The Intelligent Media Center which makes use of Windows Vista to combine a touch-screen with a full-fledged media server. A big hiit at the recent CES Expo the new unit will cost around $3,600 in Australia but is worth every cent.Vista is crucial to the device because it's the first time that Microsoft has combined its Windows software for managing photos, music, and video-previously only available as a special XP version called Media Center Edition-with the touch-screen capabilities, which were only available under XP as its Tablet edition. "We needed those features together to make something like the TouchSmart possible," says Maureen Kelly, the HP product's marketing manager. Both will be part of Vista Home Premium, one of five Vistas now being sold in Australia.
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The system is vroughly the same size as the Apple iMac, but with the main processor housed in a separate box behind the screen to save space. It's designed to be used as an all-in-one centre, and can house an A500 or A600 colour printer and output the photos at the bottom of the screen through a cleverly designed slot.
According to CNet reviewers at the CES show the new HP Media Centre is designed to be operated by touch, and includes four optical sensors at the corners of the screen to track your finger. The advantage of this is it's cheaper than resistive or capacitive designs, according to HP designers, and that you don't need a special stylus. The 19-inch widescreen is very clear and bright, and appeared to resist smudges and fingerprints very well. The build is also quite sturdy, with a stable base on which the main screen can be easily adjusted.
The PC boots into HP's own SmartCenter application, which integrates with Vista Media Center. As it's designed as a family PC, one of the main applications on the landing page is a note-taking/calendar application called SmartCalendar. In it you can write notes on "stickies" with your fingers or the stylus, and move them around the screen or onto the calendar itself for other family members to read. You can also leave voice messages with the built-in microphone.