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HP Pavilion Elite m9500y review: HP Pavilion Elite m9500y


Sold exclusively at Best Buy, the HP Pavilion Elite m9500y is a preconfigured desktop PC with a respectable array of midrange components--$839 nets you a 2.4GHz quad-core processor, 8GB of DDR2 memory, 750GB of storage space, and a competitive Nvidia GeForce graphics card with ample opportunity for expansion on the interior. Unfortunately, the HP can't hold its own against two other systems we recently tested. Gateway puts together a similar set of components and adds a faster graphics card to its LX 6810-01, and the Dell XPS 430-121B is considerably faster for multitaskers and fans of streaming media. Since both of those computers are actually less expensive, the HP Pavilion Elite m9500y needs to drop its price or add more features before it can confidently share a retail shelf with Dell and Gateway.


HP Pavilion Elite m9500y

The Good

Decent component selection; built-in Wi-Fi.

The Bad

Other desktops have better components for less money; forgettable chassis design with two proprietary drive bays; smaller case means less room for expansion.

The Bottom Line

We can't complain about the HP Pavilion Elite m9500y in its current configuration--it offers a speedy processor, plenty of memory and storage, and even includes Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the big picture shows other manufacturers like Dell and Gateway that offer better deals to fit your specific computing needs.

Physically speaking, the HP m9500 is smaller than the Dell XPS 430-121B; its footprint measures 15.5 inches high, 7 inches wide, and 16.6 inches deep, and it looks very similar to many other systems in the Pavilion Elite line. For example, the HP Pavilion Elite m9402f shares the same awkward design with a media card reader up top, followed by a dual-layer DVD below it, an empty drive bay, and two additional bays at the bottom that HP leaves open for its proprietary removable hard drives. The lower-left door opens up to reveal a FireWire port, two USB 2.0 plugs, and the standard headphone and microphone jacks.

The chassis design isn't very memorable, and we can't help but wish for the Gateway's front-loading SATA hard-drive bays and additional audio/video connectors on the faceplate. The rear is equally boring--aside from the usual audio, video, and storage ports, you also get an HDMI port on the Nvidia graphics card and a single coaxial S/PDIF output port. We're surprised to see that HP doesn't include an external eSATA plug, so if you'll need to connect your external drive through USB 2.0 or FireWire in order to get additional storage.

While the Dell and the Gateway both come with TV tuner cards, the HP skips on the cable entertainment and instead includes an 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networking card. As these are all midtower PCs, we don't particularly value Wi-Fi in them, and we've soured on the whole TV tuner experience. Thus, we can't say we'd prefer Dell or Gateway's TV tuner to the HP's Wi-Fi adapter. Your needs may call for one or the other, neither offers both.

The HP suffers from a slightly cramped interior due to its smaller chassis compared to the Dell XPS 430-121B. It does leave room for an additional hard drive, another optical drive, and you can install one of the aforementioned HP removable drives as well. HP filled each of the four memory slots with 2GB sticks of 800MHz DDR2 RAM. 8GB of memory should last you for the foreseeable future, and you can also add expansion cards in the two free PCI-E x1 slots at a later time. Dell adds an extra SATA port to the side-by-side comparison and also gives you a PCI-E x8 slot if you take out the 56k modem.

Aside from the Wi-Fi versus TV tuner debate above, the HP can only claim its 512MB Nvidia graphics card as an advantage over the 256MB ATI card in the Dell. We found the HP enjoyed a minor speed boost from that card on our tests compared with the Dell, but still not enough to outpace the less expensive Gateway and its 1GB GeForce GT 120 card. If you're not a gamer, you'll be more disappointed by the HP's performance charts, where the Dell separated itself from the other two systems by an impressive margin.

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

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

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Dell XPS 430-121B
Dell Studio MT
Gateway LX6810-01
HP Pavilion Elite m9500y
HP Pavilion Elite m9402f

Unreal Tournament 3
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The tests show that the HP is slower than the Dell on every one of our application tests, mainly due to Dell's advantage in clock speed and faster DDR3 memory. While the HP's 2.4GHz AMD quad-core CPU can certainly handle most modern applications, the Dell XPS 430-121B will give you consistently faster performance in most kinds of tasks.

HP protects the Pavilion Elite m9500y with a one-year warranty that covers parts and labor. Troubleshooting is available via 24-7 toll-free phone support, and the HP Web site contains a lengthy list of FAQs, driver downloads, and product news.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Dell Studio Desktop
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650; 640GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive.

Dell XPS 430-121B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8300 ; 6GB DDR3 1066MHz; 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 Graphics card; 750GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive.

Gateway LX6810-01
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8200; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics card; 640GB, 7,200RPM hard drive.

HP Pavilion Elite m9402f
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz AMD Phenom Quad Core X4 9650; 7GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150 SE integrated graphics chip; 640GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive.

HP Pavilion Elite m9500y
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz AMD Phenim 9750 X4 Quad Core; 8GB DDR2 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9500 GS; 750GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive.


HP Pavilion Elite m9500y

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 6Support 8