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HP Pavilion P6110y review: HP Pavilion P6110y

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MSRP: $635.82

The Good Classy case design; FireWire port; upgradable; customer-friendly support.

The Bad Few interesting features; outperformed by other desktops in its price range.

The Bottom Line HP's Pavilion p6110y isn't necessarily an offensive system, and its case might even entice you to give it a second look. We just wish HP had taken a more substantive approach to help this desktop stand out. Its FireWire port might sway you, but otherwise you can find more interesting features from other PCs on the shelf.

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6.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Support 7

Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.

HP's Pavilion p6110y is first out of the gate in our back-to-school desktop roundup for 2009. And while there's certainly nothing glaringly wrong with this spare $509 midtower, we can't help noticing that HP hasn't done a lot distinguish this PC from its competition. Next to a quad-core slim tower from Gateway or Asus' new Wi-Fi and HDMI-equipped midtower, this Pavilion's has only a FireWire port, HP's easy-to-navigate Web site, and a lightly tweaked case design to help it stand out, which earn it only a lukewarm recommendation.

The most interesting thing about the Pavilion p6110y might be its new design. There's nothing drastically different about it, but HP has moved the optical-drive eject buttons to the side of the front panel, and has also gone to an almost entirely black color palette on the trim around the case. The resulting classier look gives this system more shelf appeal, and you might find the Pavilion p6110y one of the more polished-looking midtower PCs. If aesthetics factor into your buying decision, HP might indeed persuade you with this PC's good looks.

HP Pavilion p6110y Asus Essentio CM5570-AP002
Price $520 $510
CPU 2.6GHz Intel Pentium E5300 2.6GHz Intel Pentium E5300
Memory 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 (integrated) 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 (integrated)
Hard drives 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)

Look deeper into the specs of the Pavilion p6110y as compared with its competition and your impression might change. It's not that HP has made any significant missteps with this configuration; it's simply that it lacks inspiration. You'll note in our comparison box that the Asus Essentio desktop offers almost the exact same hardware for $10 less than the HP. That price difference will likely change depending on the retailer, but what's probably more impactful are the graphics chip and accompanying motherboard in each system.

The HP's motherboard features only the most basic inputs and outputs, and its single FireWire 400 port is the only departure from the norm. The Asus Essentio, on the other hand, offers no FireWire, but instead includes an HDMI video output, as well as 802.11 b/g wireless networking via an add-in card. Those two features might not have the greatest utility given the Essentio's midtower form factor, but the simple fact that they're present gives the Asus system some distinction. Depending on your peripheral connection needs you might find the HP's FireWire port enough to sway you decision. For our money, we think the Asus system offers more exciting extras.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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 Multi-CPU
Rendering Single CPU
Gateway SX2800-01
Asus CM5570-AP002
HP Pavilion p6110y
Dell Inspiron 537s

We don't find much to get excited about when we look at HP's performance, either. The standout in this price range is Gateway's SX2800-01. The lone quad-core system, and with a $510 price tag to match that of the HP, the Gateway outperforms its competition on all but our iTunes test. The Pavilion p6110y isn't far behind, and it's also neck-and-neck with the Asus on almost every test. The single exception is our multimedia multitasking test, where the HP lagged behind the Asus by about 30 seconds on our simultaneous audio- and video-encoding workload. We suspect that Asus' advantage on this test has to do with its more up-to-date motherboard chipset. As with our features comparison, the HP isn't a performance dog, but it also gives us few reasons to recommend it given the faster competition.

As a midtower PC, the Pavilion p6110y offers one key advantage over the slimtower Gateway SX2800-01: you can upgrade it with standard-size expansion cards. HP gives you room to add a full-size 3D graphics card by way of a free 16x PCI Express slot, and you also get a spare 1x PCI Express slot, along with standard PCI slot. Asus trumps HP again here, however, offering all of that as well as a second PCI slot. You can add a second hard drive to the HP, but as with its previous generation Pavilions, drive installation is hampered by an inconvenient drive cage layout.

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