HP Pavilion Elite m9300t review: HP Pavilion Elite m9300t

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The Good Strong basic performance; integrated infrared receiver; all kinds of digital media-oriented options.

The Bad Cumbersome optional hard-drive bays; no way to opt out of the TV tuner card.

The Bottom Line At its heart, the HP Pavilion Elite m9300t is a fast, competitive midtower desktop with lots of flexibility in its configuration. You just have to wade through some clunky design and a few components you might not want in order to find it.

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

At its core, our $1,100 HP Pavilion Elite m9300t review unit is a reasonably priced example of Hewlett-Packard's midrange desktop. It gives you about $900 worth of basic computer, and an extra $200 in home theater-style extras. The good news is that this system is configurable, so if, like us, you find the idea of home theater PCs increasingly tiresome, especially in a standard midtower, you can opt out of any features you don't want. Even with that flexibility, HP's clunky design makes us find similar PCs from Dell and Gateway more appealing.

We've seen the Pavilion Elite design in its earlier incarnations, and our complaints remain the same. The slick-looking glossy black front is fine, and we especially appreciate the integrated infrared receiver for the remote control. The issue is the two empty bays for HP's proprietary removable hard drives. You have to buy the drives to go in those bays separately, and in the meantime, you're left with a lot of wasted space. This isn't necessarily an issue on the outside of the system, but once you go inside you'll see that the cages for these superfluous drives take up a significant amount of room. The drive cage for the included internal hard drive is pushed to back where it's basically made inaccessible, and the internal wiring is dense and sloppy because of the cramped interior.

  HP Pavilion Elite m9300t Dell Inspiron 518
Price $1,100 $784
CPU 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
Memory 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9500 GS 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3450
Hard drives 500GB, 7,200rpm 320GB, 5,400rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray/HD DVD player/dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)
TV Tuner Yes No

Design issues aside, there's actually a decent PC buried under all of that mess. If you discount the Blu-ray drive, the sound card, and the wireless networking adapter, you're left with a roughly $900 desktop that fares very well against its competition. Our review unit came with 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium, but HP offers the 64-bit version for no extra charge. And with its fast Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor, its 500GB hard drive, and 2GB of 800MHZ DDR SDRAM, the Pavilion Elite m9300t is one of the best Photoshop systems in its price range.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Elite m9300t
Apple iMac

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iMac
HP Pavilion Elite m9300t

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iMac
HP Pavilion Elite m9300t

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
HP Pavilion Elite m9300t
Dell Inspiron 518
Gateway DX4200
Apple iMac

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Elite m9300t

The Photoshop test stands out because the HP outpaced both Apple's iMac and the

You'll note, for example that we're comparing the $1,100 HP's performance to that of a $750 Dell. That's because the HP is loaded with secondary extras like a Blu-ray/HD DVD combo drive, a sound card, and a wireless adapter. If you have $1,100 to spend and want more performance, instead of a Blu-ray/HD DVD drive and the sound card, you could configure this system with a faster CPU, more memory, and switch over to 64-bit Vista for $20 less. Of the options you are stuck with, we'd like to see the TV tuner go. Right now HP's configurator doesn't let you deselect it.

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