HP Pavilion a1050y series
The highlight of the HP Pavilion a1050y desktop series is its LightScribe DVD burner, a double-layer, multiformat optical drive that can etch customizable images onto the surface of specially treated LightScribe media. And while this HP disc-burning innovation may revolutionize the art of the cheesy mix CD, we also appreciate this series for its all-around home-computing handiness. The Pavilion a1050y is the customizable model, allowing you to swap in Windows Media Center 2005 instead of plain-old Windows XP Home or Pro, and up to a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 550 CPU (not, sadly, the 3.6GHz P4 560 HP mistakenly sent to us in our review unit).
The other two models, the a1040n and a1030n are fixed, ready-to-wear configurations that strike a balance between performance-oriented utility in the a1040n, with its 3.0GHz 64-bit Pentium 4 630 CPU (for some reason not available in the a1050y), and budget-minded practicality in the a1030n. Gamers will need more 3D graphics ammo, as the best option is the middlingly powerful Nvidia GeForce 6600 GT. But for everyday home use, the HP Pavilion a1050y series has a lot to offer.