Edit (May 3, 2009): My review is for the HP m9500y, which has the same specs as listed for the m9500f on amazon.com. My review is for that computer only. My review also appears for the HP m9550f because Amazon.com has the two products linked.
I've owned an HP m9500y for a couple months now. It's a decent PC and runs all the software I want to run (including software development tools and games, in addition to web & email, etc.); however, this computer has some bad enough quirks to make me not want to buy another one of these.
I'll start out with the good things about this computer: - It's fast, and it has tons of RAM and hard drive space. Having a quad-core CPU really helps with multi-tasking and CPU-intensive software that can take advantage of more than 1 core (i.e., making use of multi-threading). Even if AMD may be falling behind Intel these days, I think they still make a very good CPU. Also, 8GB of RAM as standard is fairly rare these days in a desktop PC and is more than enough for what I need. The RAM is decently fast, too (DDR2-6400). The hard drive is also fairly large: 750GB is more than I would expect in a desktop PC at this price. - The video card (Nvidia GeForce 9500) is decent for gaming. I'm fairly familiar with gaming video cards, and as far as Nvidia cards go, I'd have preferred a 9600 or 9800, but Nvidia's 9500 card is still fairly good and runs all the games I enjoy pretty smoothly. It's nice that it has 512MB of RAM, too. In addition, the video card has an HDMI output, which I think is a nice touch - from what I've seen, that is still fairly uncommon for desktop video cards.
Overall, I think the combination of the video card, quad-core CPU, RAM, and hard drive space is a very good value for the price of this PC.
Now, onto the bad stuff: - The USB interfaces may be somewhat unstable in some circumstances. One time when I plugged my USB printer into one of the rear USB ports, the computer rebooted. - The microphone inputs are unacceptable, in my opinion. I like to occasionally voice chat with people over the internet, and the microphone inputs are unsuitable for that. My voice is masked behind a lot of noise using the rear mic input, and if I use the front mic input, my voice isn't picked up at all. I also like to occasionally record music on my computer, so the audio inputs on this computer are definitely not adequate. For voice chat, I ended up buying an inexpensive USB audio adapter for its microphone input, and it works well (it's one of these: Syba SD-CM-UAUD USB Stereo Audio Adapter, C-Media Chipset, RoHS). - After only 2 months, the video card fan in my PC started to vibrate loudly. This is something I find pretty annoying, and it's disappointing that it started to happen so soon. - The motherboard's PCI Express is not the newer 2.0 standard. This could be a limiting factor if you ever decide to upgrade the video card. Many new video cards support the newer PCI Express 2.0 standard; they are backwards-compatible with PCI Express 1.0, so they would still work with this motherboard, but they would not be able to take advantage of the PCI Express 2.0 specs.
Hare are some of my miscellaneous other thoughts: - The flash card reader is a nice touch. I have a couple devices (digital camera and a music synthesizer) that use flash media, and it's nice to be able to plug the media into the reader in this PC to copy the files off. My digital camera uses only USB 1.1, so this PC's built-in card reader is faster. - This PC has bays that support HP's Pocket Media and Media Drive technology. It looks like these are hot-swappable hard drives designed by HP, but I had never heard of them before I bought this PC. With USB hard drives and flash drives, I'm not likely to use HP's media/pocket drives, so these are insignificant to me. - This PC lacks a reset button. I realize the same effect could probably be done using the power button or unplugging the PC, but it's nice having a reset button in case the computer ever freezes up and you need to do a hard reset. Besides, a reset button is standard on many PCs, so it just seems odd that HP would not include a reset button. - The power supply lacks a hard power switch. Again, this is something that I think is nice to have and is included on many power supplies, so it seems odd not to have one. - The DVD burner does not seem to work with TDK double-layer media. I have a spindle of TDK double-layer DVD+R media that I had used with my old PCs; however, the drive in this computer always gives burning errors with these discs. I've found that Verbatim double-layer DVDs work fine in it though.
Personally, I am disappointed in the negatives that I have pointed out. The video card fan vibration is particularly annoying. I give this PC a 3-star rating for its overall value (CPU, RAM, hard drive space, and choice of video card), but I can't give it more than that due to the negatives.
Normally I like to build my own PC, but I was in a bit of a financial bind, which is why I bought one of these. If you're in the market for a PC, I'd recommend you look elsewhere or build your own PC if you are savvy enough. Unfortunately, I think the reason many of these name-brand PCs have become as cheap as they are is that some of the components they use are cheap and are lacking in quality.
Edit (May 3, 2009): I contacted HP customer support about the video card fan noise and asked if they would send me a new video card. They agreed and shipped me a new video card at no cost to me via FedEx, complete with a pre-paid shipping label that I could use to ship my old card back to them. I received and installed the new video card on April 28, 2009. So far, the loud vibrating noise has not returned, and my computer is actually quieter than it was before. The new video card still says on it that it's revision 1.0, but it has a blue fan shield rather than a black shield, which suggests that they may have updated the cooler/fan design on the card.
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