In fairness, the limitations of HDCP over DualLink only affect 30-inch LCDs, which remain a fairly specialized display category. And this issue doesn't apply to HP alone. The Velocity Micro CineMagix Grand Theater we reviewed two weeks ago demonstrated the same problems (once we tested this issue after the review posted), as would any other PC with an HD DVD or Blu-ray drive. But HP's Pavilion m7780n is the first Vista-based midtower desktop we've reviewed with an HD optical drive in it. As an upright, more likely desk-bound PC, we're more concerned with its performance paired with traditional LCDs. Home-theater PCs have more flexibility because their design invites you to connect them to more traditional (and less problematic) HD televisions.
But also because it's a midtower desktop, we believe more people will use the Pavilion m7780n as a PC first, with the home entertainment capabilities perhaps becoming more like an added bonus. And if you have an HDCP-compatible monitor that supports 1,920x1,080 over a standard DVI connection (other than a 30-inch) you'll enjoy full 1080p HD DVD bliss. As we mentioned earlier, the HD DVD is not a burner, which remains an advantage to PC-based Blu-ray drives. HP includes a dual-layer DVD drive for disk-burning chores.
Aside from the lack of info about the nuances of PC-based HDCP, we have a positive view of HP's support. Its standard one-year parts-and-labor coverage meets the industry average for this class of system. It has 24-7 toll-free phone support and a generally helpful Web site. We're also big fans of HP's Total Care Advisor, a suite of support tools that comes preinstalled on the PC.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell Dimension E521
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+; 2,048MB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 Pro HyperMemory graphics card; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; Intel P965 Express chipset; 1,024MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT; two 250GB Hitachi 7,200rpm hard drives
HP Pavilion Media Center m7780n TV PC
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6400; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion m7690n
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; two 250GB Seagate 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drives
Shuttle XPC X200M
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.66GHz Intel T2300 Core 2 Duo; 1,024MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Intel 950 GMA graphics chip; 250GB 7,200rpm Seagate Barracuda hard drive