Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
HP Pavilion Elite HPE-190a desktop PC
A high-end entertainment PC with a fast Core i7 860 CPU
- Good performance in CPU-intensive tasks, integrated DVB-T tuner, MediaSmart software is good for basic video editing
- Infrared connectivity requires additional cable, upgrades aren't particularly easy, slightly expensive
If all-in-one computers and bargain-priced desktop PCs don't provide enough power, HP's Pavilion Elite HPE-190a might be the ticket. It has a powerful Core i7 processor and provides plenty of connections, though is a little on the expensive side.
Price$ 2,799.00 (AUD)
HP's Pavilion Elite HPE-190a is a high-end desktop PC with a Core i7 processor, plenty of memory and a chassis design that isn't hideous. It has a mid-range graphics card, which means this PC isn't the ultimate rig for gaming; it's better suited as an all-purpose entertainment centre in homes that need computing power for video editing and other intensive tasks.
The HP Pavilion Elite HPE-190a doesn't have one of the outrageous designs you find on some expensive desktop PCs like the Acer Aspire Predator G7770 and Dell's XPS 730. In fact, it looks like a fairly standard, boxy tower PC, apart from a red line around the front panel. We think it's quite attractive, but despite its entertainment centre prowess it will look more at home on a desk than in the living room.
HP has included enough connections to suit almost any setup; there are eight USB 2.0 ports, two DVI ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port and an integrated memory card reader supporting SD, xD, Smart Media, CompactFlash and most MemoryStick formats. It's clear the HP Pavilion Elite HPE-190a is built for entertainment: it has a Blu-ray burner, an integrated digital TV tuner and a range of audio connections, including microphone and headphone jacks, surround sound 3.5mm ports and an optical TOSLINK port. Two 6-pin FireWire ports allow you to capture footage from a digital camcorder, which is great for archiving and editing family videos.
Wireless connectivity includes 802.11n Wi-Fi and an infrared port for controlling the PC with the bundled remote. Unfortunately the infra-red sensor isn't built in to the PC enclosure itself, so you'll need to attach one of the two bundled sensors, which can be unwieldy. Bluetooth is notably missing.
As a mid-tower desktop PC, the Pavilion Elite HPE-190a leaves some room for user upgrades; HP even includes a spare 5.25in bay for installing a second optical drive. The case can be opened through a single Phillips-head screw, though anti-tamper stickers on the side panel and Torx head screws on the back panel are likely to scare away anyone but the determined. Cable management inside the case isn't very neat, making it difficult to install a new optical drive or expansion card.
Configuration and performance
A 2.8GHz Core i7 860 processor lies at the heart of the HP Pavilion Elite HPE-190a, and it's accompanied by 8GB of DDR3 memory. The PC has NVIDIA GeForce GTX260 graphics (similar to the Gigabyte GTX 260) and two 750GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 hard drives. The Pavilion Elite HPE-190a runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.
|Price||WorldBench 6||3DMark06||3DMark Vantage||iTunes Encoding
|HP Pavilion Elite HPE-190a||$2799||141||14924||P9463||49s||34s|
|Dell Studio XPS 8000||$1999||124||N/A||N/A||52s||36s|
|Acer Aspire M7720||$3699||104||12977||N/A||1m 1s||24s|
|Acer Aspire Predator G7770||$4900.11||103||N/A||N/A||60s||35s|
|Altech NRG Storm||$4999||103||21700||N/A||38s||22s|
We haven't yet reviewed many desktop PCs that use Core i7-800-series CPUs, so there are no real comparison points for the HP Pavilion Elite HPE-190a. However, it clearly excels in all of our benchmark tests, managing the second highest score in World Bench 6 behind a test rig based on the Core i7-965 Extreme Edition processor, which is clocked at 3.2GHz. The HP's ability to quickly encode media and render 3D objects in our tests means it is suitable for processor-intensive tasks.
The Pavilion's gaming credentials aren't as spectacular. The GeForce GTX 260 ran Crysis at 27.42 frames per second in a 1920x1200-pixel resolution and Call of Juarez at 36.4fps. By comparison, the Altech NRG Storm managed 65fps in Call of Juarez with a high-end SLI graphics setup. The GeForce GTX 260 is a mid-range graphics card at best and while it is suitable for gaming, it lacks support for DirectX 11, so it isn't future-proofed for upcoming gaming releases.
As with most current HP desktop PCs and notebooks, the Pavilion Elite HPE-190a is littered with preinstalled software, most of which you'll probably never use. Some of it is useful; the MediaSmart software, for example, provides a good central dock for viewing multimedia and it even has a surprisingly good entry-level video editing suite if you just need to compile video clips and make minor adjustments. However, the inability to choose which software is included during the setup — and the annoyance of HP's customised setup process — makes this desktop PC initially harder to use than some. You'll have to manually uninstall any unneeded software.
The HP Pavilion Elite HPE-190a's high-powered CPU and memory make it an optimal choice for processor-intensive tasks, and the comprehensive connectivity makes it a great entertainment PC too. However, the cramped interior makes for difficult upgrades.
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