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

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Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: What we have here is a tale of three systems with each one taking a different approach to performance. HP's Pavilion Elite H8 1050 outgunned the competition in gaming performance, which isn't the least bit surprising since it toted the biggest gun (AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphics card).  But HP also opted for a 5400 RPM hard drive, albeit one with 1.5TB of storage space. In evaluating storage performance, the nod goes to Dell, which equipped its XPS 8300 system with a fast 2TB Seagate Barracuda XT hard drive spinning at 7200 RPM with 64MB of cache, a SATA 6Gbps interface, and also throws in 2GB of online backup free for a year. iBuyPower's 750GB Western Digital Caviar HDD is also a solid performer, but offers less than half the storage space of the others. Where iBuyPower's system makes a case for itself is in overclocking potential (unlocked CPU), upgradeability, and overall price.

HP Elite Pavilion H8 1050 - Editor's Choice

Looking at our performance summary, you can imagine how tough it was to pick a winner since each system builder focused on a different aspect of performance, but in the end we decided to give HP's Pavilion Elite H8 1050 our Editor's Choice award. Not only did it nearly clean sweep the competition in gaming performance, it also held its own throughout our gamut of benchmarks. Equally important are the value-added extras, things like integrated Wi-Fi, a built-in TV tuner, wireless input devices, and plenty of IO, including a pair of USB 3.0 ports. We're not thrilled with the messy interior or 5400 RPM hard drive, but otherwise, the Pavilion Elite H8 1050 is an all-around performer suitable for home or school.

That leaves the iBuyPower Gamer Power BTS11 and Dell XPS 8300 battling for second place, and we give the nod to iBuyPower. It's gaming performance was nearly on par with HP's, and though the Core i5 2500K is a slower chip than what the competition used, it has an unlocked multiplier, which makes overclocking easier. It also boasts integrated liquid cooling and an eye-catching chassis, and iBuyPower was the only vendor to attempt any sort of cable management. The end result is an interior that's as good or better than anything we could have assembled ourselves. Add to all that a price tag that's several hundred dollars less expensive than the other systems in this roundup and you have a solid second place finish.

Dell's XPS 8300 places third, though don't mistake that to mean this is a bad machine. Not only did the XPS 8300 rock the biggest, fastest hard drive of the bunch, but Dell includes 2GB of online backup free for a year. The XPS 8300 turned in very good performance numbers across the board, and we appreciate the Blu-ray drive and integrated Wi-Fi, even though these amenities come at a higher price tag.

That's how the standings shake out if we're picking a winner, though it's important to note there aren't any real losers here. It's not that we want to wax diplomatic -- it's not up to us to stroke a vendor's ego -- but even with each systems' individual flaws, none of them are bad buys. Which is the better buy depends on your criteria. If you're indifferent and just want a solid all-around machine, we feel HP offers the best option.

HP Pavilion Elite H8 1050 

iBuyPower Gamer Power BTS11

Dell XPS 8300

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