HP Omni 100: Low on price, and features

HP‘s (NYSE: HPQ) 20-inch Omni 100 all-in-one desktop sports an extremely low asking price for an all-in-one of this size ($559, as of 1/18/2010), but we’re still hard pressed to recommend its admittedly lackluster combination of features, for all but the most dedicated of bargain-shoppers.

Although its AMD (Nasdaq: AMD) Athlon II X2 250u processor is a 1.6-GHz, dual-core CPU, that does little to assist HP’s 20-inch all-in-one in its attempt to climb over the very bottom rung of our all-in-one desktop charts. Its score of 70 on our WorldBench 6 series of tests — nearly tied with the 68 put forth by Lenovo‘s IdeaCentre C315 — sits at the very bottom of our performance rankings. For a higher-performance AIO desktop, we’d much rather cough up the extra $200 and pick up Gateway’s ZX4300-01e (97 in WorldBench).

Don’t even think about trying to play games on the Omni 100-let alone pressing your finger against its panel in a vain effort to manipulate your system sans mouse or keyboard. Perhaps to help save a bit on the cost, HP decided to pack a plain ol’ vanilla display within the Omni 100. We haven’t seen an all-in-one without any kind of touch functionality stroll through our labs in quite some time, and the feature is sorely missed. That said If you aren’t sold on touch-functionality, HP’s own All-in-One 200 also lacks a touchscreen, but offers a 1080p display and a score of 104 on WorldBench.

The Omni 100’s port configurations are beaten by those of a humble budget desktop, in that your sole connection option for external devices is two USB ports on the system’s side, or four on the back. A multiformat card reader rests on the side as well, while a paltry 10/100 Fast Ethernet connection rounds out the Omni 100’s rear. And that’s all she wrote: No next-generation display connectivity, no TV tuner, no other connection options for storage devices, no audio support beyond a stereo connection for headphones, nothing. It’s as if someone ate a tasty sandwich and left us the crusts.

It almost goes without saying for the Budget All-in-One category, but here goes: The Omni 100 doesn’t come with Blu-ray support. The DVD burner on the side of the system is all you get, but you’re still limited by the native 1600-by-900 resolution screen — give us native 1080p any day. While the contrast levels of our test images and movies created pleasant details without unnatural appearances, the lack of strong saturation on the display left our viewing tests devoid of life. The colors often just seemed flat and dull for our tastes.

HP attempts to solve this quandary by presenting a user with one of four different preset options to choose from for the display’s setup: default, movie, text, and gaming. We couldn’t discern much difference between the overblown setup of the “movie” and “gaming” modes. We’d much prefer to keep things on good ol’ “default” and, even then, we’re not super-impressed by the results.

A 500 gigabyte hard drive and Wireless-N connectivity represent the yin and the yang of the system’s hidden insides. We’d much prefer more storage space on the former, but we appreciate that the latter allows us to solve the issue of the Omni 100’s paltry wired networking speeds. As mentioned, you can upgrade the optical drive, hard drive, and memory of this all-in-one. We appreciate that HP’s all-in-one (unlike most others) at least gives you the option — and the printable instructions — for a little internal modification.

Oh, and remember a bit ago when we said that the Omni 100 comes with six USB ports for connections? In reality, you can knock that down to four: An included wired mouse and keyboard, both generic, reduce the meager connection offerings of HP’s AIO even further. You’ll at least have the option for purchasing wireless peripherals them online.

At some point, a company can only strip so much away from a desktop-or all-in-one-before the little joy it offers completely overshadows whatever dollar amounts you’re saving in the process. In the Omni 100’s case, spending just a bit more can get you quite a bit more machine, whether you’re looking for touch functionality, or more power under the hood.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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