The Ceton Echo Windows Media Center Extender is exactly what it says it is

Subject: Systems | November 6, 2012 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: wmc, htpc, echo windows media extender, ceton

The Ceton Echo is not a competitor to Roku or other streaming devices which hook you up to Netfix and other online sources, instead it competes against the XBox as a way to utilize Windows Media Center without having a PC as well as retrieving online sources.  If you do have a PC, especially one with a TV Tuner then the Ceton Echo becomes even more powerful as you can use it to handle DVR duties as well as to stream content from your PC.  Missing Remote just got this device in and will be testing it over the next few days to find out just how useful this device is; it will be available to the general public at the end of November.

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"The XBOX 360 has ruled the Windows Media Center (WMC) extender market since it killed off third-party completion with the release of Windows Vista, but for many the brutish gaming console’s size, appetite for electricity, and unpleasant noise levels made it unwelcome in the A/V stack. With a lithe chassis, miserly power consumption, and a modern system-on-a-chip (SOC) offering the potential for proper HD file support the Ceton Echo could be just the thing to breathe fresh life into Microsoft’s aging platform. Our sample just arrived so it has not been run through the wringer yet, but since the hardware is set and pre-orders starting it is worth taking a look to getting a basic understanding of what the Echo has to offer. Check back later for our full review when the software is finalized."

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HTPC

BioStar's Hi-Fi Z77X is aimed at HTPC users

Subject: Motherboards | October 15, 2012 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: Z77, biostar, Hi-Fi Z77X, lga 1155, htpc, atx

While you might not think of a full ATX board being the basis for an HTPC system, BIOSTAR is hoping that you will consider their Hi-Fi Z77X when you next spec out a possible system.  The extra size allows you to have more add-in card options with three 16x PCIe slots (8x, 8x, 4x) and two PCIe 1x slots, which simply would not fit on a mATX board.  The back panel offers VGA, HDMI and DVI out, so even without a discrete card you have quite a few output options as long as Intel onboard graphics are enough to meet your needs.  They also include a Realtec CODEC which is better than [H]ard|OCP expected on a sub-$150 motherboard and were also impressed by the overclocking ability on this value board, not as good as an enthusiast board but still pleasantly capable.

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"BIOSTAR generally has a reputation for making low end or budget oriented motherboards. Fortunately that isn't all BIOSTAR designs and builds. The Hi-Fi Z77X is an unusual motherboard in that it seems to be targeted towards HTPC and media type duties while still addressing enthusiast hardware and overclocking concerns."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

What good is your HTPC if you don't know what's on?

Subject: Systems | September 21, 2012 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: htpc, hdtv, guide

Missing Remote posted something a little different but perfect for their niche, a compendium of links to shared calendars in which you can find the broadcast times of every show on a wide variety of channels.  The links are either shared Google calendars or ICS links which are compatible with most calendar applications.  Never miss a TV show again, even if your guide is on the fritz or you are setting up a recording remotely.

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"Missing Remote is proud to have many writers that are avid television watchers. When we were looking around for a list of shows and their start dates we found just those--list after list, so we have done the hard work for you and compiled these lists into shareable Google calendar with internet view or you can download and use it. Make sure you subscribe or come back, as we will be updating these all season. If you are like us and prefer to schedule only when it shows up on the guide, you will be watching this list daily when you can add your new shows up to 14 days in advance. We have made HTML links to look at the Google Calendar links and you can subscribe through that link, or ICS which is read by many of the popular desktop calendar applications, and you can subscribe to them through there"

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HTPC

Build a micro ATX Llano system for less than $300

Subject: Systems | September 17, 2012 - 10:05 AM |
Tagged: micro ATX, llano, htpc, gigabyte, GA-A55M-DS2, amd, a8-3870K

If you are on a tight budget and can't afford the cost of a Llano based notebook, or simply just don't want a mobile PC then Legit Reviews can help you out with their new system build guide.  For just under $300, shipping included, they will show you how to set up an A8-3870K based system on Gigabyte's GA-A55M-DS2 motherboard, 4GB DDR3-1333 and an OCZ Vertex Plus R2 60GB SATA II SSD along with an optical drive and a micro ATX case.   It won't win any overclocking awards but it has enough outputs to make a decent HTPC system and will handle light gaming duties thanks to the integrated graphics on the A8-3870K

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"Are you looking to build a budget PC, but have a limited budget to work with? We have had a number of readers and businesses that we consult with looking for new systems that will save power and be faster than the systems they currently have. When we started to look into low cost Do-It-Yourself (DIY) systems we found that you could easily build an AMD Llano system for less than $300. And when we say under $300 we mean with shipping included! You would think that for under $300 we would have to cut corners and use knock off brands, but that is not the case here. We are using the top of the line AMD A8-3870K APU and an OCZ Vertex Plus R2 60GB Solid-State Drive (SSD) into this system. The one corner that we did cut is..."

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Systems

Small Form Factor Intel NUC PCs coming in October for under $400

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2012 - 09:16 PM |
Tagged: ssd, small form factor, SFF, nuc, Ivy Bridge, Intel, htpc

Earlier this year, Intel showed off a small motherboard and processor combination that piqued the interest of many enthusiasts and attendees. The rather oddly named Next Unit of Computing (NUC) PC was originally intended to power digital signage, kiosks, and embedded systems (car PC anyone?). However, in response to the interest shown by enthusiasts, the x86 chip giant has decided to bring the super-small form factor computers to retail.  

The Next Unit of Computing PC’s main attraction is its small size: the motherboard is tiny, measuring a mere 4” x 4.” For reference, the mini-ITX standard is a 6.7” x 6.7” motherboard, and VIA’s Pico-ITX form factor boards measure 3.9” x 2.7.” In that respect, the NUC is not the smallest PC that you can build, but it will be the fastest – and by a significant margin thanks to the bundled Ivy Bridge CPU.

While i3 and i5 editions were allegedly designed, currently Intel is only bringing the i3 to the retail market. Specifically, the CPU powering the NUC will be an Intel Core i3-3217U Ivy Bridge processor, and it will be soldered onto the motherboard. That particular CPU is a 1.8GHz dual core/four thread part with 3MB cache, and Intel HD 4000 graphics (there is no Turbo Boost functionality). Not bad for a small form factor PC!

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Image credit: PC Pro.

The boards will have two SO-DIMM slots for RAM, an mSATA port for an SSD, and a mini-PCIe slot for a Wi-FI card. Intel is making two versions of the NUC motherboard that will differ only in IO. One motherboard will have 3 USB 2.0 ports, 1 HDMI output, and 1 Thunderbolt port. The other board will have 3 USB 2.0 ports, 2 HDMI outputs, and one Gigabit Ethernet jack. Intel believes that the Thunderbolt-equipped model will be more popular with consumers while the Gigabit-Ethernet and dual HDMI model will be used more by businesses.

Intel is reportedly sourcing several chassis designs for its custom form factor motherboard (there are at least two cases at present), and you will be able to build out a barebones system with one of the custom cases, integrated heatsink, and power supply. Additionally, when spec'ed out with the Intel i3-3217U CPU, 4GB of RAM, Wi-Fi card, and a 40GB Intel SSD, the company expects the entire NUC computer to cost around $399 in the US. The parts will be available for purchase in October, according to Engadget.

Hopefully, we will see OEMs take this form factor and make something cool with it. It's not clear which specific OEMs will be first to bring pre-built systems to market but they should be coming in the future.

Personally, I’m a big fan of small form factor computers, and despite the odd “NUC” name I’m excited to see where Intel takes this platform. If you were looking for a small but powerful computer to drive your next project, it might be worth keeping an eye on the NUC. What do you think of this sub $400, approximately 5” (with case) PC?

Read more about SFF and HTPC components at PC Perspective.

Source: Engadget

Biostar Launches Mini-ITX A68I-350 Deluxe Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | September 10, 2012 - 06:29 AM |
Tagged: mini-itx, htpc, fusion, biostar, APU, amd, a68i-350 deluxe, a68

While Intel has gotten a lot of Mini-ITX love lately, AMD is not out of the game yet. Motherboard manufacturer Biostar recently launched an AMD Fusion APU powered Mini-ITX motherboard that would make for a nice little HTPC. The A68I-350 Deluxe is based around some of the latest technologies including support for DDR3, PCI-E 3.0, and USB 3.0 standards.

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The A68I-350 Deluxe motherboard measures 17 cm x 17 cm and comes with a bundled dual core AMD Fusion 350D APU. A heatsink and passive cooling for the south bridge are also provided in the package. The graphics card, memory, storage and other accessories are up to you, however. The Mini-ITX board features two DDR3 DIMM slots that support a maximum of 16 GB. Located in the lower right-hand corner are three SATA 3 6Gbps ports. Below that is a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot for a graphics card or other peripheral. Additional internal IO includes:

  • 1 x printer header
  • 2 x USB 2.0 header
  • 1 X front panel audio
  • 1 X front panel header (hdd, power, reset, ect)
  • 1 x S/PDIF-OUT header
  • 1 x CPU fan header
  • 1 x system fan header
  • 1 x serial header

According to Biostar, the motherboard also uses all solid capacitors to improve longevity.

Rear IO on the board is not quite as extensive as some of the other offerings available, but is still fairly good for the price. It features two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, one HDMI out, one VGA output, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, one Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8111F Gigabit controller), and three audio output jacks (Realtek ALC662 6-channel HD audio).

Biostar A68I-350 Deluxe (1).jpg

The AMD APU that comes with the A68I-350 Deluxe features Radeon 6310 graphics, which are not the fastest but will still provide plenty of oomph for watching videos on the big screen. While it has not yet shown up at online retailers like Amazon and Newegg yet, it is reportedly already shipping and will have an MSRP of € 66 (euros) or approximately $84 USD. Considering the Intel options that have recently surfaced are going for $100+ easily, this Biostar motherboard should provide a nice budget option for your next HTPC or small form factor PC build!

You can find more information on the A68I-350 Deluxe over at the Biostar website.

Read more about Mini-ITX motherboards at PC Perspective.

Source: Biostar

Arctic's stylish new Trinity powered HTPC

Subject: Systems | August 31, 2012 - 11:56 AM |
Tagged: trinity, SFF, htpc, Arctic MC101, amd, a10-4600m

There is a lot to like about the Arctic MC101 HTPC, from the brushed aluminium exterior to the Trinity based quad core A10-4600M and HD7660M graphics core that comes with the A10.  Bjorn3D thought it was rather strange that the system ships without a remote control but thankfully it does have an IR sensor so a Windows Media Centre type remote will work perfectly.  Connectivity is quite good, USB 3.0, combo USB 2.0/eSATA port, a headphone jack and a 4-in-1 memory card reader, along the front and sides.  The back panel has even more, TV antenna, an audio out port, a line-in jack, SPDIF audio out, 4 USB 2.0 ports, two more USB 3.0 ports, HDMI-out and an ethernet port.  At ~$750 it will set you back a bit to purchase and after reading Bjorn3D's review you may be willing to spend it.

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"Arctic’s latest home entertainment system user an AMD A10-4600M APU, bringing a powerful combination of CPU and GPU in a tiny little box. Packed with WiFi, TV Tuner, 8GB RAM, and 1TB of storage, the MC101 brings us plenty of power for our media needs and is also able to deliver decent gaming performance."

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Systems

Source: Bjorn3D

EVGA Mini ITX Z77 Motherboard In the Works

Subject: Motherboards | August 29, 2012 - 11:45 AM |
Tagged: Z77, mini-itx, htpc, evga

There is something alluring about packing high-end motherboard hardware into a mini-ITX form factor, and it looks as though EVGA will be joining the small form factor game with its first Z77 mini-ITX board. German enthusiast site OCaholic managed to get its hands on the board for a short preivew, and with dimensions of 17 cm x 17 cm, the motherboard packs a ton of overclockable hardware into an attractive design. 

The Z77 motherboard features an Intel LGA 1155 socket that can accept either Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge processors in the i3, i5, and i7 flavors. To the left of the CPU socket is an 8-phase power phase with International Rectifier IR3550M MOSFETS. There is also an additional power phase dedicated to getting clean power to the memory. To the right of the CPU socket are two DDR3 memory slots capable of supporting a maximum of 32GB of RAM.

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The top right corner of the mini-ITX motherboard features red power and reset buttons as well as an LED display capable of displaying error codes should you push the board too far and it fails to post. The EVGA motherboard features a UEFI BIOS from which you can overclock or reset the board to defaults that should be similar to the company’s current offering.

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Along the bottom of the Z77 motherboard is a PCI-E 3.0 X16 slot for adding a graphics card. Directly above the PCI-E 3.0 slot (from left to right) is a USB 3.0 header, mSATA connector, southbridge, and four SATA ports. Two are SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports (Intel RAID 0, 1, 4, 0+1), and the other two are SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports that support Intel RAID 0, 1, 5, 0+1, and JBOD. While it should not be a problem for most users, the SATA ports and RAM slot are packed in really close to the PCI-E slot, so if you are using a graphics card that utilizes a large heatsink, you will probably want to avoid this board. Unfortunately, that’s just one of the compromises necessary to get a motherboard this small though. At least the SATA ports are above the PCI-E 3.0 slot and not to the right of it (like some boards are set up).

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Rear IO on the EVGA Z77 mini-ITX motherboard is pretty impressive for a board of this size. You get two USB 2.0 ports, Bluetooth, a small clear CMOS button to reset the BIOS to defaults, four USB 3.0 ports, 1 mini DisplayPort (or possibly Thunderbolt) port, two eSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports, 1 HDMI port, 1 Gigabit LAN port, five audio output jacks courtesy of a Realtek ALC898 8-channel controller, and one optical audio output (S/PDIF).

Unfortunately, there is no word yet on price or availability. Talk around the internet seems to suggest a release date sometime in September and price above $150, but as always you should take those numbers with at least a few grains of salt. Even so, this is an interesting motherboard, and I’m always glad to see more competition in the small form factor and mini-ITX hardware space.

The EVGA board has now joined the Gigabyte GA-H77N WIFI and the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe in the Z77 Mini ITX game. Here’s hoping the increased competition can bring prices down so I can get to building a nice Mini-ITX powered HTPC like the one Ryan built with an AMD APU (and desktop Trinity’s launch date seems to be getting further away rather than closer).

You can find more photos of the EVGA Mini-ITX motherboard over at OCaholic, and as always PC Perspective has you covered on mini-ITX motherboard news. Stay tuned for more details on this EVGA board as we get them!

Read more about mini-ITX motherboards.

Source: OCaholic

Put your HTPC to work

Subject: Systems | August 9, 2012 - 12:17 PM |
Tagged: htpc, amd, nvidia, cyberlink, arcsoft, transcoding, Intel

If you have built yourself an HTPC then you have also built yourself a machine which is relatively good at transcoding video if you get the right software.  Not only can you watch movies, you can edit or manipulate your own movies.  The Tech Report delves into the current state of both hardware and software transcoding tools in their recent article.  They check out the performance of Cyberlink's MediaEspresso, ArcSoft MediaConverter and Handbrake on an Intel based system using the native GPU on the chip as well as tossing in AMD and NVIDIA GPUs to see how it changes the performance.

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"The market is rife with hardware video transcoders and software that can take advantage of them. However, making sense of that jungle of disparate offerings can be tough. We've tried to make sense of it all, comparing the latest transcoding logic from AMD, Nvidia, and Intel in three major video conversion applications."

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Systems

ZOTAC announces ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M

Subject: Systems | August 8, 2012 - 11:43 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox id84, SFF, htpc, gt 520M, atom d2550

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Two new ZOTAC ZBOXes were announced today, both with an Atom D2550 and an NVIDIA GT 520M 512MB inside.  The ID84 Plus ships with memory and a hard drive already installed, the non-Plus version is at a lower cost as you must provide your own DDR3 and 2.5" drive, either hard or solid depending on your preference.

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As you can see below, the reason that ZOTAC specifies VESA compliant mounting holes is so that you can attach your ZBOX directly to the back of a monitor.  With the right OS you can get support for a touchscreen, making your own all in one PC with very little in the way of wiring or peripherals.  For external storage and other devices, you will be glad to know that there are a pair of USB 3.0 ports to allow you to quickly move large files back and forth between the ZBOX and your external storage solution.

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No word on pricing

HONG KONG – Aug. 8, 2012 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and channel manufacturer of graphics cards, mainboards and mini-PCs, today delivers a new ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics processing. The new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics incorporates class-leading features and stunning visuals to form a perfect home theater PC.

“We’re pleased to inject the power of NVIDIA GeForce graphics to our award-winning ZOTAC ZBOX for users that demand energy-efficiency with a graphics kick,” said Carsten Berger, marketing director, ZOTAC International. “The new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics delivers phenomenal high-definition video playback capabilities to make it the perfect home theater PC as well.”

The new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics is available as a barebones or with memory and hard drive preinstalled. Operating systems such as Windows 7 (x86 and x64) and OpenELEC are fully compatible with the new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics to transform the system into an everyday casual use PC or outstanding home theater PC capable of high-definition video playback.

It’s time to play with the new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics.
General details

  • ZOTAC Delivers New ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M Graphics Processing
  • ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M
  • Intel Atom™ D2550 (1.86 GHz, dual-core)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M w/512MB DDR3
  • DVI & HDMI outputs
  • ZOTAC ZBOX ID84 Plus
    • 2GB DDR3
    • 320GB 5400RPM HDD
  • ZOTAC ZBOX nano ID84
    • 2 x 204-pin DDR3-1066 SO-DIMM slot
    • Support 2.5-inch SATA HDD
  • 2 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports
  • 4 x High-Speed USB 2.0 ports (2 on back panel, 1 on front, 1 on top)
  • Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi & Bluetooth 3.0 technologies
  • Bundled MCE-compatible remote w/ USB IR receiver
  • Bundled VESA75/100 mount
  • Bundled MCE-compatible remote w/ USB IR receiver

Source: ZOTAC