HP Pavilion Elite m9402f review: HP Pavilion Elite m9402f

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
MSRP: $1,048.00

The Good Solid service and support.

The Bad Slower and more poorly equipped than less expensive competition; cumbersome optional hard-drive bay.

The Bottom Line HP's Pavilion Elite m9402f continues to frustrate us in its core design. This off-the-shelf Best Buy system is also overpriced compared with faster, more feature-rich PCs from its competition. With little to recommend this desktop, we suggest you keep shopping.

Visit for details.

5.8 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 5
  • Performance 6
  • Support 8

We've never loved Hewlett-Packard's Pavilion Elite desktop chassis, largely due to their clunky design that shoehorns not one, but two bays into the system for non-included, proprietary HP removable hard drives. The Pavilion Elite m9402f is not different, but we're also down on this $819 system for its subpar features compared with a more affordable Dell PC. HP certainly has PCs that we like. This isn't one of them.

Generally, the Pavilion Elite m9402f will do what we expect from most midrange desktop PCs. Its CPU is fast enough, its hard drive spacious enough, and it has enough RAM to handle Windows Vista and allow you to perform most common tasks with little trouble. We were a bit surprised that unlike the Dell Studio Desktop, this HP has no low-end 3D card, relying instead on an integrated 3D graphics chip.

We're also scratching our heads at the fact that it came with 7GB of RAM, by way of three 2GB memory sticks, and one 1GB module. Our cynical side has a feeling this is an attempt by HP to appeal to consumers' numbers-driven instincts, wherein you might conclude that 7GB has to be better than a PC with 6GB of RAM, a more common spec in this price range. Our tests below show that the extra RAM doesn't help the HP's performance.

  HP Pavilion Elite m9402f Dell Studio Desktop
Price $819 $799
CPU 2.3GHz AMD Phenom X4 9650 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200
Memory 7GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150 SE integrated graphics chip 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3450
Hard drives 640GB, 7,200rpm 750GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

Side-by-side, the HP Pavilion Elite m9402f falls short in a couple of areas compared with the Dell Studio Desktop, particularly damning due to the HP's higher price. Both of these PCs are fixed Best Buy configurations, so the specs and prices remain static, sales and rebate offers notwithstanding. While the HP has more memory, the Dell's larger hard drive and dedicated graphics card have a larger impact on overall system capability. Yes, the HP has wireless networking. Perhaps you find that more worthwhile than we do. In standard midtower desktops like these, we're willing to accept wired-only connections in favor of more robust parts elsewhere, like you get with the Dell.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion Elite m9402f
Apple iMac

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iMac
HP Pavilion Elite m9402f

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iMac
HP Pavilion Elite m9402f

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Dell Studio Desktop
HP Pavilion Elite m9402f
Gateway DX4200
Apple iMac

The test results for these two PCs paint an unmistakably clear picture. The HP was slower than the Dell on every benchmark. It's worth noting that the HP's quad-core AMD CPU and the Dell's quad-core Intel processor also share the same clock speed. We've known for a while that Intel's chips are faster than AMD's clock-for-clock right now. These results add further evidence. This HP will certainly handle any standard modern computing task you throw at it, but not as well as the less expensive Dell.

Best Desktops for 2020

All best desktops

More Best Products

All best products