Okay, they don’t have tuners. Their Wide VGA (800 by 640 pixel) screen is not HDTV resolution. But the new DreamScreens from HP fill an interesting hole in the home entertainment landscape. The HP product manager doesn’t like it when I say it, but these are the next logical step up from an LCD photo frame.
The DreamScreen comes in two models: the 10.2″ Model 100 and the 13.3″ Model 130. Both have 2 GB of onboard memory and can read data directly from an SD and other memory cards. Both have handy remote controls. Both can display still photos and videos. But the key feature is that both offer wired (10/100BaseT) and wireless (802.11b/g) network connectivity.
This means that you can gain access to photos and videos stored on other devices on your home network. Since it’s DLNA compatible, you can even play music from a media server. But the network connection also gives you access to the Internet. HP takes a “walled garden” approach, and so you have to rely on widgets to give you access to a variety of Internet services. For example, you can access Snapfish for photos, or Pandora for music, or get weather forecasts. You can even use it to access FaceBook. And if that’s not enough, you can access more than 10,000 audio streams that HP aggregates for you, so that you can find music, talk, news, or any other sort of programming that you might want, and then assign presets to access your favorite selections quickly. HP is negotiating access to additional services, and will be able to upgrade DreamScreens simply by downloading new software remotely, so new services will appear automatically on your screen.
I’ve never wanted a TV in the kitchen; I’m usually busy doing other things when I’m there, and would rather have access to music and other content such as photos of our granddaughter. But the connected aspects of the DreamScreens have a lot of appeal, and I think it’s just what I’d want as a connected entertainment display when I don’t want a whole television. And at $249 for the 100 model (which is available now) and $299 for the 130 model (which is slated to ship later this fall), they’re reasonably priced.