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Vendors Show Their Support For MCE 2005

The major PC vendors turned out in force to support Microsoft’s introduction of its Media Center Edition 2005 operating system (MCE 2005) by introducing new computers and peripherals that will utilize the new operating system or its components.

Gateway debuted the 820GM Media Center PC, the company’s first to sell through both its retail and direct sales arms. The 820GM includes a TV tuner and PVR functionality and is powered by an Intel Pentium 4 BTX processor, which is designed to operate at lower temperatures, which reduces fan noise and electrical usage. The processor, as yet unnamed, can record a TV program while handling video editing or 3D gaming duties.

The PC has a double-layer, dual-format DVD burner, ATI Radeon X300SE PCI Express 128MB graphics card, 1GB DDR dual-channel memory and a 250GB hard drive with a $1,249 suggested retail price. It will ship later this week.

Later this month, Gateway will ship a portable digital music player that supports Microsoft’s Plays for Sure standard, which is included in the Windows Media 10 player. Gateway did not release pricing or product specifications.

Hewlett-Packard introduced the HP z540 and HP z545-b PCs and the x5400 Media Center Extender peripheral.

In addition to TV recording and programming capabilities, the models have HP Personal Media Drive slots. These are removable 160GB hard drives that can be shifted between similarly equipped HP models or used with any other brand via a USB connection. The drive is included with the z545-b model, giving that unit 360GB of hard drive space, and it is an option on the z540.

The z540, $1,499 suggested retail price, has a dual-format, double-layer DVD burner with progressive-scan DVD playback; 512MB of RAM; dual NTSC-tuners; DVI-D, component video, VGA, S-video and composite-video jacks; ATI Radeon X3000 PCI Express graphics card; 802.11g wireless networking; and an Intel Pentium 4 530 processor. For an additional $500, the z545-b includes the 160GB removable hard drive and a 200MB internal hard drive.

The HP 5400 Media Extender, $299 suggested retail price, is a stereo-component-like device that brings content from Media Center PC to A/V systems throughout a home through a wireless or Ethernet network. Five Media Extenders can run concurrently with a single PC.

Dell’s MCE 2005 offering mirrored HP’s by including PCs and a media extender. Starting immediately, Dell has Media Center available with its Dimension 8400 and XPS gaming desktop systems, with respective suggested retail price of $1,138 and $2,037. Later this year, the operating system will become available in the Dimension 3000, 4700 and 4700C lines.

The Media Center Extender, bundled with a wired/wireless router, will sell for under $457. Each Dell MCE 2005 PC can operate two extenders to bring media content stored on a PC to other A/V systems.

Toshiba launched two new notebooks in its Qosmio family that will sport MCE 2005. The G15-AV501 has an Intel Pentium M 745 processor, running at 1.8GHz, 100GB hard drive, 512MB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce Go 5700 graphics card, DVD SuperMulti drive, 802.11g networking, Bluetooth and a 17-inch display. The notebook carries a $2,999 suggested retail price.

It is joined by the F15-AV201. This model, priced at $2,599, is configured basically the same as the G15-AV501, but features a 15.4-inch display and an 89GB hard drive.

Home networking makers Linksys and D-Link also got into the MCE 2005 action.

Linksys introduced the Wireless A+G Media Center Extender. This enables users to stream digital content stored on a Windows Media Center PC using 802.11a/g or Ethernet

D-Link unveiled several products including the802.11b/g/a Premier AG Wireless Router, which has gained Microsoft MCE 2005 compatibility certification. D-Link also will ship a digital audio receiver for distributing PC-stored music around a home.