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Scott, it is interesting to see how the Compaq (HP), I bought last year, went to cut expenses in building the computer I got for less than $200 sans tax. However it isn't badly built at all, and one reason I suppose it went as low price as it did (Yes it is dual-core) was perhaps a design flaw of having an almost impossible time of reaching the eject button when the DVD tray was out. It was an easy problem to get around. So, if that was the reason they had it for such a low price, then I'm glad they made it. Of course the junkware they had on it, (which I might include Windows 7 in that ) I wasn't happy with. But, no, HP except perhaps their netbooks, I do believe have a good reputation, and as far as Apple is concerned, Asus, Apple, Most Reliable Computers. A report a couple of years old but probably still correct.
I have one of the netbook brands that is rated at the bottom with HP's, Acer, --however--it is plugging away just fine since last Thanksgiving. Usually a computer that doesn't give you trouble early on, is going to be keeper no matter how it's rated, and a high rated one, I found out, will keep giving you trouble.
With IBM and now HP getting out of the PC business, it shows just how low-margin the business has become. In order to keep them cheap, the quality of these machines has dropped dramatically. (My advice is never buy a brand that sells computers at Wal-Mart.) The only manufacturer who gives you quality gear now is Apple. They cost more, but you get what you pay for. (This is why I build my own computers from best-of-breed parts, to get higher quality components.)
The decline of HP from an innovative, technically superior company into what it is today is tragic.