The test results for these two PCs paint an unmistakably clear picture. The HP was slower than the Dell on every benchmark. It's worth noting that the HP's quad-core AMD CPU and the Dell's quad-core Intel processor also share the same clock speed. We've known for a while that Intel's chips are faster than AMD's clock-for-clock right now. These results add further evidence. This HP will certainly handle any standard modern computing task you throw at it, but not as well as the less expensive Dell.
We've mentioned our annoyance with the HP's hard-drive bays already. We find the larger bay of the two particularly irritating because it takes up a huge portion of the system interior and adds extra wires to an already average cabling job. You do have room to make a few other upgrades to this PC, including a free graphics card slot and a handful of other expansion slots. The spare hard-drive bay might as well not exist since it's obstructed by the removable drive bay, which also gets in the way of the memory slots.
Unlike other systems in this price range, like the Asus Essentio, the HP includes no HDMI video output, or even a DVI option. Instead you get one VGA output, which limits your ability to connect this system to a television. We can't dock too many points here, because we don't relish the idea of a midtower PC in the living room. You also get no eSATA input for high-speed external hard-drive storage. The complement of USB 2.0 ports and FireWire 400 jacks will have to do. For audio you get the standard array of 7.1 analog jacks, as well as single coaxial S/PDIF output.
HP backs the Pavilion Elite m9402f with a year of parts and labor protection, as well as 24-7 toll-free phone support, more or less today's standard for service and support. HP's online resources are helpful as well, with FAQs, driver downloads, and other system-specific info. The system also comes with HP's Total Care Advisor software for do-it-yourself troubleshooting.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple OS X 10.5.4; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 1GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT graphics chip; 250GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card; 750GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz AMD Phenom X4 9550; 6GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI RAdeon HD 3450 graphics card; 640GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
HP Pavilion Elite m9402f
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz AMD Phenom X4 9650; 7GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150 SE integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm TK hard drive.