HP's e-Vectra keeps it simple

When we opened the box containing Hewlett-Packard Co.'s e-Vectra desktop PC, our first thought was, "That's it?" The small form factor of this machine is one-fourth the size of a traditional PC, and it weighs just under eight pounds.

The e-Vectra is HP's first "e-PC," a system designed to bridge the gap between traditional, general-purpose PCs and simplified, specific-purpose devices. It is versatile enough to work well in small- to medium-sized workgroups as well as large agency IT environments.

The e-Vectra is perfect for users who need a PC for basic functions such as office applications and Internet access. The design has been simplified to consist of only three components: the chassis, the hard drive and the power supply. The chassis can be used horizontally or vertically with the included stand.

System administrators will appreciate the mechanisms HP has added to prevent unauthorized user access and therefore reduce system downtime. At the same time, users in remote locations can support themselves more easily with the e-Vectra than with most PCs because of the minimal number of components.

The chassis is sealed, allowing access to only the hard drive. Just as important, thanks to clever packaging, the hard drive can be easily swapped out by novices. The drive sits in a removable metal case, and the entire case pops out with a tug of the attached handle.

When system administrators want to prevent user access to the hard drive, the case cover can be locked. For added security, the e-Vectra features the HP Port Control System, a fancy name for a simple plastic cover that can be locked over the ports. The cover prevents the addition and removal of peripherals.

For easier administration, customers can order an HP Master Pass Key, a custom-configured master key system that can unlock hundreds of machines. Customers who want this option pay $999 to receive a lock configurator and three master keys (for details and a photo, visit the HP Master Pass Key system kit page). Users can use the configurator to set the keys themselves. This way, customers can choose which machines can be opened with each master key, and if additional systems are ordered later, the key can be set to open them as well.

The e-Vectra features a 24X slim-format CD-ROM drive and a standard set of ports: serial, parallel, VGA, two PS/2 and two USBs. It also features a microphone jack and speaker in/out jacks. Speakers are optional, but you'll need to buy some if you want sound because the system does not have internal speakers. A USB external floppy drive also is available as an option.

The small chassis packs in plenty of computing power, with Intel Corp.'s 810e chipset, a 600 MHz Intel Pentium III processor, 128M of SDRAM, an 8.4G hard drive and a 3Com Corp. Fast Etherlink 10/100 integrated network adapter. Our unit came with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 Professional operating system.

The e-Vectra turned out a score of 128 on Business Applications Performance Corp.'s (BAPCO) SYSmark/2000 suite of real-world benchmark tests. That's a solid score for a machine in this class. Compaq Computer Corp.'s iPaq with a 500 MHz Celeron processor scored an 86, while Micron Electronics Inc.'s full-size desktop ClientPro Dx5000 with an 800 MHz Pentium III processor scored a 176.

The documentation follows the overall "keep it simple" philosophy of this system itself, and we think that makes sense. A basic quick-start guide and a small "Quick User's Guide" ship with the system. HP states that it kept the manual small out of concern for the environment. If users require more information, they can access HP's Web site for downloadable documentation, service and support options, and the latest drivers and utilities. In addition, customers can order the HP Information CD-ROM, which contains complete information about the system. One CD costs $12, with quantity discounts for orders of five and 20.

HP's approach saves paper and printing costs and avoids burdening users with information they don't need while still providing each user with a handy, hard-copy guide for reference.

The e-Vectra ships with a recovery disk and a set of drivers on CD. It also features the "HP Install Network Printer Wizard" pre-installed on the machine.

The e-Vectra is a great solution for organizations needing basic PC functions in a package that emphasizes manageability. The system's simple design should eliminate a lot of administration and help-desk headaches.

REPORT CARD

e-Vectra

Score: A

Hewlett-Packard Co.

(800) 752-0900

www.hp.com/desktops/epc

Price and availability: The e-Vectra is not available on the GSA schedule. It can be purchasedthrough HP resellers. The list price for the system with a 17-inch monitoris $1,491.

Remarks: This ultra-small PC is perfect for agencies that need systems with basicoffice and Internet capabilities. A simplified, limited-access design easesadministration headaches and increases ease of operation.

BY Michelle Speir
September 13, 2000

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