With a strong focus on family use, entertainment and media management, the HP Pavilion M9190a is a good choice for homes with plenty of digital media. The combination of its Blu-ray/HD-DVD player with LightScribe DVD functionality, 15-in-1 media card reader, TV-tuner and its easy to use Media Drives make this PC very handy to have for the media-oriented household.
As far as the specifications go the Pavilion M9190a is a fairly healthy machine, with a reasonable amount of power under the hood. An Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4GHz CPU is at the helm, with 3GB of DDR2 RAM, ensuring smooth multitasking in Windows Vista Ultimate.
The NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT isn't a powerful gaming card, but it will play most games in lower quality settings. It's perfect for high-definition video, though, which requires dedicated hardware for guaranteed smooth playback. More importantly, the model HP has used includes a native HDMI port. HDMI is fast becoming the standard for home theatre systems and large flat screen TVs, as it transmits a digital video and audio signal through the one cable. If you don't have a home theatre with an HDMI input then you'll still be able to use the 3.5mm analogue ports on the PC to hook up PC speakers.
Storage-wise the HP Pavilion M9190a offers plenty, with a terabyte worth of space across two 500GB hard drives. The Media Drives are essentially USB-based external storage devices. The PC offers two Media Drive bays, one 2.5in and one 3.5in. Both sizes can be bought through HP. They're generally more expensive per megabyte than a third-party external storage solution, but they're convenient. Having this option allows you to backup data, or expand your storage space. The smaller drives are also good for transporting data from one PC to another. This feature is supported by an HP Easy Backup button on the front of the machine, which quickly backs up a pre-defined set of files or folders to the Media Drive when pressed.
The optical drive won't write HD-DVD or Blu-ray discs, but it will write and re-write DVD discs. As well as writing data to DVDs the LightScribe technology allows users to create special labels on special LightScribe discs, which use the drive's laser to burn the labels on. Now that Blu-ray has won the format war it seems a little pointless to have an HD-DVD player too, but HD-DVD movies are still available and are often cheaper than Blu-ray due to the obsolete nature of the technology.
Digital photos are easy to import thanks to the inclusion of a full 15-in-1 media card reader. As well as the high-definition player, HP has installed a digital TV tuner for digital and high-definition TV channels. This allows you to view and record TV through your PC, as well as capture video from other sources, thanks to a set of input ports on the rear. Sharing files on a network is made easier by the fact this PC includes a wireless network adapter, supporting Wi-Fi 802.11b/g.
The one thing that lets all the media functionality down is its form-factor. While the mid-tower is a comfortable form-factor for a PC, it isn't as suited to lounge rooms and media centres. This means it's unlikely you're going to want to situate the PC in the room it can be of the most use, the living room.
With a score of 113 in WorldBench 6 it's far from sluggish, but doesn't compete with high-end gaming and editing machines. In our MP3 encoding test, which tests the CPU's performance by converting 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files, the machine did well. Using iTunes to make the conversion, the Pavilion M9190a took 62sec to complete the task, a good time. In 3DMark 2006 it scored 3741, an average score, but an indicator that it will at least play most games, even if it's necessary to turn the quality settings down.