HP’s m-series computers are designed for mainstream home users with rigorous multimedia demands, such as watching HD movies, recording TV, and maybe even some light gaming. HP calls the m9200t an “entertainment powerhouse,” and though we probably wouldn’t go that far, it’s safe to say it’s a well-built machine with more than enough power to satisfy the majority of home users. Its biggest flaw is that it includes typical big-box bloatware and toolbars, and is a bit generic in terms of its design and software build.
Features and Design
The m9200t we received for evaluation is mildly configured. It has an Intel quad-core Q6600 processor clocked at 2.4GHz 2GB of RAM, an NVIDIA 8400 video card and a single 320GB hard drive. You can upgrade all these parts while configuring the system during the purchase process, and that will obviously increase the price significantly.
Since this is a multimedia computer, HP has included a Blu-ray and HD DVD combo drive that reads HD discs, but doesn’t write to them. The drive reads and writes to DVDs and CDs, and includes Lightscribe functionality. You can upgrade to a BD-R drive during ordering, but it costs an extra $300 USD. HP also threw in a TV Tuner card complete with PVR functionality, an FM tuner and a remote control.
Backing up one’s personal data is important, and HP has provided not one, but two external drive bays that accept portable HP storage devices. There’s a big slot on the lower-right of the chassis for an HP Personal Media Drive ($200 USD for 500GB model), and there’s another open slot below the optical drives that accepts an HP Pocket Media Drive ($150 USD for 160GB). HP has also integrated the typical “one touch backup” functionality directly into the chassis itself, with a backup button just below the power button that launches a backup routine.
The front of the chassis has hidden I/O ports for USB, FireWire, S-video and composite video, as well as headphone/mic jacks. They are behind a panel that swings open on the left side of front of the chassis. There’s a panel on the right-side too, which also swings open to reveal one of the storage bays mentioned above.
The lower-half of the chassis has two swing-out panels that reveal I/O ports and a storage bay.
Rounding out the package is a 15-in-1 media reader with a built-in infrared receiver that sits atop the front of the chassis. Also, the chassis opens on the right-side via a single thumbscrew, and has a micro-ATX system board inside.
Use and Testing
Since this is a PC for mainstream users, we weren’t surprised to see a large, fold-out guide showing us how to get the m9200t setup. It includes big pictures showing all the connectors and where to plug in the keyboard, etc.
Once we booted up the system, an annoying “let’s set up your PC” routine launched that requires numerous click-throughs just to get to Vista’s desktop. Once we had arrived there about ten minutes later, we noted a very typical software environment replete with typical big-box bloatware and toolbars. We find this stuff highly annoying, and HP puts it more in your face than most companies by not only having a Yahoo toolbar embedded in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, but also a second Yahoo toolbar docked at the top of the screen that has links to numerous Yahoo offerings. Even worse, if you try to close the docked toolbar at the top of the screen it just vanishes to the system tray. Who even uses a Yahoo toolbar anyway?
Since the system comes with a quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM and a zippy hard drive, general windows performance was very good. The system’s Windows Experience Index is listed as 4.0, which is better than average and seems about right for a system with these specs. We ran PC Mark Vantage on the m9200t and it scored a very respectable 3806. We also ran 3DMark 06, and as expected it performed poorly, scoring a measly 1630. We were able to game on the GeForce 8400 though, albeit at lower resolutions. We were able to play Bioshock on medium settings at 800×600, and Portal at 1024×768. It should be noted too that the videocard has an HDMI port for use with HDTVs.
Sadly, we were unable to test the PVR functionality of the included TV-tuner and remote control as we don’t have cable television. However, on the surface it appears to be a very comprehensive package. The included Media Center remote control is loaded with features designed for controlling an HTPC using the ten-foot interface.
The m9200t includes a TV-Tuner as well as a Media Center remote control.
Upgrades and Expansion
The drawbacks to this PC include a messy interior and just a single PCI slot available for expansion. Good luck getting a card into the free slot too, as there are wires all around the area despite the fact that HP has zip-tied some of the loose wires together.
Getting to the hard drive cage is also a bit tricky, due to the fact that it’s blocked by a removable drive cage that requires a long screwdriver and the removal of two screws to lift the cage out of the chassis. Obviously “mainstream” users don’t tinker inside their PCs often, but upgradeability is one of the best features of today’s PCs, and HP should make this process easier for its customers.
At the end of testing we tried out HP’s system recovery software, which pulls the factory image off a second hard drive partition for quick recovery should you want to wipe the slate clean and start over some day. We just pressed F11 during bootup and were taken to the recovery menu. With a few clicks of the mouse we restored the factory image and the PC was as good as new again. We also like the fact that HP allows you to restore the image but save all your files. This is an excellent feature and one we wish more companies offered.
The interior of the HP is a jumble of wires, and an empty storage bay blocks easy access to the hard drive cage.
The m9200t is overall a decent machine that would serve most home users quite well. Though there’s nothing egregiously wrong with it, there’s also nothing that really blows our hair back. We like that it can play HD movies, record TV and even be a media center. It’s not a bad package at all, but we’d still like to see less bloatware, easier upgradeability and a bit more pizzazz in the next iteration.
• Very quiet
• Lots of configuration options
• Blu-ray and HD DVD support
• Bloatware and toolbars
• Internal wiring is messy
• Looks are bland