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Underneath its feature bloat and its boring case, the HP Pavilion Elite 190T is actually a fairly impressive computer for its price. Our review configuration comes in at $2,105, but at its leaner $1,899 default price, this system is the least expensive we've seen with Intel's six-core core i7 980X Extreme CPU, currently the fastest desktop chip available. A weak graphics card prevents this PC from excelling as a gaming box, and if all you want is raw CPU performance, you can easily get the price under $2,000 by shedding some options. But even if you left the extras, and perhaps added a $300 or $400 3D card to round out its performance, the Pavilion Elite 190T would likely still come in less than a system from any other vendor offering Intel's monster six-core CPU. It might not win any design or innovation contests, but this HP is easy for us to recommend as a cost-effective means to a very fast computer.
The Pavilion Elite case is no more or less appealing than any other off-the-shelf desktop. Its glossy black design echoes the industry standard, and while it lacks any stand-out features, you'll find the case has at least a few useful elements. A 15-in-1 media card reader sits at the top of the front panel, next to a pair of USB 2.0 ports. Underneath it you'll find a door concealing the Blu-ray/DVD-RW combo drive, which itself sits above the bay for HP's removable (and optional) Pocket Media Drive. On the bottom half of the case, a door flips open to reveal a few more USB 2.0 ports, as well as a FireWire 400 jack, and inputs for composite and S-Video components.
|HP Pavilion Elite 190T||Maingear Vybe|
|CPU||3.36GHz Intel Core i7 980X||3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X6 1090T|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel X58||AMD 890GX|
|Memory||9GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM||6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770||1GB ATI Radeon HD 5830|
|Hard drives||1.5TB, 7,200 rpm||640GB, 7,200 rpm|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray/dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11n wireless|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
Lining the $2,105 HP up against the $1,299 Maingear Vybe doesn't seem like the fairest comparison, but we think pitting PCs using Intel's and AMD's six-core chips against each other makes for an interesting match-up. And while we like the Vybe as a gaming system, the $1,299 Gateway FX6831-01 is actually a better general performance PC, albeit with a four-core Intel chip. You could easily consider the Gateway a comparison to the HP as well.
To judge the HP's value against any $1,299 PC, we'll need to discount some of its extra features. The HP came with a TV tuner and a wireless mouse and keyboard set. Those features are $80 upgrades, so cross them off. The wireless networking card is also optional, but we'll leave that in because Maingear includes one. HP also includes a Blu-ray drive by default, leaving us no room to adjust. That leaves the adjusted cost for HP at about $2,025, still $725 more than the Maingear or the Gateway.
The question, then, is whether the HP offers $725 more computer than its competition. You'll need to weigh your own preferences against the costs, but considering the Pavilion has more than twice as much hard drive storage than the Maingear, more (but also slower) RAM, a Blu-ray drive, and a significantly faster CPU, performance-oriented non-gamers, at least, shouldn't have to stretch too far to justify the HP's higher price.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
The HP's finish on the top of every performance test might seem less impressive given that it's the most expensive PC on the list by nearly $1,000, but keep in mind that its base $1,899 configuration gets you the same core hardware. That makes the price separation a bit less dramatic, but you'd still be right to expect top performance from a system with even a $500 price gap from its competition.
For the best evidence of the HP's performance value, focus your attention on our multicore Cinebench test, where the HP comes in nearly 50 percent faster than its closest competitor, the Velocity Micro Edge Z30. The HP's single-core clock speed wins, like on iTunes, are less dramatic, but they reflect the fact that in this price bracket, CPUs have settled around a 2.8GHz to 3.36GHz single-core range. Without dramatic overclocking and the expensive liquid-cooling hardware and larger cases that generally demands, you won't see large performance gaps from apps that don't take full advantage of multiple CPU processing threads.
When you use multithreaded software, like on Cinebench, and our Photoshop CS3 test, the resulting speed gains can be dramatic with a fast CPU like the Intel Core i7 980X Extreme in this HP. We expect the gap from the forthcoming Photoshop CS5, which is supposed to offer even better multithreading support, will be even larger, but even today, this HP Pavilion Elite 190T will stop for nothing.
|1,600 x 1,200 (4x aa)||1,280 x 1,024 (4x aa)|
|1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)||1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)|
We can't say the same about the HP's gaming capabilities. You shouldn't run into too many titles the HP can't handle, but you might notice a drop-off at higher resolutions, especially with more demanding first person shooters. Unlike the Maingear system, where we're fairly certain the six-core CPU helped push the graphics card past the Gateway and its combination of a quad-core CPU and a slightly better 3D card, the lower midrange ATI Radeon HD 5570 graphics card presents the HP with a performance a gap the Core i7 980X can't overcome. Still, hitting close to 60 frames per second on our high-resolution Far Cry 2 test suggests the HP won't give you that much to worry about. You may need to reduce the resolution or image quality on more recent titles, but as long as you stick to 24-inch or lower displays, generally speaking you should be fine.
With the TV tuner and Blu-ray drive, it's clear HP also has home entertainment in mind for this desktop. The graphics card features DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort video outputs, so you should be able to connect it to any modern display from the office to the living room. The 7.1 analog audio and S/PDIF digital audio jacks also open up a handy variety of audio output options. We don't think many people will drag this tower system into their living room, but we'd of course rather have the AV flexibility than not.
The motherboard also provides a strong assortment of data ports, although it's without a few newer features that come with some enthusiast-class 980X chipset boards, as well as with AMD's more affordable 890GX chipset. You get the now-more-or-less-standard array of USB 2.0, eSATA, and FireWire outputs. The system has no USB 3.0 jacks, however, and the internal SATA hard drive connections remain SATA 2.0, as opposed to the wider-bandwidth SATA 3.0 standard. With few USB 3.0 components available at the moment, and relatively little noticeable benefit from the fatter hard drive pipe, we don't suspect many of you will miss these extras.
The HP's internal expansion is a bit less impressive. Technically, you get two 16x PCI Express slots, a 1x PCI Express slot and a 4X PCI Express slot. With the TV tuner, the wireless networking card, and the double-wide graphics card, all of those slots come either occupied or obstructed. Our configuration also included only five sticks of RAM for six available slots (four 2GB sticks, one 1GB stick). Perhaps to keep prices down, HP uses only 1,066MHz DDR3 memory in this system, and had HP occupied all six RAM slots, the system would benefit with a performance boost from full implementation of the triple channel memory. You can add a single 1GB stick to go to 10GB, or rearrange however you'd like, of course. HP also offers an upgrade to 12GB for an extra $120.
|HP Pavilion Elite 190T||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.97|
|Sleep (10 percent)||3.63|
|Idle (25 percent)||148.42|
|Load (5 percent)||236.34|
|Annual energy cost||$68.48|
Given its very high-end CPU, we're not surprised this HP is one of the most power-hungry desktops in this roundup. That added power draw isn't surprising considering its performance edge over those systems. While none of these PCs can be considered power-efficient stand-outs, at least the HP is no more or less consumptive than its competition, at least relative to its performance.
HP's service and support matches that of the industry-standard one-year warranty coverage/24-7 toll-free phone service. HP's Web site also has a bunch of useful features, from FAQs, driver and manual downloads, as well as support chat. The system itself also comes with a few diagnostic tools, although you'll have to sort them out from the trial offers and crapware icons.
Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1986NBC
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770; 1TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850; 1.5TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion Elite 190T
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.36GHz Intel Core i7 980X Extreme; 9GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770; 1.5TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X6 1090T; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5830; 640GB, 7,200 rpm Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive
Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.22GHz Intel Core i7-860 (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive