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

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

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Our roll call begins with HP's Elite Pavilion H8 1050. This system comes to class with a built-in TV tuner that first-year college students can use to watch television on their desktop monitor rather than rationing off a portion of their grant money for a dedicated TV set. There's some value there for home users as well, especially if you're into the whole HTPC scene.

HP Elite Pavilion H8 1050
Specifications and Features (as tested)


Pavilion Elite H8 1050

Intel Core i7 2600 with air cooling

10GB DDR3 1333MHz

AMD Radeon HD 6850

Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB (3Gbps, 5400 RPM)

Blu-ray Reader/DVD Burner Combo
Operating System

Windows 7 Home Premium x64

10/100/1000 Ethernet and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
Front Panel Ports

2 x USB 2.0; 2 x USB 3.0; Memory card reader; Headphone and mic
Rear Panel Ports

4 x USB 2.0; GbE LAN; Optical SPDIF; Audio inputs
Sound Integrated 7.1 surround sound
Power Supply 460W

24.20 pounds (unpacked)
Keyboard / Mouse HP wireless keyboard and mouse

6.88" x 16.34" x 16.22" (WxDxL)

1 Year Limited

$1,300 (as configured)

This is an interesting mix of parts that seems to suggest HP had a tough time deciding how much power to inject into a mainstream system. Clearly a solid state drive would be too much for a system of this caliber, but we think a 7200 RPM hard drive would have better suited the Core i7 2600 and AMD Radeon HD 6850 foundation. The other thing that sticks out is the oddball RAM configuration. That's not a typo, the Pavilion Elite H8 1050 ships with 10GB of DDR3-1333 system memory in a 3x2GB and 1x4GB configuration.

Not listed in the spec sheet is the elephant in the room that comes with every HP system. We're of course referring to HP's recent announcement to shop its PC business. There's a cloud of uncertainty that hovers over HP as it looks to sell or spin off its Personal Systems Group (PSG) division, and the OEM recently posted a list of FAQs addressing some concerns you might have with purchasing an HP system. For example, will HP continue to honor warranties after severing its PC arm?

"Yes. We absolutely stand by our PC products and will continue to honor all warranties and provide support as you need it," HP stated in its FAQ.

We're willing to give HP the benefit of the doubt on that one, though the situation is admittedly awkward.


  • HP wireless keyboard
  • HP wireless mouse
  • Power cord
  • Quick Start Guide and related documentation
  • DisplayPort adapter
  • IR Remote control and accessories
  • VGA-to-DVI adapter
  • S-Video to Composite adapter
That's a fairly generous bundle, though it lacks any driver discs or restore media. You can, however, create your own restore media using HP's included software, and we recommend doing so.

It took us 57 seconds to load the desktop from a cold boot and 10 seconds to power down completely. Once inside, we were hit with a single pop-up offering us a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security 2011. HP shoveled a medium-sized scoop of bloatware onto our system, though it was kept in check by not automatically loading with Windows and sucking up resources. Other included software falls under the 'Utility' designation, such as HP's LinkUp software, which you can read in more detail here.

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

(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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