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Overview:
The Hewlett-Packard z552 Digital Entertainment Center is a personal video recorder and DVD player/burner that consolidates all of your multimedia needs into one, sleek console. It is effectively a PC turned on its side, and finished to look like your traditional stereo receiver. Closer inspection of course reveals the true capabilities of the unit. Multiple input/outputs bays and a hot-swappable hard drive on the front give you a sense of what it can do. Turn it around, and you'll see a myriad of input and output sections, for a practically endless suite of connection combinations, to ensure a proper hookup to your existing video and audio components. With the addition of a remote control and wireless keyboard, the z552 comes with all the candy needed to setup shop.

Setup:
My home setup consists of a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround receiver and a Sony WEGA 28" television:

Video:
Video hookup was a snap. I simply had to re-route the output from my digital cable box to the z552 (via one of the two tuner coaxial inputs on the z552), and from the z552 to my television set via component out or RCA. The instructions suggested I try RCA on initial setup, so that was my selection.

Audio:
The coaxial input for video also carries audio, so I only needed to choose the audio output type I wanted. My choices were RCA, S/PDIF, or fiber optic. I went with S/PDIF as my fiber optic input was already taken on my receiver by my PS2. (Yes I know, "buy a switch!"). For the purposes of this review, the difference between fiber and S/PDIF audio was not a primary focus, so I felt good about the decision.

Microsoft Media Center:
By way of the already-installed Windows XP Media Center operating system, I was able to configure my video and audio, as well as the interface between my digital cable program guide and the program guide overlay that is built into Media Center. The instructions book included a well written, step-by-step process for setting this up. Media Center itself was also very self-explanatory and walked me through importing my local digital cable program guide into its program guide.

Remote:
The z552 comes with a remote control that allows you to manage all of the different functions within Media Center, including changing channels, picture and video management, music, and the built-in DVD player. In order to change channels through the z552, I had to install an IR-Blaster antenna from the back of the z552 to the front of my digital cable box, where the remote control sensor was located. Although this sounded complicated, it was actually very easy to do and it worked without issues for the entire month I had it.

My one complaint here would have to be the speed at which I was able to change channels, once the IR-Blaster was in place. It took roughly twice as long to change channels. Cycling through several channels was rather painstaking, as I had to constantly wait for the unit to "catch up" to where I was trying to go.

Recording:
The z552 records directly to an internal 200GB hard drive. An optional 160GB hot-swappable drive can be purchased from HP. My demonstration unit did not come with this unfortunately, so I could not test it. That said, 200GB was more than adequate for my needs.

The unit comes with two independent television tuner cards. If I had a second digital cable box, I would have been able to connect it to tuner input #2, which would allow me to surf other stations while recording on one. It should be noted this is not a limitation of the z552, but instead a limitation of my personal finances to facilitate having a second digital cable box.

The unique aspect of recording to hard drive is the ability to "pause" whatever live broadcast you happen to be watching. It does this by buffering the signal to hard drive (up to 30 minutes on the z552). So, I could in effect, hit pause, go make a sandwich, pet the cats, make a phone call, sit back down in my well-worked recliner, and hit play, at which point the broadcast would continue playing where I left off.

Naturally, recording entire programs was also effortless, as I could choose to either hit the "record" button to record whatever I was watching, or alternatively set any broadcast in the Program Guide to record at a later date. I could even set it to record an entire series of a broadcasts, if I was too lazy to find when the new episodes were going to air (which I was).

If I was on the road and realized I forgot to setup my HP to record something, I could do that via the Internet and the MSN Remote Record feature. Now that's technology doing what it should

HP z552 Digital Entertainment Center
 

HP z552 Digital Entertainment Center

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Home Theater
Category: n/a
 
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Overview: The Hewlett-Packard z552 Digital Entertainment Center is a personal video recorder and DVD player/burner that consolidates all of your multimedia needs into one, sleek console. It is effectively a PC turned on its side, and finished to look like your traditional stereo receiver. Closer inspection of course reveals the true capabilities of the unit. Multiple input/outputs bays and a hot-swappable hard drive on the front give you a sense of what it can do. Turn it around, and you'll see a myriad of input and output sections, for a practically endless suite of connection combinations, to ensure a proper hookup to your existing video and audio components. With the addition of a remote control and wireless keyboard, the z552 comes with all the candy needed to setup shop. Setup: My home setup consists of a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround receiver and a Sony WEGA 28" television: Video: Video hookup was a snap. I simply had to re-route the output from my digital cable box to the z552 (via one of the two tuner coaxial inputs on the z552), and from the z552 to my television set via component out or RCA. The instructions suggested I try RCA on initial setup, so that was my selection. Audio: The coaxial input for video also carries audio, so I only needed to choose the audio output type I wanted. My choices were RCA, S/PDIF, or fiber optic. I went with S/PDIF as my fiber optic input was already taken on my receiver by my PS2. (Yes I know, "buy a switch!"). For the purposes of this review, the difference between fiber and S/PDIF audio was not a primary focus, so I felt good about the decision. Microsoft Media Center: By way of the already-installed Windows XP Media Center operating system, I was able to configure my video and audio, as well as the interface between my digital cable program guide and the program guide overlay that is built into Media Center. The instructions book included a well written, step-by-step process for setting this up. Media Center itself was also very self-explanatory and walked me through importing my local digital cable program guide into its program guide. Remote: The z552 comes with a remote control that allows you to manage all of the different functions within Media Center, including changing channels, picture and video management, music, and the built-in DVD player. In order to change channels through the z552, I had to install an IR-Blaster antenna from the back of the z552 to the front of my digital cable box, where the remote control sensor was located. Although this sounded complicated, it was actually very easy to do and it worked without issues for the entire month I had it. My one complaint here would have to be the speed at which I was able to change channels, once the IR-Blaster was in place. It took roughly twice as long to change channels. Cycling through several channels was rather painstaking, as I had to constantly wait for the unit to "catch up" to where I was trying to go. Recording: The z552 records directly to an internal 200GB hard drive. An optional 160GB hot-swappable drive can be purchased from HP. My demonstration unit did not come with this unfortunately, so I could not test it. That said, 200GB was more than adequate for my needs. The unit comes with two independent television tuner cards. If I had a second digital cable box, I would have been able to connect it to tuner input #2, which would allow me to surf other stations while recording on one. It should be noted this is not a limitation of the z552, but instead a limitation of my personal finances to facilitate having a second digital cable box. The unique aspect of recording to hard drive is the ability to "pause" whatever live broadcast you happen to be watching. It does this by buffering the signal to hard drive (up to 30 minutes on the z552). So, I could in effect, hit pause, go make a sandwich, pet the cats, make a phone call, sit back down in my well-worked recliner, and hit play, at which point the broadcast would continue playing where I left off. Naturally, recording entire programs was also effortless, as I could choose to either hit the "record" button to record whatever I was watching, or alternatively set any broadcast in the Program Guide to record at a later date. I could even set it to record an entire series of a broadcasts, if I was too lazy to find when the new episodes were going to air (which I was). If I was on the road and realized I forgot to setup my HP to record something, I could do that via the Internet and the MSN Remote Record feature. Now that's technology doing what it should—improving the quality of your life! Multimedia: I was able to use all of the audio, video, and picture options available within Media Center. I was able to import and organize my music libraries easily. The wireless keyboard that comes with the z552 was exceptionally useful here—especially when I had to re-label several songs. Firewire/1394 4 and 6 pin configurations allow you to save your recording straight to hard drive. An entire Swiss Army Knife of memory card slots is also available for digital cameras (see the "Specifications" section below for more information on this). Having answered this question from several of my Gameboyz' colleagues already, I thought I should recognize in writing that the z552 is also a fully capable PC. Yes, you can install games on it. And yes, you can surf the net. One caveat though— if you're playing games or surfing the net on the z552 using your television set, you better make sure you either have at least a 42" HDTV, or alternatively be viewing through a LCD projector. Why? Because the typical resolution of a standard TV is not as high as what you would expect from a computer monitor. Therefore, on smaller screens, you have to increase the font and icon sizes quite a bit, so you can see them without squinting. The DVD player/burner works as you would expect. One feature of note is the specialized "LightScribe" technology built into the drive, enabling you to record your data on one side of the blank DVD. When that's finished, flip it over and burn an image onto the "label" side of the disc. The resulting image is not in colour, but instead is a grayscale screen of the image you choose to burn. Therefore, high contrast images work best. The technology does require a slightly more expensive DVD to burn to, but it's certainly worth it if you are tired of paying the price of a new printer every time you run out of printer ink! Conclusion: From the moment our staff opened the box, to the moment we had to say goodbye and send the z552 back to HP, the Gameboyz staff experienced a heightened sense of euphoria. It will surely be missed. The HP z552 Digital Entertainment Center comes highly recommended! Technical Specifications: Storage: Primary Hard Drive:200GB3 7200RPM Serial ATA Secondary Hard Drive (via HP Personal Media Drive bay). HP Personal Media Drives can be purchased to support storage of larger media files collections. DVD Player and Recorder: 16x double-layer DVD±R/RW drive. Progressive scan DVD movie playback at 480p4. DVD and CD Read and Write Speeds 16X maximum DVD+R, 4X maximum DVD+RW, 2.4X maximum double-layer DVD+R, 8X maximum DVD-R, 4X maximum DVD-RW, 16X maximum DVD-ROM, 40X maximum CD-R, 24X maximum CD-RW, 40X maximum CD-ROM5 DVD and CD Labeling LightScribe direct disc labeling technology6 Television and Video: Television Tuners Personal Video Recorder (PVR) with high-performance hardware encoder. Records television digitally to internal Personal Video Recorder Features: Personal Video Recorder (PVR) with high-performance hardware encoder. Records television digitally to internal hard drive or HP Personal Media Drive. Features pause, instant replay and 30-second skip. Records up to two TV channels simultaneously while playing back another pre-recorded show. Personal Video Recorder Compatibility: Compatible with cable, digital cable, digital satellite and antenna.1 Electronic Programming Guide: 14-day programming guide for use with Personal Video Recorder; Downloadable at no charge via high-speed broadband Internet connection2. Video Processor: ATI RADEON® X300 SE Graphics Card with 128MB DDR memory; 16X PCI-Express Audio: Audio Chip-Intel® High Definition Audio with 7.1 surround sound (pre-amp); 20Hz to 20kHz audio frequency; 85dB audio signal to noise ratio (SNR. Audio Support: Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound support; Analog 7.1 pre-amp surround sound support; Supports playback of MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and PCM music files; Supports playback of audio CDs and DVD-video FM Tuner: One FM tuner with pause and replay capabilities; Nine user-defined FM preset stations; Range 87.5 - 108.0 MHz; 75ohm RF coaxial antenna included External Input/Output Connectors: Rear Video Output Connectors-(1) DVI-D7, (1) VGA, (1) component video (YPbPr), (1) S-video, (1) composite video Rear Audio Out Connectors-(8) RCA audio ports for 7.1 surround sound analog output, (1) Toslink optical digital port for 5.1 digital output, (1) coaxial digital port for 5.1 digital output8 Television Inputs-(1) RF coaxial for standard definition TV, (1) RF coaxial for digital TV, (2) S-video, (1) composite video, (2) sets of stereo RCA jacks (left/right) Front Audio Out Connectors-(1) ¼" headphone Front Audio In Connectors- Left/right RCA audio, (1) microphone Rear Audio Out Connectors-(8) RCA audio ports for 7.1 surround sound analog output, (1) Toslink optical digital port for 5.1 digital output, (1) coaxial digital port for 5.1 digital output USB-(2) front Hi-Speed USB 2.0, (4) rear Hi-Speed USB 2.0 FireWire (IEEE 1394)-(1) front 4-pin FireWire/1394 for connection to camcorders, (1) rear 6-pin FireWire/1394 Media Card Reader-(1) front-accessible 9-in-1 Flash Media Card Reader. Supports Secure Digital, xD, Smart Media, MultiMedia Card, Compact Flash Types I/II, Microdrive, Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro. Infrared Transmitter-(2) rear infrared (IR) blaster ports with IR blaster cables included. Changes TV channels on digital cable and satellite set-top boxes. Computing Power: Processor Model- Intel® Pentium® 4 processor 530J9 with HT Technology.10 Secondary-Level Cache Size 1MB Integrated Level 2 Front-Side Bus Speed 800MHz Motherboard Chipset Intel® 915P Express System Memory: 512MB PC3200 DDR SDRAM. System memory expandable to 2GB. Internet Connectivity: Wireless LAN (WiFi)- 802.11 b/g wireless adapter. Removable antenna included. Ethernet: 10/100/1000 Base-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45) Case & Power: Product Finish- Black brushed-aluminum with HP Media Info Display Power Supply- 250W Power Requirements- 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz Power Management- Energy Star Compliant Accessories: Keyboard and Trackball-(1) 49MHz RF HP wireless entertainment keyboard with integrated track ball. Keyboard includes 7 multimedia control keys and 3 programmable keys. Supplied Accessories-(1) HP Digital Entertainment Center infrared remote control, (1) system recovery DVD Supplied Documentation- HP Digital Entertainment Center Start Here booklet, HP Digital Entertainment Center User's guide, HP Digital Entertainment Center Software Guide Supplied Cables-(1) power cable, (1) DVI-D video cable, (1) S-video cable, (1) left/right RCA audio, (2) infrared blasters to control set-top boxes, (2) RF coaxial video, (1) coaxial video splitter Supplied Antennas-(1) coaxial FM radio antenna, (1) external 802.11b/g antenna Software- Operating System, Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Music Playback- Apple iTunes; HP Tunes—Access your iTunes music library music files in Media Center Edition interface. Digital Photography- HP Image Zone Plus; HP Image Zone for Media Center—Enables photo slide show presentations in Media Center Edition interface. DVD Playback- InterVideo® WinDVD Player—Serves as engine for Media Center Edition DVD player. Video Editing- muvee autoProducer—Enables creation of DVDs from Media Center Edition interface; InterVideo WinDVD Creator Security- Norton™ Antivirus 2005 with 60 days of free updates CD/DVD Recording- Sonic® RecordNow!™ LightScribe Direct-to-Disc Labeling- Sonic® Express Labeler; InterVideo® Disc Label Operating requirements: Minimum TV or high-resolution display with DVI, VGA, S-video, component video, or composite video. High-speed broadband Internet connection to download Electronic TV Programming Guide. TV signal source (cable, satellite and/or antenna). Recommended High-definition ready TV or display (LCD, plasma, rear projection, front projection). A/V receiver and speakers with 5.1 or greater surround sound output. 1 Does not record high definition from cable or satellite. 2 EPG provided by Microsoft®. Broadband Internet access requres payment of additional fees or subscription for use. 3 1GB = 1 billion bytes when referring to hard drive capacity. Actual formatted capacity is less. 4 Desktop resolution must be set to 640 x 480 for DVD playback via component video. 5 Actual speeds may vary from maximum speeds. DVD formats not universally compatible. 6 Requires LightScribe DVD or CD media. LightScribe creates a grayscale image similar to a black-and-white photo. 7 DVI-D recommended for high-definition ready TVs. 8 External A/V receiver or powered speakers required. 9 Intel's numbering system is not a measurement of higher performance. 10 The Hyper-Threading features is a new and complex technology designed to improve the performance of multi-threaded software products. Please contact your software provider to determine software compatibility. Not all customers or software applications will benefit from the use of Hyper-Threading. Go to www.intel.com/info/hyperthreading for more information. *Except where noted, all prices are suggested retail price in Canadian dollars. Retailers/resellers may sell for less.

 
 

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