HP Omni 200 Quad: Superspeedy, but lacking

If you’re interested in speed–and speed alone–the 21.5-inch HP Omni 200 Quad may be the right pick for you in the budget all-in-one PC category. You’ll be cruising so quickly in programs and in Windows that you might not even notice the machine’s shortcomings. This $960 (as of April 26, 2011) all-in-one desktop may be fast, but it’s certainly not flawless.

We’ll start with the good news. Packing an Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) Core i5-760 processor that chugs along at 2.8GHz, the Omni 200 Quad zipped to the top of the chart. As for the rest of the meat and potatoes, 6GB of DDR3-677 memory and a 1TB hard drive accompany the CPU.

The Omni 200 Quad blazed through our WorldBench 6 suite of tests to achieve a jaw-dropping score of 132–the highest mark the all-in-one class has seen, period. Another outlier for the category: decent gaming performance. On our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark test, the Omni 200 Quad generated 47.9 frames per second (at 1680-by-1050-pixel resolution and highest settings). Since the PC’s native resolution is 1920 by 1080 pixels, it fell out of the running for our higher, 1920-by-1200-pixel tests. Even so, its results are still an impressive showing for a category that generally fails to deliver in games.

Of course, the raw performance of an all-in-one desktop is only half the equation–the screen is a big deal, too, as you can’t exactly replace it. In the case of the Omni 200 Quad, three strikes work against it. First, it lacks a touchscreen. That might not mean much if you’re not interested in jabbing at your screen, but the all-in-one category has largely migrated toward finger-friendliness. Second, the display’s contrast and saturation tend toward the extremely bright end of the spectrum, almost evoking a blown-out or overworked coloration during normal use. And third, the centre-weighted speakers sound great for music, but not so terrific if you’re trying to listen to anything with dialogue (such as a movie trailer).

Two USB ports and a multiformat card reader sit on one side of the Omni 200 Quad’s 21.5-inch frame (it’s actually larger, but we’re referring to screen size here), while a DVD burner occupies the other side. On the system’s rear is a depressingly small set of connections consisting of just five USB ports and a gigabit Ethernet port–a fairly limited array for the kinds of devices you would want to plug into an all-in-one. The computer does include Wireless-N networking, but that’s pretty much standard today.

We were surprised to see that the Omni 200 Quad’s memory, hard drive, and optical drive are indeed upgradable. The quick-start guide we received with the system didn’t point out the specifics of doing so, but downloadable instructions from HP‘s Web site do provide details. Also packed with our review unit were a wireless keyboard and mouse. Both are generic in that they have no extra buttons, but we can’t complain about the wireless aspect–nicely done.

In creating the Omni 200 Quad, HP has taken the lackluster Omni 100 all-in-one and updated a few of its features (for a few hundred more dollars). Our core concerns remain pretty strong, however. We’re not sold on the Omni 200 Quad’s picture or sound quality–neither is horrible, but neither is delightful. Although the system’s speeds and storage capacity are excellent, its available connections are lackluster. In the end, this system might whiz along like a roadrunner, but what can you really do with it?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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