Test Bench:HP Pavilion 9720 Turnkey Editing Computer

Hewlett-Packard

3000 Hanover Street

Palo Alto, CA 94304-1185

(888) 999-4747

www.hp.com

The term turnkey editing computer is quickly becoming redundant. Many consumer-oriented computers are fully loaded editing systems. Microsoft’s simple editing program MovieMaker now ships with all Windows Me operating systems and both USB and FireWire ports are becoming a standard feature on computers. We predict that it won’t be long before all computers will ship with the necessary hardware and software to import, edit and export finished video back to tape, the Internet or disk.

Although this trend is gaining momentum, we were impressed when we received Hewlett-Packard’s latest multimedia editing in our editorial office. It comes with a 1.5GHz, Pentium IV processor, 80 gigs of hard drive space, 256MB RAM, a 19-inch monitor, a DVD-player, a CD-ROM burner, surround sound and Pinnacle’s Studio DV simple video editing software.

The 9720 is aimed at the power-hungry video-editing neophyte. However, with a few tweaks and possibly an upgrade in editing software, intermediate and advanced users can have a comprehensive editing system.

It’s a Monster

No, it’s not Godzilla, but with its formitable specs, this beast has some brawn. The HP9720 features Intel’s latest Pentium IV 1.5GHz processor that’s designed to optimize multimedia and Web performance. Its 80GB hard drive can store about six hours of full-screen, full-motion video. And once you’ve captured all of that footage, HP loaded a whopping 256MB of RAM to make sure you can load your project onto the timeline.

The 9720 is a paragon of multimedia versatility. We’re hard pressed to think of something you can’t do with this computer. It’s got a CD-RW burner for output of both audio and video productions and HP included a DVD player as well. This is a great feature since the DVD player can also play CD-ROMs, which makes for easy CD copying. And when you’re ready to capture music or sound effects for your projects, HP’s MusicMatch Jukebox makes copying CD content to your hard drive quick and painless. And the Polk Audio sound system complete with four speakers and woofer make for an awesome sound.

As far as capturing video goes, Hewlett Packard had the good sense to include both FireWire and USB ports for easy video/image acquisition. Not only that, but HP puts ports on the front as well as back of the tower. This convenient touch adds to its comfort and user-friendly design. Its 19-inch monitor is large enough to make editing comfortable. It was easy to organize our window so that all of the tools and windows fit nicely without crowding the project’s timeline.

As far as software goes, it comes bundled with a whole slew of programs, including Microsoft Explorer, Works and Money, that are geared for more pedestrian tasks like surfing the Net, writing a script and billing clients. Regarding video-specific and multimedia-creation software, it features Pinnacle Systems’ Studio DV and Microsoft’s MovieMaker. Both are simple and limited video editors. With Studio DV you can record your finished project back out to tape, and you can create an .avi file or a streaming video file for the Internet. To complete the virtual studio, Hewlett-Packard included Adaptec’s Easy CD Creator 4 to burn files onto CD.

Taming the Beast

To begin our tests, we opened the box and set up the contents. We applaud Hewlett Packard’s efforts to make the setup as painless as possible. Ports and wires are color coordinated for easy connection. There is also a setup diagram for those who are colorblind. In less than ten minutes we had the monitor, tower, mouse, keyboard and speakers hooked up and ready to roll.

Once we booted the system, a brief setup wizard greeted us. We answered the simple questions and went straight for the Studio DV editing application. As we mentioned, Studio DV is strictly for beginners. It does have a few nice features, however, like a choice of timeline or storyboard views, easy video capture and the ability to create streaming video.

For our test we captured an hour’s worth of full-frame, full-motion video to the hard drive. We then loaded about 20 minutes worth of clips and began editing. The 1.5GHz processor ran smoothly considering how much video we had on our timeline.

We trimmed our project down to 10 minutes and were ready to capture some music. We went to the MusicMatch application and copied 13 songs from a CD in about five minutes. We then went back to Studio DV and imported two of the songs and added them throughout timeline. We adjusted the volume levels and then rendered the 720×480, 30fps project. It took less than 15 minutes to render this 1.8GB .avi file. To create a video for CD, we went back to our timeline, trimmed down to about six minutes and rendered a 360×240, 30fps .avi file, which took considerably less time and about 500MB of space. Perfect for our CD-ROM. We opened Easy CD Creator 4 and within minutes, we had ourselves a Video CD.

One for All

With this editing system, beginners and intermediate video hobbyists will have the power to create and distribute their videos in an array of formats and media. From tape to CD to the Internet, those who aspire to a larger audience can bypass Hollywood and create, edit, produce and distribute high-quality productions. It’s no longer a question of, "Gosh, if only I had this or that piece of software or equipment." With the HP 9720, you have the ability to produce extensive video and multimedia projects.

Specifications

Price: $2,995

Platform: PC

OS: Microsoft Windows Me

Operating system: Windows Me

Processor: Intel Pentium IV 1.5GHz

RAM: 256MB

Capture card: Pinnacle Studio DV

Video card: nVidia TNT2 Pro 3D AGP

graphics card w/ 32MB SDRAM

Monitor: 19-inch HP Pavilion v90

Hard drive: 80GB Ultra DMA

CD-Rewritable drive: HP CD-Writer Plus (8x/4x/32x)

Graphics card: nVidia GeForce2 GTS Pro w/64MB DDR RAM

Inputs/Outputs: FireWire x3, USB x3

DVD-ROM: 16x

CD-ROM: 8x/4x/32x HP CD-Writer Plus

Audio monitors: Polk Audio AMR-90 5 piece

A/V inputs and outputs: FireWire IEEE 1394 x2, USB x4. No analog A/V in or out

Sound: Premium Polk Audio stereo speakers with PowerPort technology

Included software: Microsoft Windows Me, Pinnacle Systems Studio DV, WinDVD 2000, Adaptec DirectCD, Adaptec Easy CD Creator, Microsoft Works 2000, Quicken Basic 2000, Microsoft Money 2000, MusicMatch Jukebox 5.1, Microsoft Encarta Deluxe Online 2000

STRENGTHS

  • Inexpensive
  • Extremely powerful with an extensive memory
  • Multimedia capabilities
  • Beginner-friendly

    WEAKNESSES

  • Advanced video producers will need more sophisticated editing software.
  • No analog in/output

    SUMMARY

  • The HP 9720 Pavilion is a feature-packed all-purpose computer with enough memory to do long-format video production.
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