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HP Pavilion Elite m9515y review: HP Pavilion Elite m9515y

HP Pavilion Elite m9515y

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
3 min read

HP's Pavilion Elite m9515y is the kind of PC for which we're surprised there's still a market. We say that because we've officially soured on the idea of a standard mid-tower in the living room, and if you want a computer to serve as a dedicated small-scale home entertainment system in a dorm room or a den, we find all-in-ones do the job more elegantly. That said, for $1,080, this HP actually offers quite a bit of functionality, from a Blu-ray drive, to wireless networking, to a passable 3D graphics card. It is not the fastest computer in this price range, but the Pavilion Elite m9515y is probably one of the most well-rounded. If you're after a higher-end jack-of-all trades PC, you could certainly do worse.


HP Pavilion Elite m9515y

The Good

Blu-ray drive, Wi-Fi, and TV tuner make it a strong PC for digital media consumption.

The Bad

Underpowered system performance; cluttered interior.

The Bottom Line

The HP Pavilion Elite m9515y is not an elegant PC, but it has enough features where it counts to set it apart. If performance or seamless living room integration are your goals, look elsewhere, but anyone after digital media functionality will find this HP more capable than its competition.

The Pavilion Elite series is perhaps our least favorite case from a mainstream vendor right now. It looks fine from the outside with a rubberized top for placing portable gadgets and a glossy black plastic front, but the inside is a tangled, crowded mess. We attribute the bulk of this rat's nest design to the slot for HP's proprietary, and oversized, Personal Media Drive removable hard drive. This slot crowds the inside of the case with wires and its specialized drive cage. A second slot for HP's smaller Pocket Media Drives fits more gracefully under the optical drive stack in a 3.5-inch bay. That one we don't mind if we have to have one slot, but we strongly dislike the idea of giving up so much space for two optional components.

We'll concede that the cluttered interior will only frustrate those who open the case, which might not describe the primary audience for this mainstream, retail system. If you confine yourself to the exterior of the Pavilion Elite m9515y, you may be able to overlook the wasted space. HP put an array of analog A/V inputs on the front of the system, which is useful for connecting older video cameras and other devices. You also get the usual USB 2.0 inputs, analog audio jacks, and a media card reader.

  HP Pavilion Elite m9515y Dell Studio XPS-122B
Price $1,079 $999
CPU 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard chipset AMD 780G Intel X58
Memory 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 768MB Nvidia GeForce 9600 GS 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850
Hard drives 750GB, 7,200rpm 640GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray drive/dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

Comparing the HP's specs to other PCs in its price range also gives it a favorable outlook, at least on paper. The 2.5GHz clock speed of its AMD Phenom X4 9850 looks competitive, and the 8GB of RAM, 768MB GeForce 3D card, and 750GB hard drive all look about right for the price, even without the Blu-ray drive, the TV tuner, and the wireless networking. Those extras help set this system apart and define it.

As we said earlier, we don't love the idea of a clunky tower desktop crammed awkwardly in the living room. You can build or buy a smaller desktop for that purpose, or better yet stream the content over your home network via an Xbox 360 or another connected media device (perhaps in the TV itself). An all-in-one PC like the ="http: reviews.cnet.com="" desktops="" sony-vaio-js190j-silver="" 4505-3118_7-33240536.html"="">Sony Vaio JS190J is also a more elegant and self-contained solution for entertainment purposes than a wire-strewn desktop and monitor combination. That said, the Pavilion Elite m9515y is one of the few traditional desktops we've seen at retail with such a broad range of digital entertainment features.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS-122B
HP Pavilion Elite m9515y

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS-122B
HP Pavilion Elite m9515y

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Dell Studio XPS-122B
Gateway FX6800-01e
Dell XPS 430-121B
HP Pavilion Elite m9515y

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Dell Studio XPS-122B
HP Pavilion Elite m9515y

This system might be unique for its ability to serve up digital media, but it's also significantly slower than competing PCs in its price range. It can't even keep up with the $900 Dell XPS 430 121B. This HP is certainly fast enough to provide a quality HD video experience. It can also play some games, although we're surprised that it wasn't able to turn in a better score on our forgiving Unreal Tournament 3 test. Overall we'd look elsewhere if your primary concern is system performance and/or gaming capability.

We mentioned that upgraders will find the interior of this system a mess, and it's almost not even worth cracking open as the only spare slot is a single 1X PCI Express input. You also get a single free traditional hard-drive input, but you have to remove the drive cage entirely to access it, an unfortunate hassle. If the inside is sloppy, the variety of ports on the rear panel is only adequate. The video card provides a built-in HDMI output, and you also get a dedicated coaxial digital audio output. Each of those will get the job done as far as living room connections, but we wish HP went further and added an eSATA port and optical digital audio.

Hewlett-Packard, like most mainstream vendors, offers one year of parts and labor coverage for this system. You also get 24-7 toll-free phone coverage and onsite service at HP's discretion. The HP Web site also has a useful selection of help tools, including driver downloads, FAQs, and customer support chat.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

HP Pavilion Elite m9515y
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 9600 GS graphics card; 750GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive

Dell Studio XPS-122B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 640GB 7,200 rpm Samsung 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 FX6800-01e
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 3GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive


HP Pavilion Elite m9515y

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 8Performance 6Support 8