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HP introduces 17in Media Center notebook

Desktop replacement goves full MCE benefits

HP has unveiled a 17in digital entertainment notebook that is available with Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system and a stand-alone digital video recorder.

The HP Media Center zd8000 series notebooks will be available in the US from 15 December in a variety of configurations on HP's website and in retail stores, said Kevin Wentzel, technical marketing manager at HP.

The $1,399 (£753) desktop replacement notebook is designed as a mobile digital media hub for students, families, or other home users, he said.

Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 was unveiled last month. Many analysts feel it is the software maker's best attempt yet at creating an operating system for consumers to manage their audio and video entertainment. It improves support for wireless devices and adds support for two TV tuners and high-definition television.

Toshiba has also released a 17in notebook featuring the new operating system. The Toshiba Qosmio G15-AV501 notebook is expensive at around £1,000, but it comes with some additional features such as a built-in TV tuner and Intel's Pentium M processor.

Users can watch live television on the HP zd8000 series notebooks by connecting the HP Dual TV Tuner/Digital Video Recorder to the notebooks through a USB port, HP’s Wentzel said. This device also features an FM radio tuner.

The TV and radio tuners are in a stand-alone device because connecting and disconnecting PCs to audio entertainment receivers can be a painstaking task, especially for a device that is somewhat portable, Wentzel said.

At 4.5kg, users won't want to take their zd8000 on business trips, but the notebook could be moved around various rooms within the home, he said.

A dual TV tuner allows users to watch one program while recording another on their digital video recorder, Wentzel said. The device includes support for standard cable connections.

Another interesting feature on the zd8000 is the optional removable USB drive. The drive is the size of a PC Card, fits inside a special bay in the body of the notebook and can be removed to transfer files between the zd8000 and another PC.

Building a dedicated slot for the card into the notebook's chassis cuts down on the opportunity for users to lose the USB drive, Wentzel said.

The zd8000 is a true desktop replacement notebook in that it uses desktop processing technology. HP uses the 3.4GHz Pentium 4 processor from Intel alongside the 915P chipset, also known as Grantsdale. This allows the zd8000 to support DDR2 memory and PCI Express graphics cards.

HP has not finalised the configurations for the notebook, even though it has determined the price, an HP spokeswoman said. It will be available only in the USA at launch, and HP has no definitive plans to launch the notebook in other markets, she said.

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