I purchased this system with the express purpose of replacing my DVR. Dell gave me the impression this was an Home Theater PC and includes an HDTV tuner as an option. Note: I am using a dual-core processor, 2GB of memory, and the HD3200 video card.
As a normal PC it seems alright, not that I've done much with it in that regard. Big apps seem to be a bit slow to load, but my desktop is a fast quad core system w/ a 10K RPM hard drive.
Since my intent is to replace my DVR, I hooked up the tuner (hauppage USB HD Tuner) and started Windows Media Center. All drivers installed and WMC quickly located all of my cable channels. That's the last of the good news.
I started by using 1080i resolution on my monitor (an HDMI LCD TV). The video was completely unacceptable. It probably dropped 10-20 frames for every one it displayed. The system performance was so bad it was excruciating to get out of Windows Media Center.
If I put the video 720p mode, I can watch TV with just a little skipping or delay; however, if I bring up the TV guide at the same time the TV is running, forget it. The TV stutters horribly.
Now that I have the system and the problem, I am seeing reports of this problem popping up in audio/video forums (ugh, why didn't I check there first before buying this). In fact, CNET reviews this systems and the CON is it will not work in HD mode with the integrated video card. (The link to the review is removed by amazon, but google "cnet zino review").
I've tried to resolve the problem with tech support, but so far they haven't been able to make it past basic troubleshooting - ie. I haven't made it past the first layer of support technicians.
Hopefully I can return this tomorrow. If not, you might want to watch craigslist for it. I have no use for it if it can't handle HDTV.
Final Note?: No thanks to Dell I have found that by using the VGA connection to my TV (NOT the HDMI connection), I can get HDTV to work in 1280x760 mode (the max resolution of my TV's VGA port) fairly well. All digital signals from cable (QAM signals) work perfectly. For some reason the analog signals still stutter, but I don't care about those.
I cannot stress how disappointed I am with Dell over this. The video card cannot be field upgraded. The returns department (I tried to send this back and get one with the correct video card) said 'No returns after 21 days. Thank you, come again'. The tech support people were clueless. I don't know how ma and pa Kettle get their systems running. You have to have a computer science degree 1/2 the time to get consumer stuff working right.
Final Note!: Dell is taking it back. Perhaps someone there also read the cnet review. Just in time as the VGA port went on the fritz this weekend and now no display port is usable.
Epilogue: After searching the market I couldn't find another system with a form factor I liked so I ended up repurchasing a Dell Zino with the upgraded video card (ATI HD4330) and 4GB instead of 2. This system *works* for displaying HDTV broadcasts. Unfortunately it cost significantly more than the base system. It's had some odd glitches (like audio via HDMI has occasionally stopped requiring a reboot), but it has been OK. OK is about the best I can say given the headache this whole project became.