HP Unveils Media Center Notebook

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Hewlett-Packard unveiled a 17-inch digital entertainment notebook this week that is available with Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system and a stand-alone digital video recorder.

The HP Media Center zd8000 series notebooks will be available December 15 in a variety of configurations on HP's Web site and in retail stores, says Kevin Wentzel, technical marketing manager at HP. The $1399 desktop replacement notebook was designed as a mobile digital media hub for students, families, or other home users, he says.

Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 was unveiled last month. Many analysts feel it is the software maker's best attempt yet at creating an operating system for consumers to manage their audio and video entertainment. It improves support for wireless devices and adds support for two TV tuners and over-the-air high definition television.

Toshiba has also released a 17-inch notebook featuring the new operating system. The Toshiba Qosmio G15-AV501 notebook is expensive at $2999, but it comes with some additional features such as a built-in TV tuner and Intel's Pentium M processor.

TV Tuner

Users can watch live television on the HP zd8000 series notebooks by connecting the HP Dual TV Tuner/Digital Video Recorder to the notebooks through a USB port, Wentzel says. This device also features an FM radio tuner.

The TV and radio tuners are in a stand-alone device because connecting and disconnecting PCs to audio entertainment receivers can be a painstaking task, especially for a device that is somewhat portable, Wentzel says. At 9.9 pounds, users won't want to take their zd8000 on business trips, but the notebook could be moved around various rooms within the home, he says.

A dual TV tuner allows users to watch one program while recording another on their digital video recorder, Wentzel says. The device includes support for standard cable connections.

Another interesting feature on the zd8000 is the optional removable USB drive. The drive is the size of a PC Card, fits inside a special bay in the body of the notebook, and can be removed to transfer files between the zd8000 and another PC.

Building a dedicated slot for the card into the notebook's chassis cuts down on the opportunity for users to lose the USB drive, Wentzel says.

The zd8000 is a true desktop replacement notebook in that it uses desktop processing technology. HP uses the 3.4-GHz Pentium 4 processor from Intel alongside the 915P chip set, also known as Grantsdale. This allows the zd8000 to support DDR2 memory and PCI Express graphics cards.

A base configuration of the zd8000 notebook will cost an estimated $1399 after rebates, depending on the retail outlet. HP has not finalized the configurations for the notebook, even though it has determined the price, an HP spokesperson says. It will be available only in the U.S. at launch, and HP has no definitive plans to launch the notebook in other markets, she says.

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