Dell, HP, and iBuyPower Back-to-School PC Roundup - HotHardware

Dell, HP, and iBuyPower Back-to-School PC Roundup

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Alice Cooper sang it wrong, school isn't out forever; with Labor Day in the rear view mirror, school is back in session. That means having to stock up on supplies and investing in essential items to get through the school year; like beer, condoms, and a new PC. You're on your own with the first two, but you've come to the right place for guidance on a new system.

We pinged three system builders -- Dell, Hewlett Packard, and iBuyPower -- and asked each one to send us a back-to-school PC equally suited for work and play (read: Mainstream). What we're looking for is a flexible configuration that's able to put its nose to the grindstone during the week to tackle multimedia projects, whether they be for school or for work, yet capable of running wild on the weekends with sufficient pixel pushing power to satisfy our jones for blowing something (or someone) up, in the virtual world, of course.

Our request leaves a lot up for interpretation, and wouldn't you know it, each vendor took a different path towards the same goal, yet they all chose Intel's Sandy Bridge platform to build around. Dell sent us its compact XPS 8300 system with a Core i7 2600 processor, AMD Radeon 6770 graphics card, and proprietary software to share and sync your digital life; HP sent its Pavilion Elite H8-1050 PC with a Core i7 2600 processor, Radeon 6850 graphics card, and built-in TV tuner; and iBuyPower configured a decidedly showy system with a Core i5 2500K processor, Nvidia GeForce 550 Ti graphics card, and off-the-shelf components with a barebones Windows install and flashy NZXT Phantom case. Three systems, three approaches, and three verdicts.

Back-to-School System Roundup
Here We Go!

 
Dell XPS 8300
$1,263

iBuyPower Gamer Power BTS11
$1,000
 
HP Pavilion Elite H8 1050
 $1,300


Looking at the price of all three systems, iBuyPower's Gamer Power BTS11 jumps out to an early lead, though none of the configurations cost more than $1,300. These aren't budget boxes, however, and we won't be evaluating them as such. Ten years ago, we would have tempered our expectations, but if you're going to plunk down a grand or more on a desktop, it had better justify the four-digit price tag with performance to match.

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I have a simple rule to avoid bloatware: If Norton or McAfee is pre-installed, then the PC is a boat anchor and I'll look at a different brand instead. Microsoft Security Essentials does a better job for no money at all. Keep in mind I am NOT a Microsoft fan; I prefer Linux, Android, and ChromeOS, but if you have a Windows PC you should be using MSE.

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Great write-up Paul, but I don't see this as a fair comparison. If you customize the BTS11 with a 2600k, stock 6850, 80+ psu, bluray drive, 2tb 7200 drive, also right now they have a free upgrade to 1600 ram which comes out to $1264. It would outperform the hp and still come in at a lower price tag with zero bloatware. Plus you can save money by selecting a different case. I'm assuming this is based on stock configs, maybe the paladin E860 would have been a better stock choice for the comparison.

I'm just bitter because I don't want to see hp or dell beat someone like ibuypower in a comparison. All that bloatware!!! Gross!

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Fair points Mr. McNasty, but we also have to review systems as we receive them, not based on what they could have been. We can't assume that, had iBuyPower altered the configuration a bit, that it would have outperformed the competition. We can give iBuyPower props for upgradeability and price (which we did), but we can't say a hypothetical system performs better or worse than one we've actually tested. It's also worth mentioning that iBuyPower is pushing this as a sub-$1,000 ($999.99 -- we rounded up) back-to-school special.

I'm sure others will take issue with HP edging out iBuyPower, so I'll explain our decision before the comments start rolling in. We ultimately felt HP's value-added extras tipped the scales, like ample storage, Wi-Fi-, Blu-ray, and a built-in TV tuner, all things iBuyPower's system lacks. And with the focus on mainstream/back-to-school, we felt a compact case was a better option than a tower chassis that's almost as tall as I am. A near sweep in gaming performance certainly helped HP's cause, too.

Had this been a mid-range enthusiast round-up, we would have swayed towards iBuyPower for its off-the-shelf parts, upgradeability, and overall price, followed by HP in second and again Dell in third.

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I'm honestly not trying to make waves, I'm with @Optimus i enjoy reading these articles and understand you review what gets sent and advertized in a specific category. I actually agree completely that the hp's extras do put it out ahead. If you put those three infront of me and said choose, I would make the same decision. I just wanted to point out that if you add those to the ibuypower you can get them all for a lower price than the hp. But like you said it's no longer an "off the shelf system" and it's no longer the mainstream, sub-1000 pc.

PS....I haven't heard of doghouse systems either, thanks for the heads up!

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Drake_McNasty:
PS....I haven't heard of doghouse systems either, thanks for the heads up!

http://doghousesystems.com/

(check out the "Racing Rig")

 

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"I agree Drake, but each company sent in what they promoted as their official back to school PC. So its basically an "As Is" comparison. I agree that the HP PC has a great value to it and a neater inside,compared to the Dell.  Overall I would not buy any of them for my liking, but they have their value. HP and Dell are brands people and businesses have trusted for years, so they will sell. But all in all, if you are a smart shopper , you would be better off configuring a PC at Ibuypower and get more bang for the buck."

"BTW, I love reading Paul's articles, always, great material. Good laughs."

Edit: I see that Paul had responded with excellent points, I agree with him also. I had missed it because I now always write in Forum View instead of in the main page, so I don't lose my comments when the site refreshes.

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Thanks for the props, OptimusPrimeTime! And I have to give credit to Dave and Marco for the creative freedom I've been afforded.

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One more commnet, Paul: I'd love to see you take something from Doghouse Systems and go head-to-head with Dell. HP's offerings are a dead horse, for my money, I don't want a proprietary system that's definitely going to be orphaned.

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I've actually never heard of Doghouse Systems; will have to check them out.

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Folks, this was a first for us. To be completely honest, there was a bit of a debate between myself, Paul and Marco on this round-up. Both Paul and Marco felt HP was the victor. However, I felt iBuyPower ultimately edged out the HP system, though it has fewer features and slightly lower performance, for some of the reasons mentioned here.

Regardless, in the purest sense of journalism, we felt it was best left up to Paul to levy his opinion and rating of the three PCs he tested here. So there you have it. Take from our analysis what you will. Ultimately, we're just here for guidance more than anything else. If you feel one of these is better than the other, from your perspective, then that's the right answer for you.

Either way you slice it, thanks for reading!

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