Amidst a lineup of new notebooks and desktops under the HP, Compaq and Voodoo brands, HP finally trotted out its MediaSmart Connect Windows Media Extender, that also can utilize its own MediaSmart software solution. I understand HP’s rationale in offering both the simpler MediaSmart and the more full-featured Windows Media Center UI, but having two UIs still seems like a less than ideal compromise.
The MediaSmart Connect is certainly the most stylish of the Vista-compatible MCEs available (and I’ll include the XBox 360 in that set) although the Samsung approach — in which the Media Center Extender is mounted onto the back of the TV — may be the most transparent external device approach yet.
I also like HP’s option of the personal media drive/USB options. However, I’d like the Personal Media Drive option a lot more if it had the ability to sync with a network store such as HP’s own MediaSmart Windows Home Server or NAS product the way Apple TV can sync with multiple PCs running iTunes. I favored this approach before Apple announced Apple TV. Apple may include only a 40 GB drive with the base Apple TV, but it’s still doing so at a price that’s less than that of the MediaSmart Connect.