HP has introduced a device for the living room that comes closer to a vision of the future than anything else on the market. The HP Digital Entertainment Center z545 ($1,999) is a computer at its heart, but that’s almost incidental. It’s a 480-line progressive scan DVD player, mp3 jukebox, dual-tuner DVR with free program guides, digital photo player, Web browser, and a moderately high-end personal computer with ultra-quiet cooling fans and a wireless keyboard. You can record two TV programs at once while watching a third recorded video, at the same time sending video, photos, or music to other rooms.
The design is elegant – it looks as if it might be possible to figure it out despite a dizzying array of input and output choices. Onscreen displays are controlled by Windows Media Center 2005, where most displays are designed for easy use from the couch with a remote control.
There are many new computers trying to do the same chores, but the HP is the only one I’ve seen that looks like a finished product instead of a work in progress. You may not be ready to take on a project like this yet, but you can certainly get a glimpse of the way computers will be integrated into our houses in the next few years.