HP designed the Pavilion m7360n specifically for the beginning or intermediate multimedia enthusiast who wants a complete, easy-to-use Media Center PC: It comes with plenty of video and audio ports and hardware, but lacks good graphics and upgrade options.
A quick glance at the back of the squat, gray midtower case confirms the m7360n’s user-friendly design: Each of the many audio and video connectors is clearly labeled and color coded. Better yet, HP’s well-written and clearly illustrated documentation can guide even the greenest of novices through the Media Center hardware setup process.
Video connections include S-Video and composite inputs and outputs, coaxial cable TV and FM antenna ports, and a VGA port. The one glaring omission is a digital DVI connector–a necessity for sending digital video to a big-screen LCD or plasma TV. Our test unit also came with a TV tuner card.
The m7360n’s audio ports include standard analog connectors that support 7.1 surround sound, and two coaxial S/PDIF ports–one in and one out. Surprisingly, the system lacks the optical Toslink digital audio port for outputting to some high-end audio gear.
I liked the wireless keyboard and mouse that came with the system. Both felt sturdy, and the keyboard’s big multimedia control buttons are easy to locate without looking down.
The m7360n has some useful storage extras. HP’s 8X, dual-layer DVD±RW drive includes HP’s LightScribe technology, which burns a monochrome label or graphic onto the top of LightScribe-compatible discs. You can add storage without opening the case by using an HP Personal Media Drive. The drive slides into a docking bay on the front of the case. A 300GB Personal Media Drive can be found online for around $300.
In contrast to the case’s well-designed exterior, the interior is crowded and cramped. Accessing the hard drive and RAM slots requires disconnecting many cables and, for those with big hands, removing the hard-drive chassis. The system lacks open optical drive bays, hard-drive bays, or expansion slots–though a PCI slot could be freed up by removing the installed wireless network adapter card.
Users who want to play games should add a better graphics card. The system’s nVidia GeForce 6200SE graphics card produced abysmal frame-rate scores on our Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament tests. Informal play on Doom 3, while doable on the lowest quality settings, was far too slow for satisfactory, or at least for victorious, game play.
Our test unit, equipped with a 2.8-GHz Pentium D 920 processor and 2GB of RAM, produced a WorldBench 5 score of 94. That isn’t blazingly fast, but it’s quick enough for most computing tasks, and it ranks the m7360n as the second-fastest Pentium D-equipped system we’ve tested (though many of these systems come with only 1GB of RAM).
HP received average scores in most sections of our Reliability and Service tech support survey.
On the whole, the system’s user-friendly design and excellent additional storage options make the m7360n a good choice for anyone who needs an easy-to-use, entry-level Media Center PC. Digital video creators or hard-core gamers, however, will want a more powerful system.