The PC world is an ever changing one and according to trends the All-in-one market is going to show a large growth in the year to come. In addition touch screen devices are steadily gaining in popularity. With the planned Metro Interface of the Windows 8 operating system the touch screen trend doesn’t seem to be slowing any time soon. HP’s TouchSmart Elite 7320 brings these facts together is a powerful and affordable package for your business, and I got to take one for a test drive.
We all know that these machines often lack the customization that would be found in a traditional tower, especially ones targeted at businesses, and the TouchSmart Elite 7320 is no different. If you are looking to have complete control over each component that goes into you PC then you should look else where. That being said this machine does have a place in today’s business world. With its powerful processors, space saving design and energy star 5.0 rating there are a lot of places where the TouchSmart Elite 7320 will fit in just fine.
On first removing the TouchSmart from the package the construction felt solid. There is a metal frame that secures the screen to the base. The screen tilts on the frame from 0° to 30° smoothly and held still once you set the angle. The silver and black design looks good on this machine, and it is one of the slimmest All-in-Ones I have ever seen. The screen is a 21.5” WLED 1080p HD Display with a contrast ratio of 1000:1. This means the blacks were very dark, and colors stood out crisp and clear. The monitor was clearly visible at very wide horizontal and vertical angles; according to HP it’s up to 160° for both. I was initially concerned about how the screen was smooth and slightly glossy, despite the anti-glare coating; however I only noticed a glare when the screen was off or very dark.
I am sad to say that, despite the beautiful display, the only available graphics options on the Elite 7320 are the Integrated HD Graphics on the Intel Core processors. This is one of the biggest complaints that I have heard about business class All-In-One PCs, and when I spoke with HP we discussed their stance on the issue. They state that currently the only Elite All-In-One that offers full graphics cards is the TouchSmart Elite 9300. However, in the upcoming year they are planning on bringing discrete graphics options to many of the other All-In-Ones in HP’s Elite PC lineup, indicating that he too has heard these complaints. Despite the absence of discrete graphics the HD display was beautiful.
The touch function on the screen is using Optical Touch Technology. This means that, unlike most cell phones and tablets, any object can be used as a pointing device and the screen will respond. It works with a pair of infrared light sensors placed around the edge of the screen. The sensors pick up on the interruption of the infrared light when an object is placed close to the screen. Currently HP’s 7320 can pick up on up to two touch points at a time, but states in time they want to increase that to 5 or 10 depending on the device. In my use of the touch function I found it to be accurate, but often hitting higher than I intended, possibly because of the location of the IR sensors. After a while I am sure it would be easy compensate for, but I found frustrating at times to close a window or press other small buttons with the touch screen. For this reason you may want to consider an upgrade to Windows 8 once it is released. HP also has plans to improve the accuracy of their touch screens using Projected Capacitive Touch (PCT) technology in the years to come, but states currently the technology is too expensive to incorporate into the 7320 and keep the current price point.
Under the hood of the TouchSmart is your choice of Core i3, i5, or i7 processors. The 7320 is shipped with up to 8GB of RAM, and Hard Drive options up to 1TB. Some of the hard drives HP is offering include the Smart IV Technology, which will warn users of imminent hard drive failure by actively monitoring the drive’s activity for problems. Ports on the machine include 2 USB 3.0 slots, 4 USB 2.0 slots, a 6-in-1 multi-card reader, headphone and microphone jacks and a gigabit ethernet card. Wireless is an available option, and the SuperMulti DVD writer can be upgraded to a Blu-Ray Combo Drive if you desire. Included with all builds of the TouchSmart 7320 is also Beats Audio. This was my first experience with a Beats Audio computer and I will say I was impressed with the difference in the audio quality. While only using the built in speaker bar on the PC I heard an increase in bass and clarity in the audio when the Beats system was turned on.
HP wants to make sure that their PCs withstand that test of time. With the included 3/3/3 warranty HP offers next business day on-site support, 24 hour telephone technical support based in the US, and all parts and labor coverage for 3 years. HP also included software tailored to businesses that will insure that your data and equipment are secure called HP ProtectTools. Some highlights of the ProtectTools software include the Device Access Manager and CompuTrace. The Device Access Manager allows restrictions on access to data on the network, control over the use of external storage devices and can block the use of certain services, like WiFi and Bluetooth. This will ensure data can not be accessed or copied without permission granted either through sets of profiles or configured individually. The CompuTrace software included will track the machine through both WiFi and GPS. If the computer is moved outside of a designated area it can be configured to lockdown, known as bricking, or alert the owner of the computer location. Unlike other computer tracing software CompuTrace is built into the BIOS and not the Hard Drive. This means that even after a Hard Drive replacement the computer can be successfully tracked and recovered.
Side by side with other All-in-one computers the HP TouchSmart Elite 7320 is a great buy. Between its power, included software, and a price that is less expensive than comparable builds from Lenovo and Dell; if you are in the market for an All-In-One there are few reasons to look elsewhere.
Weighing in at a mere 7 lbs and standing only 9.9” by 2.6” and only 10” deep this super small tower can be easily underestimated. But, in both form and function this Elite PC holds up to its name in many ways. On top of the great performance it offers it runs green through multiple hardware and software designs. For example it uses a small energy efficient external power supply, the Core i5 2500S in our machine uses less power than the Core i5 2500 counterpart without a significant loss in performance, and it includes the HP Power Assistant to monitor and control power usage through a simple interface.
The tower comes in multiple models with your choice of 5 different Intel Multi-Core Processors, and up to 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM. Hard drive options include up to 300GB on a 7200RPM SATA Drive, up to 320GB on a 7200RPM SATA SED self-encrypting drive, or up to 160GB on a SATA Solid State Drive. It also has a Gigabit LAN card and a built in Wireless N Card. Multiple optical drives and video options are also available, adding to the versatility of this little tower. The model we tested, specifically XZ788UT, came with an i5 2500S processor, 4GB of RAM, a light scribe drive and Integrated Intel HD graphics with both a VGA and an HDMI port. It rings up at just over $900.00.The Nuts and Bolts
The first thing that stands out when you look at the front of the tower is that they were able to stuff 4 USB ports on this tiny face plate, and still had room for the optical drive, a fan, a power button, and headphone and microphone jacks. On the back are 6 additional USB ports, the LAN port, the VGA and HDMI ports, and another set of headphone and microphone jacks. There is also a set of PS/2 ports on the back; the only reason for this that I can think of is to use the keyboard and mouse included with the PC. With the performance and cost of USB keyboards and mouses today this, to me, is the only wasted space on the whole tower.
Removing the thumbscrew on the back of the tower opens to a laptop-esque layout. Being so small HP had to come up with ingenious ways to fit everything together, and succeeded. SO-DIMM RAM is used, the shorter sticks usually only found in laptops. The slots are accessible as soon as the tower is opened, making upgrading very easy. The graphics are expandable as well, but they are using a Mobile PCI Express Module (MXM) slot. While this slot is a standard, it may take a little extra shopping around to find one as they are not commonly used, but if you know you are going need that graphics boost HP can ship the tower with an ATI Radeon HD 5450 MXM already installed.. Again the slot is clear of any obstructions, making installing the chip easy if you do decide to do it on your own. One more thing to point out is the use of a 135-watt external power supply, so while the graphics can be upgraded there is a limitation as to how far you can push it.
A simple green clip secures the optical drive to the case, pushing the clip to the side allows the drive to slide right out of the front of the tower. Underneath is one of the most ingenious hard drive mounting systems I have seen in any tower. The SATA port on the drive is facing the front of the tower, lifting the clip on the top of the drive causes it to slide towards the back of the PC, disconnecting the drive from the mounted SATA ports. The clip then acts as a handle to lift and remove the drive from the tracks. I had issues, however, with the drive getting stuck in the tracks and had to reseat and finesse the drive out of its spot. Reinserting the drive was much easier.
The fan on the front of the tower that I mentioned before pulls air into the case to cool the processor. It slides right in and out of the tower with no screws, making cleaning the heat sink easy. Removing the heat sink is another matter. It seems impossible to remove the heat sink from the case without removing the main crossbeam that runs from the front to the back right in the middle of the tower. They also used torx head screws to secure the heat sink to the board, which the average person doesn’t have in their toolbox right now.
I lost track of time at one point in the office and didn’t want to leave the tower in pieces in our test lab when I left. I started to put the machine back together as quickly as possible. I was very surprised when everything I had removed was reinserted and the tower was ready to run in less than 3 minutes. This ease of assembly is a testament to the thorough planning HP put into the design of this tower.Software & Performance
Our tower came installed with Windows 7 Professional; of course multiple flavors of Windows are available when you place your order. Once in windows the HP ProtectTools Security Manager opened on its own and asked me to setup some system security options. I was impressed with how extensive this tool was with pre-boot authentication, a file and a drive sanitizer, and password management tools. Also including the HP SpareKey function that actually builds a password reset function into the BIOS, allowing for users to resolve password problems without help from IT Administrators. Even better is that it prompts for enrollment whenever a new user signs in for the first time. In addition the HP ProtectTools can be easily integrated with the Central Management for HP ProtectTools software, which will allow easy remote management this and any other HP system your business is using. The Elite 8200 also comes with Roxio Creator Business, Microsoft office starter 2011 and Norton Internet Security 2011.
The Core i5 2500S under the hood of this business machine has four cores with a 6MB cache, running at 2.7GHz, and only using 65watts. Our benchmarking tools show this high efficiency CPU performing on par with the AMD Phenom II X4 955, also a four core processor with 6MB of cache, but it runs at 3.2GHz and uses 125watts. However our high stress graphics test resulted in less than 10 frames per second, taxing the integrated graphics engine. As discussed before you can add an MXM video card to the PC if you need the graphics boost.Final Thoughts
With the price, design, and all the extras this machine offers you a lot of bang for your buck. While there is a valid complaint that the tower only has limited upgrade options, and wont be able to do the most graphics intensive work even with the MXM card, this tower is designed to be as powerful as possible and still be able to mount to the back of a flat screen monitor. The addition of HP’s 3 years of parts, labor and onsite service warrantee will help in keeping this HP Compaq 8200 Elite Ultra-Slim PC a solid investment for years to come.
D-Link announced some exciting new SAN Storage Array equipment, and DaniWeb managed to get an exclusive interview with Chris Gruber, director of product marketing, storage solutions at D-Link to chat about the new DSN-4000 series, and the recently announced ShareCenter Pro Unified Storage Solutions product line.
Aimed at larger businesses that need greater performance and flexibility in their networks the DSN-4000 series is a Next Gen iSCSI SAN Array. This high power 3U size rack mounted SAN array comes in 2 models. The DSN-4100 and the DSN-4200, with the difference between them being amount of gigabit ethernet ports they sport. The 4100 has four 1Gb Ethernet ports, and the 4200 has eight. They both feature 16 bays, with up to 32TB of raw capacity. The equipment is also stackable which allows larger storage capability by combining up to 80 hard drives with 160TB of raw capacity. The DSN-4000 series also uses the powerful System-on-a-Chip design which will support over 80,000 I/Os per second and they support up to 1024 host connections. Built-in additional performance enhancements like LAG and MCS are standard on both versions as well.
Unlike other storage arrays, the DSN-4000 series’ bays will accept any SAS or SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) hard drive. D-Link prides itself on this, even commenting during the interview that proprietary drives offered by their competitors’ are often overpriced. Need to add additional storage, but cannot find a matching drive? Another big difference in how D-Link does SAN arrays is there is no requirement to use drives of matching size, speed or technologies, and the drives are not bay specific. This allows users to add emerging hard drive technology to the array without having to update all of the drives, and is achieved by D-Link’s virtual volume storage process, where virtual drives are accessed instead of direct access to the array.
D-Link explained to DaniWeb that the data on each virtual volume is stripped across any disk drive in the array that has available space, not locking drives into one array or another. Using this method D-Link now gives your business the ability to reconfigure many aspects of the virtual volumes, including changing the size of the virtual drive on the fly. It will also allow you to migrate data to different drives in the array without needing to allocate a new set of drives for the migration, all this without taking the system offline, or interrupting data availability.
Concerned about hardware failures? D-Link has you covered. The DSN-4000 series comes standard with a 3 year warrantee that includes telephone technical support and all software and firmware updates. D-Link also offers their Secure-Link Support 5 year extended warrantee which adds next business day replacement on insured hardware. They also offer 2 onsite support options. The first option is next business day; the other has a D-Link technician in your office within 4 hours, but is only available in select areas. Both options are offered in 1 year increments.
ShareCenter Pro Unified Storage Solutions
Designed to cater to small and medium-sized businesses looking for a low cost but highly versatile NAS Network storage device, the ShareCenter Pro comes in multiple models across 2 different series. The N Series is the “Value Family” solution and has a 4-bay and a 5-bay tower available. The S Series is the “Performance Family” and offers advanced iSCSI features like LUN masking, MPIO, and load balancing. It comes in 4-bay and 6-bay towers, as well as a 4-bay 1U rack mounted model.
Both the N Series and the S Series offer multiple security options, backup software and disaster recovery options. One feature in particular that DaniWeb learned about from our D-Link interview is the Virtual Disk Drive Expansion feature. It is great if you are concerned that you may fill your ShareCenter Pro to capacity. It allows up to 8 external iSCSI storage targets on the network to be mapped as available storage volumes, expanding the maximum storage capacity of the ShareCenter Pro. The drives are seen as multiple single volumes on the NAS and can be accessed by servers and workstations on the network.
Worried about unauthorized access to your server? The included ShareCenter Pro Encryption technology is volume based and all files are protected using AED 256bit encryption. The data on the ShareCenter Pro cannot be read without the encryption password and a USB decryption dongle key, providing you with peace of mind that your data is safe. In addition the iSCSI sessions are protected by CHAP Authentication, and each user’s Read/Write permissions are easily configured by the administrator.
Disk to Disk back up software is included and can be both scheduled and incremental. There is also built in support for offsite backup using either a remote NAS server or one of multiple web-based backup services, and cloud based storage is supported. Data loss is a major concern of all businesses, and one of the most innovative features D-Link told DaniWeb about is that the ShareCenter Pro is its ability to detect early signs of a failing drive. Once it detects a failing drive, it will then automatically migrate its data to other drives to prevent any data loss.
Whether you are looking to set up an IP surveillance system or using it for server virtualization the ShareCenter Pro is a cost effective NAS solution worth a good look. For large businesses the DSN-4000 series is looking like a powerful networking option for any of your storage needs. D-Link is also offering a lot of excellent features with both of these great network storage solutions, and seem to be living up to their company motto of “Building networks for people” by supplying great networking equipment at great prices. We are at the top of the list to get some hands-on time with these storage devices, and look forward to giving them a full review.