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.