The Good Strong feature set at a competitive price; large hard drive; includes Personal Drive expansion bay and LightScribe DVD burner; good documentation.
The Bad Not configurable; some expansion slots difficult to access; monitor and speakers not included.
The Bottom Line The HP Media Center m7260n Photosmart is an attractive, feature-packed midrange PC that can be had for a fair price if you don't mind the lack of customization options prior to purchase.
HP Media Center Photosmart 7200
HP Media Center m7260n Photosmart PC
Does it ever make sense for an educated consumer to buy a preconfigured PC rather than configuring one online to exact specifications? In the case of the midrange HP Media Center m7260n Photosmart PC, the answer is a qualified yes. The $1,169 system includes features that will satisfy families and students (and may even include some things they never imagined they'd need) while costing less than many comparative systems. More-advanced users with specific hardware needs such as high-end graphics or an easy-to-upgrade case will balk at its one-size-fits-all approach, but multitasking mainstream users will put the system's dual-core CPU and multimedia features to good use right out of the box.
The m7260n looks innocuous enough with its low-key silver-and-gray case, but this outward friendliness belies a powerful passel of parts underneath the hood. The m7260n features a dual-core Pentium D 830 processor running at 3.0GHz, along with 1GB of RAM, a hefty 300GB hard drive, and a standard-def TV tuner. (The slightly cheaper m7246n model downgrades the CPU to a Pentium D 820 while the m7248n model goes the AMD route, with an Athlon 64 X2 4200+ dual-core processor. Our recent dual-core CPU prizefight feature showed that AMD dual-core chips outperform their Intel counterparts. We'd sacrifice 50GB of hard drive space and choose the cheaper AMD Athlon X2-based m7248n model.