- Review Price: £999.00
When HP showed me its latest Media Center PC last October in Monte Carlo, I was, to be honest, less than impressed. It seemed that HP hadn’t quite grasped the idea that a Media Center system should look more like a consumer electronics device than a PC. Whereas most manufacturers have been striving to design system cases that would fit in nicely with your home cinema equipment, HP had decided to stick firmly with the PC form factor and construct its Media Center machine in a familiar tower case.
My original misgivings about the HP’s choice of form factor remain, but having played with the m1260.uk for a while now, I’ve come to realise that it’s not a machine without merit, far from it in fact. For a start, HP has done its best to make the tower case look good, and the sliver and black finish has a reasonably stylish aura to it. At the top of the tower is a memory card reader that can handle pretty much anything you care to throw at it, short of TransFlash. A memory card reader is very important for a Media Center PC as it allows you to transfer your digital photographs easily and quickly. The matt silver finish to the card reader contrasts well with the gloss black finish surrounding it.
Below the card reader is the DVD writer, hidden behind a gloss black door. The DVD writer that HP has used is something a little special, but I’ll come back to that a bit later. Below the DVD writer is another 5.25in drive bay hidden behind a gloss black door, but this one is left empty for potential upgrades. Quite a few PC cases use doors to hide the optical drives, but many of them suffer from poor eject mechanisms. Thankfully, the eject button on the m1260.uk works effortlessly with the DVD writer and only the slightest amount of pressure is required.
The array of features on the front fascia doesn’t end there though. There’s a sliding black panel that hides a plethora of connection options. There’s an S-Video input, composite video input and stereo audio inputs. There are also two mini-jack connectors for headphones and mic, as well as two USB 2.0 ports and a six-pin FireWire port.
To the left of the connection ports is one of the best features of the m1260.uk – a spring loaded door that hides a vertically mounted drive bay for HP’s Personal Media Drive (PMD). The PMD is a 160GB removable hard disk that’s completely hot swappable. The PMD connects via USB 2.0 and when you slide it into the drive bay it automatically connects to a USB port and power plug. Of course, being a removable drive, the PMD doesn’t only work with the m1260.uk – HP ships an external power supply and USB 2.0 cable with the PMD so that you can connect it up to any PC. So, taking into account the 160GB internal hard disk as well, you’ve got an impressive amount of storage space – always useful in a Media Center PC.
Inside the m1260.uk you’ll find an Intel Pentium 4 CPU running at 2.93GHz and 512MB of RAM. There’s also a Hauppauge WinTV PVR II tuner card, complete with integrated FM radio receiver. It’s a shame that HP has chosen to fit only one TV tuner, since MCE 2005 supports dual tuners – the upshot being that you won’t be able to watch one programme while you record another. It’s also an analogue TV tuner and I would have preferred to have seen a DVB card instead.