HP Pavilion Elite m9040n review: HP Pavilion Elite m9040n

What we'd also like to see disappear is HP's incessant pushing of its external hard drives. We can actually imagine adding one of either the Personal Media or the smaller Pocket Media drives to a system, overpriced though they may be. But to add bays for both types to a desktop is redundant, contributes to making the Pavilion Elite m9040n messy on the inside and difficult to upgrade. The thing already comes with a generous 640GB of fixed hard-drive storage. If you want more, sure, add one of these drives. But we can't imagine the average consumer would have any interest in swapping data between a PC and two external hard drives. Besides, HP, with your MediaSmart Server on the way (as soon as those "software enhancements" come through from Microsoft), external hard drives will become relics of the past, right?

On the top and along the right side, you can see the bays for HP's removable external hard drives. Sold separately, to no one we can think of who would want two removable hard drives.

You might also notice a little button in our detail shot, right under the HP logo. This is HP's new Easy Backup feature. When you press it, you get a very basic, HP-made software overlay that holds your hand through Windows Vista's built-in backup program. We don't find the dedicated backup button a major innovation, since HP isn't really adding any fundamental technology here. It's simply making it easier for you to get to a feature that comes with all Vista PCs. Still, we like that HP is calling attention to the idea that you should be backing up those photos, important documents, as well as your system software on a regular basis.

We're sad to report that HP also treats you to the usual mess of ad icons on the Windows desktop. We count seven this time around. At least Voodoo was able to keep HP's marketing hounds away from its new Blackbird 002 gaming system.

As always, though, we like HP's TotalCare utility, which is the most useful of the desktop support software packages that have become so popular this year. If you need any information about the state of your system, you will like find it here. HP's support in general excels, with toll-free 24-7 phone help and plentiful resources online. The one-year parts and labor warranty is only par for the course.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Apple iMac
Apple OS X; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive;

Dell Inspiron 531
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card; 250GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Gateway DX430X
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6420; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

HP Pavilion Elite m9040n
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives

HP Pavilion Media Center TV m8120n
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 3GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 7350 LE graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives

Sony VAIO TP1 Living Room PC
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel 945GM integrated graphics chip; 300GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Velocity Micro Vector GX Campus Edition
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.86Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo 6320; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB GeForce 8600 GT graphics card; 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

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