). The motherboard supports more than the case does and this does not surprise me with Compaq, but at least it is a standard motherboard that can be transferred into another case if needed for expansion.
The CDROM is a 40X CD reader and can rip CDs at 40X as well. The Dual Layer (lightscribe) DVD-/+RW is a really nice feature that can play CDs and DVD as well as write them and it supports the 8.5GB DVD+R/RW dual layer media. The lightscribe technology is absolutely wonderful. You can burn a CD or DVD using lightscribe compatible media and then flip the disc over and burn a label right on the disc itself. This is my favorite feature of this computer. The burned labels look very professional and are burned in high resolution. I am hoping that one day soon they may come out with color lightscribe technology, but currently it is only available in a sepia tone using dark and light shades.
The onboard sound is decent and there are front panel plugs for headphones/speakers, microphone and line-in. It also has a front panel FireWire 1394a port and 3 front panel USB 2.0 ports. One of the front USB 2.0 ports is located in the multicard reader which can read SmartMedia, xD, CompactFlash types I and II, MMC, SD, Memory Stick and Memory Stick PRO. This is really nice to have all these ports on the front, I dont think I will ever have to plug anything into the back other than what is already plugged in there (like the monitor, Ethernet, power cable etc.).
On the back panel there are four more USB 2.0 ports and another FireWire 1394a port. You also have the common parallel port and one serial port as well as the audio ports (same as the front panel), PS/2 mouse and kepboard ports, video (SVGA), LAN and modem. The modem is not onboard but is a PCI card software modem made by Agere (which used to be Lucent).
The onboard video is sufficient for older 3D games like Thief and Blood but playing CounterStrike Source revealed its inadequacies. The onboard graphics is a SIS chip that borrows memory from the main system memory and can be set from 32MB up to 128MB. Personally I noticed no difference at all between 32 and 128 settings in my games. My solution was to install an ATI Radeon 9550 AGP card into the available AGP slot on the motherboard and disable the onboard graphics altogether. This solved the gaming issue and works reasonably well for CounterStrike Source and Battlefield 2.
There are two PCI slots available and one AGP slot for upgrading peripheral cards. The computer has three PCI slots total but one is used by the modem card.
The computer comes loaded with Norton Internet Security (90 day trial), Microsoft Office 2003 (60 day trial), Record Now, Quicken (New user edition), SpySubtract anti spyware (90 day trial), iTunes, RealPlayer, Microsoft Works including word processor, and several other titles. The good software is mostly trial software and must be purchased in order to continue using them after the trial period is up.
Curiously, I could not find any software to support the lightscribe labels so I downloaded Surething CD labeler 4 SE for free and that is what I use to make lightscribe CD labels.
Even though this computer is mainly for use by my guests, I cant help but play with it and since I upgraded the video card I have to say this is not a bad computer at all. It hurts to admit that I actually like a Compaq computer but this little PC has a nice package and is quite fast for common PC tasks.
The feature I use the most is the DVD burner for making my music CDs and the lightscribe labeling system. I really like this feature a lot. The only thing I dont like is the wait time for labeling a disc using lightscribe. It takes approximately 30 minutes to make a lightscribe label.
This is a well rounded PC good for home or office use and with a small investment it makes a decent gaming computer as well. As much as I hate to admit it (especially from past experience with Compaq) this is a good computer and I look forward to at least three years of solid performance from it. I will update this review if it does not live up to my expectations but after looking over the hardware very thoroughly I am convinced this is a solid PC.
Thanks for reading,