4 of the best Windows 7 media PCs

windows 7 media PCs
Which Windows 7 Media PC is right for you?

Many of us now use our laptops or desktop PCs to watch and record live TV or to catch up with programmes we have missed through online services such as BBC iPlayer or 4oD.

Microsoft's recently launched Windows 7 operating system comes bundled with a much-improved version of Windows Media Center.

It offers compatibility with both terrestrial and satellite signals (including DVB-S2) and full support for MHEG-5, giving users access to the interactive services off ered by Freeview and Freesat.

Add to this a version of Sky's online Sky Player, off ering channels and programmes on a buy, rent or subscribe basis.

Windows 7 Media Center's setup wizard is very user-friendly, helping you to get the best settings to work with your TV tuner(s), display and audio configuration. It's never been easier to organise your TV recordings and media libraries on your local hard drive, removable drives or other PCs on your network.

Testing explained

So it's a perfect time to consider investing in a decent all-in-one PC or laptop to enhance your viewing experience in the bedroom, study or even – with some of the bigger hi-def screen models now merging – to consider replacing your TV in the lounge with a PC.

Manufacturers are starting to sell all-in-one 'net-top' style PCs with Freeview decoders built in, bundled with TV-style remote controls and impressive new tech such as touchscreen control, Blu-ray drives and lots more.

We tested three all-in-ones from MSI, Packard Bell and Asus and one laptop from Toshiba, all of which are in the £600-£800 price range.

PC Freeview HD tuners have yet to appear, but Freeview SD tuners can be picked up for as little as £20.

For this test we were using Asus' latest USB 2.0 Express TV Stick (costing £55) with the Asus and Toshiba machines, which handily doubles up as a 4GB USB storage stick as well, so you can save a bunch of recordings elsewhere.

Adam Hartley