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Hewlett Packard - Media Center - PC - Review

HP’s Pavilion personal computer sytem is a remarkable blend of home theater, productivity center and gaming system

So many elements must be taken into account when putting together a computer system for home use. Without a doubt, the PC is one of the most complete multi-media devices available for home users, but most home systems barely scratch the surface of what this device is capable of.

Perhaps in the past, but HP’s latest computer systems are correcting that, and expanding the possibilities of what is available to average users.

Not only are these systems capable of rendering the most incredible graphic detail for gamers, but for desktop publishers and those who use their PC for other applications, the processor speeds are top of the line and quickly move through operations.

Can there be anything so daunting as setting up a system fresh from the box? Perhaps the task does seem overwhelming, but the HP system is – like most system – color coded and the entire setup, from the packing box to operational status should take less than 30 minutes.

Not only is the design of the system sleek, and it takes up less space with a smaller tower, but it also features an easily-accessible front USB connection, a remote control for the TV and instant access keyboard hotkeys and tower buttons. The system also comes with a remote control to simplify navigation through the XP Media Center operating system.

This Pavilion PC also has a DVD writer. Not only can it read and write standard CD-ROMs, but you can use it to record CDs and DVDs.

All the software you will need to run all the features of this system come preloaded. Yes, that is a mixed blessing, but since its arrival, the machine has been running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, put through its paces, without so much as a hiccup.

P4 2.26GHz computer with Windows XP media center

The phone rings and you are in the middle of watching your favorite sitcom on television. By the time you get off the phone, the show is over and you missed the completion of the show. That can happen far too often. If you didn’t record it, don’t have TIVO, or simply passed on the phone conversation, you likely miss something that you may have wanted to see.

Not any more. The computer system comes preloaded with Windows XP Media Center which will not only download the latest daily program listings, but will act as a program recorder. You can even pause a “live” show, then zip past the commercials.

The Nvidia GeForce4 MX 420 is a 64-meg card that has a memory bandwidth of 2.7 gigabytes per second. The fill rate is 1 billion texels per second (a texel is a texture element which is the smallest graphical element used to create the impression of textured surfaces). The card also features the Accuview Antialiasing engine, and Lightspeed Memory Architecture II.

One of the tests of the processor speed and the way the operating system and processor are capable of handling multiple tasks was put to the test.

The game Asheron’s Call 2 requires a high-end system in order to experience the graphical range of the program. It is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The previous system used (a P3 800 MHz with a 64-meg graphics card, was only able to play the game at the low graphics setting). The HP Pavilion system was capable of running it at the medium setting. Sure, any good processor with a solid video card can do that. But multi-tasking was the chore set before this system The game was launched (via a DSL broadband connection), and then set to the background. A second online program was launched (Limewire) and minimized. The Internet was pulled up and searched for downloadable fonts. All three programs were running simultaneously. There was some slow-down in highly congested areas in the MMORPG, but other than that, all three programs were running smoothly.

f70 Pavilion 17” monitor

The light in the room suddenly increases in intensity. Before you go reaching for the controls to adjust that monitor, all you have to do is wait a moment. The Pavilion f70 monitor is a smart peripheral device that will auto adjust for you.

The flat-screen device is simple to install, comes with two built-in Polk Audio speakers, but the best features are in the way the monitor adjusts for room lighting, as well as the viewable area. This monitor has the standard width of a 17” monitor, but unlike a CRT (the old television style monitor) the height of the viewing area is increase by about 1.5 inches. The design is amazing and takes up very little desk space. The screen is at a 90-degree angle to the base, and the non-reflective surface eases eye strain and prohibits glare.

Gamers know the value of having a great monitor when it comes to enjoying the eye candy offered by the latest games. Not only does the f70 deliver an amazing visual experience, but with resolutions up to 1280x1024, the detail required for intricate graphics work (in productivity programs) is there.

The majority of monitors on the market offer solid visual elements, but the Pavilion f70 eases eye strain and allows for hours of eye-popping candy. This monitor allows what those responsible for either the gaming elements or the other multimedia options available to shine through.

ProMedia/THX 5.1 speaker system

Stevie Ray Vaughn sang about shaking the boards loose in his classic tune The House is A Rockin’. The Klipsch speaker system utilized in the Promedia/THX (yes, the LucasArts company) 5.1 speaker system delivers floor- and wall-rattling sound that is crisp and clean. The system is basically a 500-watt, six piece monster running off Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 24-bit sound card with Dolby 5.1 and analog surround sound.

The sub-woofer is the heaviest part of the system and if placed on the floor, will send out shockwaves that vibrate the floorboards. This speaker moves so much air as it pounds out the , that if you sit near it, you will feel the push of air rippling out from the speaker.

The speaker controller has a range of 0-100. Quite literally at 60, the walls of the house were trembling (slight vibration), as was the floorboards.

In addition to the sub-woofer, there are two front speakers, a middle speaker and two rear speakers. Space them around the room and if a game has the capabilities of rendering surround-sound, you may suffer some neck strain from jumping at the noise coming from behind you.

Pop in a DVD movie and turn up the volume for amazing theatre sound. Sitting in the middle of the audio maelstrom is an incredible experience, one that will literally have jaws dropping in wonder.

Overall

The HP desktop computer package is a strong player in the realm of desktops. The speakers and monitor will blow any home user out of his or her chair. The DVD writer is a wonder and while the PC is not the best place to watch television, the XP Media Center helps eliminate some of the necessary though oft annoying advertising. Multitasking does not appear to slow down this system in the slightest.

There was a time when moving along from a Pentium processor to a PIII was a big hurdle and eye-popping experience in terms of processor speed. The P4 2.26 GHz processor does seem only marginally faster, but really shines when it comes to doing multiple operations or intricate rendering. Programs like Photoshop and 3D rendering programs, zip through.

The world of personal computers has changed so much in the past year. Technology is putting unprecedented power in the hands of home users. Computers systems like this HP Pavilion system open up the possibilities and lay them within easy grasp of even the most casual of users.

Pros:
The monitor and speaker system are absolutely incredible. The processor speed and GeForce4 video display make this system a gamer’s dream. The 7200 rpm speed does have a tendency to warm up ROMs, but this system really cranks. The PC speed, combined with broadband, are very noticeable when playing online games or surfing the Internet. The lag is reduced and the game is much smoother.

The ability to record, pause or fast-forward through ‘live’ television is also a nice feature. The XP OS will take a while to get comfortable with, if you have never experienced it, but the program is quite stable.

Cons:
This system is obviously not for everyone. If you have no need of utilizing the Media Center, you may not have need for the power of this system. However, if you are a gamer, or like to download and play MP3s, you will certainly want the speaker system.

Verdict: 9.5
There is little doubt that this system is absolutely amazing. While the speed of the programs launched or installed was not incredibly faster than the previous system used (P3 800 MHz with 640 megs of RAM), the processor’s speed did show up in other areas. Rendering times for artwork manipulated in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator was faster, and Internet access blazed with the broadband installed. Not everyone will need or want the Media Center attributes, but when coupled with the incredible sound of the monitor system – which is a must-have if you are an audiophile – and the smart monitor, users will be treated to a complete home-entertainment system that is, in a word, outstanding.

Amazing

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