WHAT'S HOT: The Pavilion 2950 is a model of space-saving efficiency. The compact case, measuring approximately 14.75 by 13 by 4 inches, can lie flat (to support the monitor) or stand upright, steadied by an included metal foot.
With home multimedia firmly in mind, Hewlett-Packard Co. loaded the 2950 with a combination 8X DVD-ROM and 8X/4X/32X CD-RW drive and three IEEE 1394 (FireWire) ports--one on the front and two on the back. The front of the case also features two USB connections and a serial port. Like the optical and floppy drives, the front ports are neatly hidden behind translucent plastic doors.
Further reducing desk clutter, our review unit included a wireless mouse and a wireless version of HP's Pavilion keyboard, which features seven Internet shortcut buttons and complete CD and DVD play controls, including a volume knob.
WHAT'S NOT: The 2950 is not a speed demon. Equipped with Windows Millennium Edition, a 1-GHz Pentium III processor, and 128MB of SDRAM, it posted a score of 142 on PC WorldBench 2000--equal to the performance we've clocked from systems with a Pentium III-800EB processor. Our test 2950 was also far from a game machine. It failed one our Quake III tests because its integrated Intel 810 graphics cannot support 32-bit color, and it posted one of the lowest frame rates we've seen from recent systems in our other Quake III test. Its frame rates were similarly low for the Rage Software game Expendable, but they were in the middle of the pack for Microsoft Flight Simulator.
You can, in theory, upgrade the 2950, but HP's engineers have done their best to discourage you. The case itself offers no hint of how to open it, although an included manual explains the arduous process adequately. You begin by laying the system on its side and tugging vigorously at the plastic cover while nudging it forward. Underneath is a metal panel (secured with thumbscrews) that requires plenty of pressure to slide off. The tiny interior is very cramped, though well organized. To access the two RAM sockets, you must remove a screw and pull away a hinged support bar, and you still have to do a fair amount of finger twisting.
Our review unit had one open PCI slot. A metal clip, anchored by a screw, holds all expansion cards in place. Accessing the drives requires more work. To reach the hard drive, you must pull the plastic panel off the other side of the case and remove a screw that anchors a metal trapdoor holding the drive. Only after removing the hard drive can you get at the small retaining screw that holds the combination CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive in place. You must pull off the stubborn front bezel to slide the drive out the front of the system.
WHAT ELSE: Image and sound quality were so-so. Twelve-point text in our Microsoft Word test screen appeared a bit fuzzy on the 17-inch HP MX70 monitor, but it was thick and dark enough to be fairly legible. Our test photograph looked about average, in comparison with the images we've seen on other home-PC monitors. The two lilliputian Polk Audio speakers produced better sound quality than we had expected, but bass tones were virtually nonexistent.
Unlike some compact systems, the 2950 doesn't skimp on ports: Along with the two IEEE 1394 ports, the rear panel offers two USB ports, a game port, a parallel port, a network interface, and a V.90 modem. HP includes Pinnacle Studio DV video-editing software to go along with the IEEE 1394 ports. Microsoft Works 2001 is also included in the software bundle.
The documentation is less extensive than it first appears to be. The manuals are thick only because they contain sections in three languages: English, French, and Spanish. The setup poster is technically specific to this system, though its basic cartoon images don't provide much information, and there is no text. A separate "Quick Start Guide" fills in the details missing from the poster and provides a brief troubleshooting section. Our test system also came with a Windows Millennium Edition manual, a monitor manual, and a booklet entitled "Upgrading and Servicing the PC" that explains the intricacies of the 2950 case.
UPSHOT: The Pavilion 2950 is a cute, compact system for people who want to start experimenting with video editing or with digital-music collecting.
HP Pavilion 2950
PC WorldBench 2000 score of 142, Pentium III-1000 CPU, 128MB of PC133 SDRAM, 256KB L2 cache, Windows Me, 40GB hard drive, 8X DVD-ROM and 8X/4X/32X CD-RW combination drive, integrated Intel 810 graphics, 17-inch HP Pavilion MX70 monitor, integrated sound, Polk Audio speakers, V.90 modem, network adapter, compact case; Microsoft Works 2001, Pinnacle Studio DV 1.1. One-year parts and labor warranty; free unlimited 24-hour toll-free tech support.