Media Center Goes Wide
First, Microsoft ditched its dedicated Media Center operating system, folding those features into Vista. Now, we're starting to see the idea of a "Media Center" PC go beyond just those models carrying that moniker, too. Hewlett-Packard's Pavilion Elite m9000 Series Desktop PC is a perfect example of this. The system is clearly positioned for use a media hub, but it's a mainstream, performance PC--those media-centric characteristics are just part of the equation. The m9000 series includes a digital and analog TV tuner, remote control, and front audio-video inputs by default.
AV Up Front
At the lower left, you'll find the system's analog audio, composite video, and S-Video inputs. Having these ports up front makes it handy to jack in different video sources as needed. And like everything on this HP system, the ports are clearly labeled.
Bevy of Front Ports
Also conveniently up front, from top to bottom: one FireWire 400 and two USB 2.0 ports, and headphone, microphone and line-in jacks.
This model is HP's first to feature two custom storage expansion bays. One bay (not pictured) accepts HP's Personal Media Drive, which can slide into the slot, or be used as an external USB 2.0 drive. At $150 for 300GB, $200 for 500GB, and $280 for 700GB, these drives are more costly than comparable capacity external USB 2.0 drives; but, they offer an uncommon convenience and integration with the PC. The second bay, seen here, is for the more portable-sized, smaller capacity HP Pocket Media Drive. HP says including the two bays didn't impact the PC's internal expansion options.
PC First: Backup Button
One-touch backup buttons have been a staple on external hard drives for years. HP becomes the first company to integrate such a button on a desktop PC. HP says it built a basic skin on top of Vista's integrated backup capabilities to make it easier for users to schedule backups. Press the button to configure your backup, including choosing your backup destination (such as external hard drive, network-attached storage, or HP Personal Media Drive); subsequent presses of the button initiate a backup of changed and new files. You can restore individual files or entire folders.
Card Slots Up Top
Is your PC sitting on the floor? You're not alone: HP tells me that most of its customers put the box under the desk. Accordingly, HP put its 15-format card reader up top, to make those slots easily accessible and at your fingertips.
The Media Remote
Nothing new here--which is admittedly something of a disappointment. The remote looks fairly standard issue for a media centric-PC, Microsoft-friendly remote. One nicety: HP built in the wireless IR receiver for the remote, so you don't need an ungainly dongle. I would have liked to start seeing more innovation in PC remote controls, though: With Vista, I can envision all sorts of applications, such as having a Sideshow display on an entertainment remote. Whatever happened to those promised Sideshow displays, anyway?
It's difficult to tell from this view, but at the top of the chassis, you'll find a flip up cover; underneath are cable routing guides, to help contain the mess of cables you may have for your various devices that sit atop your PC.
The other ports at back rest flush with the side of the chassis--a convenient touch if you need to reach behind your system and plug something in. The line-in, line-out, microphone jacks are clearly labeled, as are the two-channel center, rear, and side audio outputs. Also at back, seen here: ethernet, four USB ports, FireWire 400; analog video out, coaxial digital audio-in and audio-out, and PS/2 ports for use with older input devices.
The Bigger Picture
The m9000 series, available via HP's Web site (and in fixed configurations at retail stores) has an option for a dual-format blue-laser combo drive that handles both the Blu-ray and HD DVD disc formats. Processor choices include Intel Core 2 Quad Processor Q6600, NVIDIA GeForce8400 GS graphics (all but the least expensive graphics option has HDMI-out); and a wireless HP keyboard and mouse. The w2408 monitor shown here is optional.
Optional Monitor to Match
When sold as a system, HP pairs the PC (starting price: $1000) with its $600 w2408 monitor. The sleek monitor's specs include a wide color gamut (92% coverage), ambient light sensor, DVI-D and VGA connections, 16:10 aspect ratio, 1000:1 contrast ratio, and HP's EasyClip design for attaching accessories.
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