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HP Pavilion Elite h8xt review: HP Pavilion Elite h8xt

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MSRP: $1,299.99

The Good The HP Pavilion Elite h8xt offers an edgier design than we're used to from mainstream desktop vendors, along with HP's unique Beats Audio software, and a fair asking price for its do-it-all features.

The Bad You can get better gaming performance for the dollar from boutique PC vendors, and upgrading or adding hard drives to this system will be frustrating.

The Bottom Line We'd recommend the HP Pavilion Elite h8xt to anyone in the market for a well-rounded, higher-end desktop, and for headphone users especially; the included Beats Audio software will provide a marginal boost to audio output.

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7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Support 7

We've already covered Hewlett-Packard's updated Pavilion and Pavilion Slimline designs, but the new Pavilion Elite brings the most dramatic changes of all to HP's refreshed desktops. Adopting angular design accents and a striking red highlight LED on its front, the Pavilion Elite does a good job of separating itself visually from its mainstream competition. Its configuration, represented by this $1,299 Pavilion Elite h8xt, is less interesting, but it's a fair deal for the asking price. For general PC shoppers searching for a strong all-around desktop, the Pavilion Elite h8xt is worth a look.

HP's redesigned cases are mostly only minor shifts away from its previous look, but the new Pavilion Elite represents the biggest departure from its previous incarnation. The face of the new system is a more uniform glossy black plastic, which presents a cleaner look than the old design. More striking is thin red LED that illuminates a strip across the front of the case, not unlike a Cylon from "Battlestar Galactica." We'll guess this isn't a coincidence.

The red light signifies more than simple visual flair, in that it also seems to be a part of the Beats Audio branding scheme that HP is rolling out across its higher-end desktops and laptops, and even its new TouchPad tablets. While HP does not specify the exact technology behind Beats, it's most likely a software-based audio overlay with a user-accessible equalizer. Beats includes three presets, and also lets you save custom equalizer profiles. It doesn't appear to offer more functionality than Windows 7's own advanced audio settings, but Beats does provide a more intuitive way to tweak audio output across applications.

HP Pavilion Elite h8xt Dell XPS 8300 Velocity Micro Edge Z40
Price $1,299 $1,615 $1,199
Motherboard chipset Intel P67 Intel P67 Intel P67
CPU 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600 4.0GHz Intel Core i5-2500K (overclocked)
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5870 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti (overclocked)
Hard drives 1.5TB 7,200rpm 1.5TB 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray/DVD-burner combo Blu-ray/DVD-burner combo Blu-ray/DVD-burner combo
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Aside from the Beats software, the Pavilion Elite h8xt doesn't offer much that you can't find elsewhere for a similar price. The Dell XPS 8300 outlined above is a configuration that cost just over $1,600 when we reviewed it this past spring, but Dell currently offers that system with a more recent Radeon HD 6870 graphics card for about $1,350. Neither Core i7-based system is a better 3D performer than the Core i5-powered Velocity Micro Edge Z40 and its overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti card, though. That leaves the HP and Dell competing on their appeal as high-performing generalist systems. The Dell has the edge as a do-it-all PC with a gaming bent; the HP's appeal comes from its Beats software, and the fact that it offers USB 3.0 jacks where you have to pay extra for them on the Dell. Those are slim advantages for the HP, but the prices of the Dell and the HP are close enough that we can at least say that the Pavilion Elite h8xt offers competitive value.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench 11.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  

Thanks to its Core i7 chip, the HP posted strong application performance, and along with the Dell and Gateway systems, shows the benefit of a Hyper-Threaded quad-core CPU on newer applications like Photoshop CS5. Although the Velocity Micro's standard threaded quad-core Core i5 chip is overclocked, that extra speed boost to the cores only helps on older apps that tend favor single-threaded CPU power. The Pavilion Elite h8xt offers few surprises here, since it matches what we've seen from similar configurations from other vendors, but HP at least hasn't done anything to get in the way of this system's performance.

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  

Far Cry 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  

Metro 2033
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,560x,1,536 (DirectX 11, very high)  
1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)  

3DMark 11
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Extreme (1,920x1,080)  
Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)  
Entry-level (1,680x1,050)  
HP Pavilion Elite h8xt (Intel Core i7-2600, Summer 2011)

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