The Good Blu-ray drive, Wi-Fi, and TV tuner make it a strong PC for digital media consumption.
The Bad Underpowered system performance; cluttered interior.
The Bottom Line The HP Pavilion Elite m9515y is not an elegant PC, but it has enough features where it counts to set it apart. If performance or seamless living room integration are your goals, look elsewhere, but anyone after digital media functionality will find this HP more capable than its competition.
HP Pavilion Elite m9515y
HP's Pavilion Elite m9515y is the kind of PC for which we're surprised there's still a market. We say that because we've officially soured on the idea of a standard mid-tower in the living room, and if you want a computer to serve as a dedicated small-scale home entertainment system in a dorm room or a den, we find all-in-ones do the job more elegantly. That said, for $1,080, this HP actually offers quite a bit of functionality, from a Blu-ray drive, to wireless networking, to a passable 3D graphics card. It is not the fastest computer in this price range, but the Pavilion Elite m9515y is probably one of the most well-rounded. If you're after a higher-end jack-of-all trades PC, you could certainly do worse.
The Pavilion Elite series is perhaps our least favorite case from a mainstream vendor right now. It looks fine from the outside with a rubberized top for placing portable gadgets and a glossy black plastic front, but the inside is a tangled, crowded mess. We attribute the bulk of this rat's nest design to the slot for HP's proprietary, and oversized, Personal Media Drive removable hard drive. This slot crowds the inside of the case with wires and its specialized drive cage. A second slot for HP's smaller Pocket Media Drives fits more gracefully under the optical drive stack in a 3.5-inch bay. That one we don't mind if we have to have one slot, but we strongly dislike the idea of giving up so much space for two optional components.
We'll concede that the cluttered interior will only frustrate those who open the case, which might not describe the primary audience for this mainstream, retail system. If you confine yourself to the exterior of the Pavilion Elite m9515y, you may be able to overlook the wasted space. HP put an array of analog A/V inputs on the front of the system, which is useful for connecting older video cameras and other devices. You also get the usual USB 2.0 inputs, analog audio jacks, and a media card reader.
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