updated 03:30 pm EDT, Fri August 11, 2006
HP MediaSmart HDTV
Current talk of media hubs revolves around home theater PCs. These can be exercises in frustration for newcomers who might not know or care about the work involved in setting up a PC as a media hub for the living room. HP believes that some people would rather bypass the PC element altogether and stream content from their existing computer. The 37-inch MediaSmart LCD TV is identical to its cousin the LC3760N in other specifications save for the addition of a media player, but it's this player that makes the difference. Through either 802.11a/b/g or Ethernet, you can stream several different audio, photo, and video formats (including Live365 and Rhapsody radio streams) through the TV without requiring a second system or outside box. Streaming is handled on the computer through UPnP or Windows Media Connect and generally favors Windows PCs through support. Cost is the main obstacle: at $2700, the MediaSmart is $1000 more expensive than its ordinary counterpart. Still, it's more elegant and simple than most alternatives.