Turn your PC into a multimedia hub

Vickie stevens
Converting your PC into a media center is easier than ever. We’ve gathered the latest in PC system reviews to help you achieve entertainment nirvana.

We’ve also updated our coverage of peripherals and components, including reviews of inkjet printers and a new crop of video cards. And then there are those must-have tech items to make you mobile: Bluetooth headsets and stereo headphones, USB Flash drives, and portable PCs.

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Niveus media center: rainier edition
  MULTIMEDIAPCs
Editors impressed by Niveus Media Center
Streaming Internet radio and personal video recording with remote control is all available through your PC. The editors of Maximum PC Magazine review the latest in media centers and declare Niveus’ Rainier Edition Media Center “the best of the batch,” with the Voodoo EPIC a close second.
Niveus Media Center: Rainier Edition (Score: 8.0/10.0)
Link to all ratings and full review


HP media center 7160n photosmart pc
  MULTIMEDIAPCs
HP’s offers dual processor for media needs
Digital media’s power-hungry applications demand serious hardware to run smoothly, including dual-core processors. PC Magazine takes a look at the latest PCs for digital media power users and awards two systems its highest honor.
HP Media Center 7160n Photosmart PC (Editors’ Choice, Score: 4.5/5.0)
Sony VAIO VGC-RA842G (Editors’ Choice, 4.5)
Link to all ratings and full review


Jabra's freespeak bt250
  BLUETOOTHHEADSETS
Jabra is CNET’s top-rated headset
The number of single-ear headsets for Bluetooth-enabled phones and PCs has dramatically jumped lately. In CNET’s review, strangely, it’s the oldest unit tested — the Jabra FreeSpeak BT250 (photo, left) — that captures the top spot from a bunch of newbies.
Jabra’s FreeSpeak BT250 (Editors’ Choice, Score: 8.3/10.0)
Plantronics Discovery 640 Bluetooth (Editors’ Choice, 8.0)
Link to all ratings and full review


Plantronics explorer 320
  BLUETOOTHHEADSETS
Explorer 320 headset rings in Editors’ Choice
So many Bluetooth earpieces are coming out that the five units tested by Laptop Magazine didn’t include any of the ones CNET rated (see above). After a week spent wearing each model, Plantronics’ offering outranked the others.
Plantronics Explorer 320 (Editors’ Choice, Score: 4.0/5.0)
Link to all ratings and full review


Plantronics pulsar 590
  BLUETOOTH STEREOHEADPHONES
Plantronics’ headphones do it all wirelessly
After trying Bluetooth earpieces (see above), Laptop Mag turned to wireless stereo headphones. These babies not only let you listen to Bluetooth-enabled MP3 players and laptops in full stereo, they also handle cell phone calls. A Plantronics model scores again.
Plantronics Pulsar 590 (Editors’ Choice, Score: 4.0/5.0)
Link to all ratings and full review


Lexar jumpdrive lightning
  USB FLASHDRIVES
Two USB winners take AnandTech Shootout
Exhaustive tests have been poisted by AnandTech on an amazing number of USB Flash drives — 20 in all. All Flash drives aren’t alike, with the Lexar and Kingston models delivering the fastest read/write times. Kingston’s encryption/decryption doesn’t reduce performance, AnandTech says, while the Lexar offers both a public and an encrypted partition.
Lexar JumpDrive Lightning (1GB, Editor’s Choice Gold)
Kingston DataTraveler Elite (512MB, Editor’s Choice Gold)
Link to all ratings and full review


Canon pixma ip4200
  INKJETPRINTERS
New Canon inkjet takes No. 1 spot
PC World adds new leaders to the inkjet printer wars this month, the latest models from both Canon and HP the magazine’s "best buy" awards.
Canon Pixma iP4200 (Best Buy, Score: 4.0/5.0)
HP Deskjet 5440 (Best Buy, 3.5)
Link to all ratings and full review


Asus extreme n7800 gt
  VIDEOCARDS
nVidia dominates ATI in video showdown
Maximum PC Magazine pits 10 ATI and nVidia video cards against each other in five price categories. nVidia’s dual 7800- or 6800-level processors outshine the competition at the high end. ATI doesn’t even have a product in the top ("under $600") price/performance category.
Asus Extreme N7800 GTX (Under $600, Kickass Award, Score: 10.0/10.0)
PNY Verto GeForce 7800 GTX (Under $600, Kickass Award, 9.0)
BFG GeForce 7800 GT OC (Under $500, Kickass Award, 9.0)
Link to all ratings and full review


Toshiba portégé r200
  ULTRAPORTABLENOTEBOOKS
Portégé ultralight outranks all in PC Mag tests
PC Magazine helps lighten your travel load by reviewing the latest ultraportable notebooks. The five tested models all come in under 4 lb. (1.8kg) without sacrificing the tools you need to be productive and secure.
Toshiba Portégé R200 (Editors’ Choice, Score: 4.5/5.0)
Link to all ratings and full review


Lenovo thinkpad x41 tablet
  CONVERTIBLE TABLETPCs
Lenovo tablet takes Editors’ Choice honors
PC Magazine also reviews another class of portables — the tablet PC. The convertibles in the roundup range from 2 to 7 pounds (0.91 to 3.17kg). Lenovo’s first attempt at a tablet after buying IBM’s laptop unit is the model that grabs the editors’ attention.
Lenovo ThinkPad X41 Tablet (Editors’ Choice, Score: 4.5/5.0)
Link to all ratings and full review

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For non-U.S. sources of information on a product reviewed above, enter the model name into a search box at one of the following links: Canada / U.K. / Elsewhere

The Index of Reviews summarizes only head-to-head comparative tests by respected industry reviewers, not individual ratings of single products. Vickie Stevens is research director of WindowsSecrets.com.
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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2005-10-27: