capsule review

HP Pavilion d4100e

At a Glance
  • HP Pavilion d4100e

    PCWorld Rating

HP Pavilion d4100e
Photograph: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

HP's Pavilion d4100e is a great choice for the multimedia enthusiast with deep pockets. Whether you're a novice or an intermediate user of multimedia, if you want a fully equipped Media Center PC with lots of storage, plenty of processing power, and an easy setup, this system covers all the bases, for a hefty $3648.

The system's Hauppauge dual TV tuner accepts standard cable, and has FM-antenna, S-Video, and composite connections. Having two TV tuners allows you to record one program while you watch another. The d4100e outputs video as S-Video, composite, DVI, and VGA. Aside from the usual microphone, headset, and 5.1-channel surround-audio jacks, the d4100e has an S/PDIF coaxial digital audio input (which looks like a standard RCA jack) but surprisingly lacks the Toslink optical audio port found on most of today's high-end PCs.

Anyone who has tried connecting a Media Center PC to a home entertainment system, big-screen display, or sound system--as well as anyone who is unfamiliar with the myriad audio and video connectors on today's consumer electronics--will appreciate the d4100e's two excellent manuals, the Getting Started Guide and the Start Here pamphlet.

The d4100e offers convenient and plentiful storage--a necessity if you plan to accumulate large collections of music, photographs, or video. In addition to a generous 500GB, 7200-rpm hard drive, our test system came equipped with a 160GB Personal Media Drive, which slides into a port on the front of the case. You can add or remove the drive while the system is running; it also doubles as a USB external hard drive that lets you easily back up data and move large files from one PC to another.

You can store up to 8.5GB of data at a time on a dual-layer DVD with the 16X DVD±RW DL LightScribe drive. HP's LightScribe technology allows you to flip over a compatible DVD disc and use the drive's laser to burn a label onto it. A second included optical drive, a 16X DVD-ROM model, makes DVD copying easier. Also, a five-in-one media card reader is on the front of the case.

Equipped with a dual-core 2.2-GHz Athlon 64 X2 4200+ CPU, 1GB of DDR400 SDRAM, and an Asus Extreme N6800 graphics card, the system posted a respectable WorldBench 5 score of 102. It was a bit slower than other tested PCs with comparable CPUs, but plenty fast for most programs. Likewise, frame rates on our video game tests using Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament weren't off the charts for a system this pricey, but they were more than enough to provide satisfying game play.

Games and graphics looked crisp and clear on the HP f2105 flat-panel display that accompanied our review model, and very small text was comfortably readable at the unit's native resolution of 1680 by 1050. The Logitech X530 5.1 speakers sounded great playing games and music.

The wireless black keyboard and mouse felt a bit too light for our taste, but had solid key action and big, easy-to-find DVD-drive and shortcut buttons.

The d4100e is easily upgradeable; the roomy interior of the large midsize-tower case offers quick access to two open RAM slots and three available PCI slots, though there aren't any free PCI Express slots. If you want the speed or safety of a RAID 0 or RAID 1 array, you can add two more hard drives to the internal drive bay, which is angled outward for very easy access.

If you're shopping for a tasteful-looking Media Center PC to sit in your living room and act as a hub for music, video, and TV, this system probably isn't worth its $3648 price. But if you want it all--in a powerful PC that doubles as a TV and multimedia manager--the Pavilion d4100e is a well worth a look.

The d4100e is a great choice for the multimedia enthusiast who also wants a powerful workhorse PC, and for whom money is no object.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The d4100e is a great choice for the multimedia fan who also wants a powerful workhorse PC.

    Pros

    • Room for expansion

    Cons

    • Design not appropriate for living room
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