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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

HP Pavilion d4100y

By Joel Santo Domingo

HP Pavilion Media Center a1350n Desktop PC (AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 4200+, 1 GB RAM,

HP's updated Pavilion d4100y ($2,968 direct, $2,538 without monitor) corrects one of the flaws we saw in the previous version we tested months ago, namely the HP Personal Media Drive slot. With the Personal Media Drive, the d4100y has virtually unlimited storage, no slouch, since this time the system came with a 400GB internal hard drive. The TV show completist (i.e. obsessive fan) is the ultimate user of the d4100y, since they can keep recording shows, downloading them, and archiving them on a combination of DVDs, internal hard drive space, and stored safely on HP Personal Media Drives.

Though the d4100y seems utilitarian on the outside, lacking much of the chromed flash and port-hiding front panel doors found on some of HP's recent Media Center offerings, the d4100y is all functional design, with exposed drive bays and I/O ports. A slot for HP Personal Media Drives fills one of the empty 5 1/4" drive bays, and our tested configuration came with a 160GB cartridge. The Personal Media Drive is a normal external 7,200 rpm USB 2.0 hard drive in an enclosure that facilitates easy docking in the Personal Media Drive bay.

With the 160GB Personal Media Drive, the d4100y has 560GB of total hard drive space, plenty to store video recorded by the twin TV tuners. There are also two empty hard drive bays, and plenty of unoccupied internal SATA ports for those drives. Which means that you can easily add up to 1TB of drive space. With all this drive space, you can hold all the information your household can generate, with room to spare. Music, digital Photos, and video can all sit on the d4100y, easily accessible over your home network. Add a couple of Media Extenders (like the upcoming Xbox360), and you can view everything but DVDs (thanks to DRM issues) over the network in other rooms.

Performance of the d4100y is virtually unchanged from the previous version: they both share the Pentium D 840 processor, 1GB of DDR2 memory, and 256MB nVidia GeForce 6800 graphics cards. It is a very good performer at everyday tasks, including recording and editing video. The dual core processor will ensure that a recording starting up in the background won't impact your photo editing or game playing session in the foreground. The d4100y's GeForce 6800 card ensures steady frame rates at 1,024 by 768 for Doom 3 and Splinter Cell, but high resolutions will give the system pauses and lags. That said, the d4100y is a capable system for the casual gamer.

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