HP Media Center PC M1050y
At a Glance
A silver minitower with a black front panel, the HP Media Center PC M1050y is a top-notch entertainment center for displaying photos, watching television, and playing games in your den or home office, especially if you favor--or already have--HP peripherals.
The excellent manual makes setup easy, showing how to connect the PC to every conceivable TV, VCR, and satellite.
Television looked really good on the bundled 23-inch HP F2304 flat screen, using the M1050y's DVI connection, although the fine monitor raises the overall price to $5025. And the Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1 speakers rocked along.
On the front of the unit, in addition to the eight-in-one memory-card reader, you'll find the Personal Media Drive bay, an internal dock for adding HP's 160GB removable hard drive ($219 extra). The drive can serve as secondary internal storage or as an external drive connected to a USB port on another PC. On top, a CD storage bay doubles as a docking area for HP Photosmart digital cameras.
The M1050y provides all the video-in ports you could possibly need for camcorder downloads--FireWire, S-Video, and RCA--on the front so you don't have to fumble for them on the back. When they're not in use, they hide behind a sliding door. HP's wireless keyboard offers a volume knob and a set of optical-drive eject buttons, which we used frequently to pop discs quickly out of the DVD+RW burner and the 16X DVD-ROM drive. On the downside, like most of the entertainment PCs we saw, the system suffers from sluggish radio tuning.
Stoked by 1GB of RAM and powered by the roundup's fastest processor, a 3.8-GHz Pentium 4 570 CPU, the M1050y was our best performer, though not by much. It earned a WorldBench 5 score of 96, putting it just a few percentage points ahead of the pack.
This well-equipped unit makes it simple for consumers who want to ease into the world of entertainment PCs. It's also expensive, but the fine monitor contributes $2000 to that total.