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

iBuyPower Gamer Power BTS11
HP Pavilion Elite H8 1050

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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