- Very affordable
- Room for expansion
- DVD Burner
- Very weak graphics
- No card reader
- Six USB ports
Compaq. Who’s that? They were once the world’s largest supplier of PCs, and existed separately until 2002, when Hewlett-Packard acquired and merged with them, turning them into an in-house brand that distributes some of their low-end value desktops. Today we take a look at the HP Compaq CQ5110f: is the brand name with the funny-shaped Q a smart buy? Read on and find out.
- Processor: AMD Athlon I X2 7750 @ 2.5GHz
- Memory: 3GB DDR2 SDRAM (4GB maximum)
- Hard drive: 320GB SATA @ 7200RPM
- Optical drive #1: 16X DVD+/-RW SuperMulti drive with LightScribe capability
- Sound: Integrated HD audio
- Video card: Integrated NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE with 128MB shared graphics memory
- Networking: 10/100 Ethernet
- Operating system: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
- Built-in multiple memory card reader
- Inputs: 6 USB2.0 (2 front, 4 back), 2 PS/2, FireWire, audio out + headphone/microphone jacks
- Power supply: 300W
- Dimensions: 16.87 x 6.54 x 15.11 inches (L x W x D)
- Warranty: One-year limited parts and labor
At the time of this writing, the HP Compaq CQ5110f is available with a suggested retail price of $359.99.
Compaq has become the unloved stepchild of the HP conglomerate; relegated to basic, no-frills machines with little fanfare that are ultimately targeted toward bargain seekers and those who need only a very basic device for computing. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see HP drop the name entirely before too long; it never gets top billing and it’s hard to remember the last time an advertisement showed any sort of mention of the old Compaq brand. Despite all of this, and given that this machine is selling for just $360, it’s easy to convince oneself that it must be plagued with cruddy build quality, low performance and an overall cheap, no-frills experience. Fortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case.
To start, the case features a largely metal construction, with the black aluminum covering four sides and a glossy black plastic panel covering the front. Now it’s true that the vast majority of cases are metal, but not all metals are made equally, and some cheap computers end up with flapping, loose panels and impossible to use cases. The case on the CQ5110f is somewhere in between the extremes; it may not have the weighty feel of an expensive, high-end computer, but neither will you have to worry about pushing the desktop over and end up folding the case panels in on themselves.
In general, the new Compaq desktop looks a lot like most of the recent HP fall desktops; like the rest, it’s all black, with a black plastic front on top of black metal. The expansion bays are covered with special black panel doors. Since the optical drive bay is covered with plastic, an extra eject button sits on top of the door so that users can still eject media. Unfortunately, the second drive bay doesn’t come with its own eject button, meaning that users wanting to add an extra optical drive for whatever reason may have to go without access to the physical eject button (instead, going through the operating system to reclaim the disc). A clear power button, backlit with blue LEDs, sits on the right side of the computer. The rest of the front is pretty basic, with no clever sliding doors or cosmetic panels covering up ports and jacks. The audio jacks and USB ports finish off the front of the machine.
One interesting thing about the CQ5110f is that both sides of the machine feature venting holes. While you might think that this means it isn’t a good idea to stick this little tower up against a wall or the side of desk (where most desktop computers tend to end up), as long as the right side is open and free, the computer will be fine. This guy won’t be putting out much in the way of heat, anyway. Surprisingly, there is a total lack of HP branding on the new Compaq; you might expect some sort of “HP Compaq” combo branding like on some of the workstations the company offers. It’s not there, though, and all of the embossed HP logos are instead replaced by the funky Compaq Q. It’s a little odd to have the power button sit only on the side of the machine, but it’s not odd in a bad way, just different. It also reinforces the idea that you shouldn’t block up the right hand side, since you won’t be able to turn the machine on. The top of the machine is your basic, no-frills case, showing off the Compaq name.
Inputs and Expansion
It’s important to keep in mind that the Compaq CQ5110f is inexpensive, clocking at well under four hundred bucks. One of the ways companies often manage to cut costs is in the diversity of inputs and expansion opportunities presented by their desktops. In the case of this new value model, that philosophy starts to show. The front of the machine shows off the headphone and microphone jacks on the left, and two USB2.0 ports on the right. That’s all there is; you won’t find a memory card reader here. It does come with a full 16X DVD+/-RW SuperMulti DVD burner, so ripping and burning movies, CD and home videos won’t be any problem. Moreover, it actually comes with LightScribe capabilities, so you can print, as HP calls it, “silkscreen-quality” images on the tops of your optical disc. All marketing-speak aside, the LightScribe technology is actually a very cool process that strikes an outstanding impact when making custom discs — especially with users who aren’t really into computers and technology. It’s nice to see something like LightScribe be cheap enough to toss into even budget computers; it’s just too bad that I can’t even remember the last time I actually burned a CD or DVD.
The back of the machine offers a couple of more possibilities for plugging in all of your high-tech accessories, but the options are a little bare. There are two PS/2 ports for plugging in your older-style keyboard and mice, which is nice since there aren’t many USB ports on this little box. Right above the PS/2 ports is a VGA port, meaning you’ll need a display that still offers analog input to take advantage of it. There is an Ethernet jack, but it’s only 10/100 — no GigE speeds here. Four more USB2.0 ports are here, bringing the total available up to six — given how much we have to plug in these days, six is actually starting to feel a little cramped. Between music players, cell phones, USB flash drives, speakers and accessories, the war for your USB ports is hotter than ever, and it’s nice to not have to unplug one device just to copy a couple of files to your thumb drive. Line in and line out audio ports as well as a microphone jack are also present. Finally, sitting pretty in the expansion slot up above, is surprisingly, a 56k modem. It’s relatively unusual to see a modem in a new desktop, but it’s worth noting that there are a number of places around the country that still don’t have broadband, and these desktops are going to be sold in retail stores — people who don’t have broadband will likely make their next computer purchase in one of these stores.
Inside, despite the fact that this is a lower-end PC, there’s still a lot of room for moving around and upgrading the system. Both RAM slots come prepopulated, with one 2GB stick and one 1GB stick. Since the system supports a maximum of 4GB of RAM, users will need to replace the 1GB stick with a 2GB DIMM to notice any changes. There are three drive bays in this system; two 5.25-inch bays and one 3.5-inch one. Only one of the 5.25-inch bays is open. In the lower left hand corner there is a large open space where HP often puts a drive cage for extra mounting options; it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t included with this one (but it leaves open the possibility of purchasing it yourself).
What’s nice is that there are actually a couple of expansion slots open on the motherboard to use as you see fit; this is usually the first place that companies cut costs. There are four slots in total: one PCI, two PCI Express x1 slots and one PCI Express x16. The only one currently being used is a single PCI x1 slot, and that’s for the 56k modem. This leaves the PCI, one PCI-E x1 and the PCI-E x16 spots open. While the Compaq comes with the absolutely terrible NVIDIA 6150 integrated graphics, the x16 slot means that you could actually install a discrete graphics card. I might get railed on for suggesting this as a gaming PC, but honestly: pick up an ATI Radeon HD4770 for pretty cheap and you can have a relatively capable gaming computer for barely over $400. You have to respect that.
The Compaq CQ5110f ships with an older AMD Athlon gen 1 dual-core processor and some frankly terrible NVIDIA integrated graphics. The capabilities of the hardware are reflected in the performance numbers; there’s no table for the 3D performance of the graphics subsystem since we couldn’t get any of the benchmarking tools or apps to run. This isn’t a gaming PC, though: it’s a basic desktop that you can use for web browsing, writing reports, sharing photos with grandma and other basic tasks. Look at it as a sort of nettop: it’s right around the same price at $360, if a little bigger, but it will comparatively offer performance that will STOMP typical nettops.
wPrime CPU performance comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
|Desktop||Time to complete wPrime 32M
|Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz)||16.301s|
|Compaq CQ5110f (AMD Athlon I X2 7750 @ 2.5GHz)||30.935s|
|Dell Studio One 19 (Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200 @ 2.5GHz)||30.999s|
|Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz)||35.582s|
|Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Core 2 Duo P7450 @ 2.13GHz)||37.363s|
PCMark05 overall general performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):
|Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz)||6887 PCMarks|
|Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Core 2 Duo P7450 @ 2.13GHz)||5589 PCMarks|
|Dell Studio One 19 (Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200 @ 2.5GHz)||5433 PCMarks|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850 @ 2.16 GHz)||5189 PCMarks|
|Compaq CQ5110f (AMD Athlon I X2 7750 @ 2.5GHz)||5122 PCMarks|
It’s not the fastest hard drive in the world, but at a solid 86 megabytes per second average throughput, it won’t be slowing you down, either.
Power, Heat and Noise
Given that the CQ5110f isn’t chock full of really high-end hardware, you wouldn’t expect it to throw out significant amounts of heat and noise — and it doesn’t. There is a little bit of a hum, thanks to cooling fans, but it’s barely noticeable over general room or office noise. With the basic stock components, it doesn’t put out all that much heat, either. The power draw is the one of the big differences you’ll see between this and what the industry has started to call nettops. At idle, the machine drew around 60 watts of power from the socket. Under max load that number jumps significantly to over twice the pull; it’s unlikely that most users who purchase this desktop will be the kind of people who max out the hardware all that often.
HP has an interesting little product on his hands. At under four hundred dollars, we have a perfectly competent desktop that, when compared to similarly priced nettops, is a very strong performer. It users older technology, like the first generation AMD Athlon X2 dual-core CPU and NVIDIA 6150SE integrated graphics. While this means it isn’t too computationally powerful, especially to newer, more expensive machines, what do we expect? It’s just over three hundred and fifty dollars. Add in an affordable video card, and you’ve got a very basic gaming PC for a little more than four hundred bucks, which is pretty great.
Desktops are having a bit of a tough time right now, and manufacturers are going about marketing them in a number of different ways. Some make very small computers, like the Eee Box, some make very powerful computers, and some make really cool computers like HP and Dell’s multitouch all-in-ones. Yet others make very affordable computers. For $360, the Compaq CQ5110f gives you a basic foundation. As it is, it’s a perfectly capable machine for basic web browsing, productivity applications, watching and burning DVDs, sharing music and photos and more. With a little bit extra and a couple of upgrades, however, it can provide a pretty outstanding value for not much money.
- Very affordable
- Room for expansion
- DVD Burner
- Very weak graphics
- No card reader
- Six USB ports