Hewlett-Packard's Digital Entertainment Center (DEC) systems are getting taken out in a pine box. We give credit to HP for taking a chance on this niche market--it was the only mainstream vendor to sell an A/V-style living-room PC--and we generally liked the DEC systems we saw over the years, including the last model we tested, the DEC z560. The systems were attractive, well designed, and much more affordable than systems from boutique Media Center vendors such as Creature and Niveus.
We're not surprised that HP decided to kill off the DEC line, however, because mainstream consumers never embraced the high-end, living-room PC idea. For one, you can get TiVo or a DVR box from your cable company that's both cheaper and easier to setup and use. Even the entry-level DEC model costs $1,800, which is a lot of money to throw at a PC that you may decide in short time doesn't belong in your living room. Cheaper and smaller PCs such as Apple's Mac Mini and HP's own Pavilion Slimline models are better choices for experimenting with adding a PC to your home theater. There also are numerous digital media adapters including Apple TV that let you access the contents of your PC without having to put it in your living room. For its part, HP's digital entertainment products will now solely comprise its MediaSmart TVs.