Although it's fine for current-gen games, don't mistake the Pavilion m7690n for a powerhouse gaming PC. Its puny 300-watt power supply limits its ability to accept an upgrade to a more powerful, power-hungry 3D card. You'll have to put off most other upgrading ideas as well, as you get only one free PCI slot, and the space behind it is crowded by the second hard drive. You don't get any free drive expansion bays, either, as they're occupied by a 9-in-1 media card reader and a second standard DVD burner (with HP's also standard LightScribe feature). Those are both great features, of course, and we'd much rather have them than the free space.
For software, HP includes its usual broad assortment of media and productivity apps, along with an unfortunate collection of promotional icons. Among the useful programs are HP's Photosmart for image editing, Rhapsody, Quicken 2006, and HP's extensive PC Help & Tools. You'll also find too many time-limited game demos and links to various software shopping Web sites. You can always delete those icons, of course, but they make the desktop and the Start menu look extremely cluttered.
HP's service and support for this system includes HP's standard year of parts-and-labor coverage, as well as 24/7 phone help via a toll-free number. You also get the benefit of HP's InstantCare support, which, with your permission, can let an HP tech take control of your system remotely for troubleshooting. HP's Web site also has a bounty of support resources, including online tech chat, as well as various FAQs, driver downloads, and other features.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple Mac Mini Core Duo
OS X 10.4.7; 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; integrated 64MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 graphics chip; 80GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm Serial ATA hard drive
HP Pavilion m7690n Media Center TV PC
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; Intel P965 Express chipset; 2,048MB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT; (2) 250GB Seagate 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drives;
Shuttle XPC P2 3700g
Windows XP Media Center SP2; 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 664MHz; (2) 256MB ATI Radeon X1950; Western Digital 150GB 10,000prm Serial ATA hard drives
Systemax Venture C2D
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon X1600; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive
ZT Group Reliant CI-V6001
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; integrated 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 graphics; 160GB Seagate 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive