The gaming front provides a bigger challenge to the HP, where the Velocity Micro and its overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics card dominate at this price point. You should be able to play most newer games on the Pavilion Elite, but you'll run into this system's performance limit sooner than you will on either the Velocity Micro or the Dell, particularly at higher resolutions and higher detail settings. Your best bet with this system will be to limit yourself to displays in the 21-inch range with resolutions lower than 1,920x1,080 pixels, especially for newer PC games.
For an extra $200 you can upgrade the graphics card on the Pavilion Elite h8xt to a GeForce GTX 580 Ti, but that will also require you to upgrade the 460-watt power supply used in our review unit to a 600-watt PSU for an extra $70. That card would likely challenge, if not surpass, the Velocity Micro's, and Velocity Micro doesn't offer a competing option for the Edge Z40. You might consider that strategy if you're in love with this HP. The price also works out similarly if you buy the Pavilion Elite with the most affordable graphics card and the 600-watt PSU with the intention of giving yourself some future upgrade room.
HP offers room for only one 3D card in the Pavilion Elite h8xt, but you can add two 1x PCI Express cards, two additional hard drives, and two more memory sticks. The inside of the case is braced with metal pieces to provide support while it's in transit, which makes accessing many of the internal components a challenge, particularly the hard-drive cage, which is locked down, and orients the drives perpendicular to the bottom of the case. The only way HP could have made it more inconvenient to add internal drives would be if it mounted the optical-drive bay or some other component in front of the drive cage. This is a peculiarity that has plagued HP's desktop designs for several years running, and the reasons for it continue to escape us.
External connectivity on the HP is better than we've seen on some lower-end desktops lately. The AMD graphics card offers DVI outs, an HDMI output, and two Mini DisplayPort outputs, covering virtually all of your display options. For audio you get analog headphone and 7.1 jacks, as well as an optical S/PDIF digital output. Data ports might seem sparse from the back panel, where you'll find only six USB 2.0 jacks, but the pair of USB 3.0 inputs on the top of the case makes up for the absence of slower FireWire or eSATA ports.
|HP Pavilion Elite h8xt||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.41|
|Sleep (10 percent)||2.67|
|Idle (25 percent)||57.35|
|Load (5 percent)||174.18|
|Annual power consumption cost||$28.97|
We expect that you can credit the HP's midrange graphics card for a large part of its power savings over the Dell and its higher-end card. Whether the performance drop-off is worth the lower annual energy bill is between you and your gaming ambitions.
HP includes a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the Pavilion Elite h8xt. You also get 24-7 toll-free phone support and a variety of support resources available on HP's Web site, as well as on the system itself.
The HP Pavilion Elite h8xt's configuration offers few surprises for its $1,299 asking price. The Beats audio software is about the only feature that differentiates this system from its competition. If you're looking for a higher-end do-it-all PC, and know you'll spend a lot of time listening with headphones, the Beats perk might be a reasonable basis for choosing this system. The h8xt also makes a decent upgrade platform. Dedicated gamers should look to boutique vendors for more 3D performance for the dollar.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell XPS 8300
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5870; 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GT440 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
HP Pavilion Elite h8xt
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphics card; 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
Velocity Micro Z40
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.0GHz Intel Core i5-2500K (overclocked); 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics card (overclocked); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive