Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Puget Systems

Looking at the Exterior

Introduction

We have had some really good experiences with Puget Systems pre-built PCs in the past and a little while ago, the company sent us a modestly priced HTPC based on the Serenity line of systems.  Based on the Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge platform, the Serenity has a lot of customizations that help keep the computer quiet that are unique. 

With a cost hovering around $1800 though, does the Serenity offer enough to consumers?

The Serenity Home Theater PC

The Puget Systems Serenity line actually spans small form factor chassis, HTPC designs and even standard desktop ATX designs, one of which we have previously reviewed.  Today we are going to be showing you the HTPC form factor that could fit in your home theater furniture (if you have some hefty space available).  Let's look quickly at the specifications before we dive into the design.

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Click to Enlarge

  • Intel Core i5-2500K
  • ASUS H67 Motherboard
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 Memory
  • 120GB Intel 320 SSD
  • 1.5TB Western Digital Caviar Green HDD
  • ASUS 12x Blu-Ray Burner
  • Windows 7 Home Premium x64

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Continue reading our review of the Puget Systems Serenity HTPC!!

Cryo PC proves there is still a market for pre-built HTPC systems

Subject: Systems | October 31, 2011 - 12:13 PM |
Tagged: htpc, cryo pc

Cryo PC offers a nice alternative for those who want a multi-functional HTPC system without having to build it themselves.  The Alto offers some nice features, a Core-i3 2100T on a GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3 with 4GB of DDR3-1600 and a GT430 give a fairly typical base for an HTPC; it is the 40GB Corsair F40 SSD which makes things a little more interesting.  You get a full terabyte of storage from the platter drive, so the dual TV tuners will have plenty of space to write to.  In part 1 of their review XSReviews examines the physical system and several benchmarks while in part 2 they see what gaming performance you can expect.

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"Media PCs and media centres are becoming more and more common, especially with people losing a little faith in their stalwart desktop system. Today I’m looking at a rig from Cryo PC that looks to bridge the gap between traditional desktop and media centre, offering decent performance in a lounge setting, with some media features thrown in for good measure. I give you the Alto.

Because testing a system can take quite a while, this review is being split into two parts. This first one will focus on raw performance and synthetic testing, while Part 2 will be more gaming and subjective in nature. Shame about the price though."

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Source: XSReviews

Western Digital has gone far beyond external drives; WD TV Live: The Next Generation

Subject: Systems | October 14, 2011 - 12:07 PM |
Tagged: western digital, WD TV Live, htpc

The HTPC market has grown from a niche filled mostly by custom built machines running Windows Media Centre Edition to a wide variety of devices that can only manage simple tasks like streaming media to multifunctional SFF PCs.  Western Digital has has their WD TV Live on the market for a while now, capable of streaming online content to a TV as well as local HD content.  They've introduced a second generation of the WD TV Live, with expanded streaming options as well as a sleeker body and wireless connectivity.  Head over to Legit Reviews to see how well Western Digital's new generation of stream machine.

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"Today, Western Digital is launching their new WD TV Live Streaming Media Player. The first thing you notice with this new generation is that Western Digital has changed the form factor rather dramatically making the new player more sleek than the original WD TV. Along with the form factor chance, Western Digital has integrated Wi-Fi directly into the box. With the built in wireless-N, you no longer have to worry about getting a compatible dongle or placing the player near access to an Ethernet cable..."

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The ASUS WAVI means you can wave goodbye to wires

Subject: Systems | September 27, 2011 - 05:17 PM |
Tagged: htpc, wireless hdmi, wireless video

The ASUS WAVI is wireless HDMI extender kit that will allow you to stream audio and video from the transmitter to receiver as though there was an HDMI cord between the two devices.   Legit Reviews had fun testing it out, the latency when you are within range is low enough that you can game over this device.  However they could not get their USB mouse and keyboard to work though the device which does limit the usefulness in some cases.  If you get too far away you will lose some fidelity, but as long as you are in range this is a great way to avoid wires running all over your living room.

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"ASUS has launched and released what they are calling the world’s first wireless HDMI extender kit. What this is designed to do is take an existing audio video signal from your PC computer, and play on your HDMI-powered big-screen TV… Wirelessly. The Wireless Audio Video Interaction system – or WAVI – is designed not only to play your audio video content remotely, but via a two-way wireless USB, the WAVI will allow you to sit in your living room and control your PC as you pick the best video to show the family..."

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Have you met the CableCARD yet?

Subject: Systems | September 9, 2011 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: htpc, cablecard

One of the HTPC builders best friends is the CableCARD, something that was supposed to be available a long time ago and is finally hitting the market.  It is a replacement or addition to the set top box or cable box that subscribers to cable TV are familiar with and once you install it and register a CableCARD with your cable provider it will receive the proper signal from them and allow you to view your cable channels.  Some CARDSs now support multiple streams, allowing you to record a program while watching a different one or recording multiple streams simultaneously.  Missing Remote breaks down the current market, describing the features and limitations of the various models available today as well as offering guidance on setting up your CableCARD.

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"At a higher level, the technology was developed to protect consumers from being forced into having to rent set top boxes (STB) at increasing fees from cable companies (or MSOs) without an alternative. From a home theater PC (HTPC) perspective, it meant the ability to natively tune high definition programming from a cable provider (previously the options were only analog cable, or digital over the air broadcasts)."

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ASRock Vision 3D HTPC With Sandy Bridge CPU Leaks to Web

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2011 - 08:09 PM |
Tagged: sandybridge, Intel, htpc, asrock

ASRock, a company most well known for its motherboards, has built a sleek little HTPC (home theater PC) whose specifications recently leaked to the web. Powered by a choice of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge Core i3, i5, or i7 processors, and a discrete Nvidia GT540M graphics card with 1 GB RAM the small black or silver chassis has enough power to deliver 2D or 3D video with ease. Further, the computer features a Blu-ray drive, the aforementioned Nvidia 3D Vision technology, a media center remoter, and a media card reader.

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Connectivity includes headphone and microphone inputs, two USB 3.0 ports, SD card reader, and power button on the front. The rear of the HTPC contains a host of connectivity options including a power jack, S/PDIF, 7.1 channel analog audio jacks, Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports, DVI, E-SATA, HDMI 1.4a, and four USB 2.0 ports. Air ventilation slots and a Kensington lock slot.

Needless to say, this little PC is loaded with options, and would even be capable of some light gaming in addition to its role as a movie and multimedia playback device. The aesthetics are pretty good as well. Do you have a dedicated HTPC box in your entertainment center or do you use extender devices like the Xbox 360 to play your media on the TV?  You can see more photos and details on the HTPC over at Engadget.

Source: Engadget

Windows Media Center Confirmed For Windows 8

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2011 - 07:31 PM |
Tagged: Media Center, htpc, microsoft, windows 8

There are quite a few aspects of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system that are still an unknown; however, a recent MSDN blog confirmed quite a few bits of software that will make the cut into the final version of the operating system. One piece of software in particular that will definitely be included in Windows 8 is Windows Media Center. Steven Sinofsky stated “I want to reassure customers that Media Center will definitely be part of Windows 8. No doubt about it.”

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While the good news lies in Media Center’s inclusion in the new operating system, the announcement comes with two bits of bad news. Firstly, they are not able to release details about the Media Center application itself, so there are no details on any new features or speed increases. Further, Media Center will not be included in most of the pre-release builds of the operating system. While Microsoft reports that the beta testers of the application are pleased with it, the majority of consumers and enthusiasts will have to wait until the operating system gets closer to RTM (release to manufacturing) before getting a look at the application.

Microsoft further stated that the Media Center application will be included in the “premium” SKUs of the operating system, assuming the upcoming OS will imitate its predecessor’s multiple SKU strategy. More information on upcoming Windows 8 features can be found on the MSDN blog.

What are your thoughts on Media Center? Is it an application that you find useful, and if so what features would you most like to see improved upon? Personally, I use the Media Center extender functionality quite a bit to watch videos on the living room TV, and I would love to have Microsoft implement some performance increases to speed up the often pokey interface (which admittedly might be partly attributable to the Xbox 360’s hardware).

Source: Microsoft

Zotac Releases New ZBOX Nano AD10 Series Mini PCs

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2011 - 05:12 PM |
Tagged: zotac, htpc, brazos, APU

Zotac has made a name for itself in the small form factor sector of the computer market. Their ZBOX computers are designed to use little power but have enough horsepower to drive smooth HD video playback. The new ZBOX nano AD10 series is a new line in the Zotac family that shares the media-centric traits of its predecessors. The Nano AD10 series PCs are some of the smallest the company has released, and shrinks the ZBOX form factor while packing in new home theater PC features.

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Inside the tiny frame measuring 127mm x 127mm x 45mm, is a 1.8 GHz dual core AMD Brazos E-350 APU, DDR3 SO-DIMM slot, and space for a 2.5” SATA 3 (6Gbps) hard drive. Connectivity options include Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort, two USB 2.0, and two USB 3.0 ports. Further, the ZBOX computer features a built in IR (infra-red) receiver and media center remote in addition to an eSATA port and a 6-in-1 media card reader. On the audio front, the media center PC supports on-board analog stereo and 7.1 channel digital audio (LPCM and Bitstream via HDMI).

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There are currently two models in the AD10 series, the AD10 and the AD10 Plus. The AD10 model allows for a bit more user customization by leaving it up to the user to add their own RAM and hard drive of choice to the mini PC. The AD10 Plus on the other hand, is the same as the AD10 except for the fact that it includes a 2 GB DDR3 SO-DIMM and a 320 GB 5400 RPM hard drive. Both models come with the media center remote, USB IR receiver (in addition to the built in receiver), and VESA mount.

Media center PCs are getting smaller every day, and the new Nano AD10 series from Zotac is no different. Thanks to the APU (especially the GPU), and hardware accelerated video decoding, it will deliver plenty of horsepower for all your home theater PC needs. Unfortunately, there was no word on MSRP or availability at the time of publication. Stay tuned for an update.

Source: Zotac

Hauppauge's new inexpensive external dual TV tuner

Subject: Systems | August 25, 2011 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: htpc, cable card, tv tuner, external tv tuner, dual tv tuner, Hauppauge, WinTV-DCR-2650

The Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 is an external box which has two seperate TV tuners which connects to your PC over USB.  With a CableCARD you will be able to connect directly to your cable hook up, and ClearQAM can be received without one as Missing Remote proved in their preview.  At only $149 it even sounds a better deal than many of the PVR devices cable companies hawk to their subscribers.  Keep an eye out for them to finish the review once their CableCARD arrives.

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"Getting our hands on a new product is always exciting so we thought we would share it with you! We've been anxiously awaiting the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 ever since we first saw the prototype of the CableCARD product at CES. If you haven't heard by now, the WinTV-DCR-2650 is a dual-cable tuner that connects to a PC via USB--a great option for small form factors or a situation where there's no free PCIe slot available. It also happens to be the most inexpensive way to gain access to the entire subscription package from a cable provider on a PC with a retail price of $149. Enough about what it is, let's take a look at it after the break!"

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When small is better, Wesena's ITX2 Mini-ITX HTPC Chassis

Subject: Systems | August 16, 2011 - 07:02 PM |
Tagged: Wesena, ITX2 Mini-ITX, SFF, htpc

The Wesena ITX2 Mini-ITX chassis is only 197x197×75mm (7.8"x7.8"x3") and is bundled with a small Media Center remote but no power supply, unfortunately.  Missing Remote loved the brushed aluminium look and were very impressed with the compact interior, there is no wasted space at all.  That does make things a little toasty inside during the burn in test using a Core i3-540, so be warned that a lower power chip is a good idea and makes sense for a machine that will strictly be used as an HTPC.  Take a look at the full review.

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"The quest for the perfect and smallest home theater PC (HTPC) is one that has gained momentum over the last few years. We have seen the proliferation of these small form factor (SFF) Mini-ITX cases first hand in our reviews of the Habey EMC-600B and another offering from Wesena, the ITX7 chassis. The Wesena ITX2 is essentially the little brother of the ITX7, sharing many similarities to it but in an even smaller enclosure. As with any device there are compromises made when making something small even smaller, but do the benefits along with the lower cost make the ITX2 the best option."

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