HP discontinued its Digital Entertainment Center (DEC) line of home-theater PCs early last year, but the company remains intent on taking up residence in your living room. With CES as a backdrop, HP has unveiled a series of new entertainment products, including several based on Microsoft’s awkwardly named Extender for Windows Media Center technology.
The new HP MediaSmart Receiver (pricing TBA) will go toe-to-toe against previously announced products from Linksys (the DMA2100) and D-Link (the MediaLounge DSM-750). The HP MediaSmart Receiver x280N, however, will incorporate removable storage in the form of the front-mounted Pocket Media Drive bay (the drive itself is not included).
HP will join Linksys and D-Link in offering a media streamer based on Microsoft's Extender for Windows Media Center standard.
The set-top box will offer both wired and wireless (802.11a/b/g/n) networking capabilities and compatibility with UPnP and DLNA-compliant servers, including the company’s own HP MediaSmart Server. The device, which HP expects to ship later this spring, will be capable of streaming video in MPEG-4/H.264, DivX, WMV, WMV-HD, and MPEG-2 formats, outputting video to either HDMI and or component at resolutions up to 720p and 1080i. It will also support JPEG, GIF, BMP, and PNG image file formats and unprotected MP3, WMA, WMA-Pro, WAV, AAC/m4a audio files.
HP's MediaSmart Receiver x280N will be outfitted with component analog and HDMI digital video ports, which means it won't be compatible at all with older televisions equipped with only composite or S-Video inputs.
Much of this same technology, less the Pocket Media Drive bay, will also be incorporated into two new HD LCD TVs HP has announced: the 42-inch SL4282N ($1,900) and the 47-inch SL4782N ($2,400). The TVs will have three HDMI inputs and a backlit universal remote capable of controlling four additional devices. HP has entered into a partnership with the CinemaNow movie-streaming service, which will be available from any of its MediaSmart devices.
Too many boxes in your entertainment center? HP's MediaSmart TVs feature built-in Media Center Extender technology.
NEW PCS IN THE PIPELINE
Although HP has moved away from building computers with consumer-electronics-style form factors, the company continues to build PCs that it believes consumers will put in their living rooms. The remarkably priced ($960) HP Pavilion Slimline s3330f, for instance, features a Super Multi DVD, Blu-ray, HD DVD drive; an Nvidia GeForce 8500 GT videocard with 256MB of memory and an HDMI port, and an onboard, six-speaker, high-definition audio system. The optical drive will write to CD and DVD media, but it’s read only when it comes to high-def media.
The s3330f will be equipped with an AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core 5400+ clocked at 2.8GHz, 2GB of PC2-5300 DDR SDRAM, and a 500GB 7200RPM SATA hard drive. The built-in wireless adapter is limited to 802.11b/g, but we were even more disappointed to discover that the hardwired network interface is limited to 10/100BaseT—gigabit Ethernet would be a much better choice.
Considering the low price point (Blu-ray HD-DVD combo players from LG and Samsung--which don't have any PC features) are currently selling for $800 to $1,000), we weren’t as surprised to find that the machine would not be equipped with a CableCARD tuner—which will frustrate anyone wishing to connect this PC to their cable box—but it will be outfitted with an NTSC and ATSC high-definition tuners for over-the-air broadcasts.
HP is bundling a wireless keyboard and mouse with the system, along with a Windows Media Center remote control. The enclosure measures just 4.21 inches wide and 10.87 inches high—small enough to fit in most any entertainment center. Don’t plan on adding much inside the case, though: There’s only one PCI Express x16 slot and just one PCI slot, both of which are occupied.
These products, coupled with the previously announced MediaSmart Home Server and two new NAS products (HP Media Vault and HP Media Vault Pro) should give Hewlett Packard a strong presence in the digital home-entertainment market.