Elite PC offers media combination

Elite PC offers media combination

The HP Pavilion Elite m9090a PC is the second PC we've tested that includes a combination HD-DVD and Blu-ray drive, allowing users to play movies from either format.

Choosing one format over the other is impossible. What's most ridiculous about this whole situation is that many movies will only be available in one format or the other, as many studios and vendors have taken sides.

But systems like HP's new Elite m9090a take that problem away. We tried both formats and each worked perfectly, though we had to download an 80MB update first.

The HP Elite isn't just elite because of the combination HD drive. It's also quite a powerful little machine. The Pavilion Elite m9090a has an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4GHz CPU, 2GB of DDR2 RAM and a GeForce 8600 GT with 512MB of GDDR3 memory at its disposal. It also offers the perks of HP's latest generation of Pavilion PCs including the HP Media Drive and Pocket Media Drive bays, external hard drives that slot neatly into proprietary drive bays at the front of this PC. These come in varying sizes and prices, such as 500GB ($399), 120GB ($279) or 80GB ($199).

The drives are great for transferring or backing up important data. This feature is reinforced by HP's Easy Backup button on the front of the PC. Pressing this button brings up a menu with various options including to create a regular backup, backup right now or restore a backup. Any or all backups can be done across a network, to the local hard drive or to an external drive. Users can select what types of files to save, including pictures, documents, or music.

This machine also acts a little like a media centre, offering easy access RCA connector ports on the front panel, along with an S-Video output. On the back panel, as well as a DVI port, the graphics card has an HDMI output, which makes connectivity to modern TV and home theatre systems quite easy. As we've come to expect from HP Pavilion PCs, there is also a 15-in-1 media card reader. A TV tuner has also been built in, making it easy to watch or record live TV onto the two 500GB (1TB total) hard drives.

Another key feature of this unit, especially as a media centre, is its wireless network adapter.

This offers support for Wi-Fi 802.11b and g standards, but not draft-n, though users can always network it using the gigabit Ethernet connection. In WorldBench 6 it scored a reasonable 103. This is not top of the line but the m9090a still has some grunt and will more than suffice for home video or photo editing, and everyday applications like Microsoft Office and Web browsing.

Gaming performance is reasonable, too. In 3DMark 2006 the system scored 3718. This is enough to play new games at medium to low settings. In 3DMark 2001 SE it scored 26,081, plenty for older games. In our MP3 encoding tests it performed well, taking 69 seconds in iTunes to encode 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps files. In Cdex, which uses just one of the four cores, it took 112 seconds.

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