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

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2011 - 05:09 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 - 04:31 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 - 02:12 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 - 10:17 AM |
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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HTPC

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

Subject: Systems | August 16, 2011 - 04:02 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."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

HTPC

Zotac has zee box for SFF fans

Subject: Systems | August 11, 2011 - 08:47 AM |
Tagged: htpc, zotac, zbox, SFF

For those looking for a new nettop, the ZBOX HD-AD02 Plus is a new choice on the market. At a mere 7.4" x 7.4" x 1.7", it is easily hidden in any surroundings and with a list of connections including analog and optical audio out, HDMI, DVI, two USB 2.0 ports, ethernet, and most importantly two USB 3.0 and a single eSATA port.  With a 250GB HDD installed, that means you can have access to high speed external storage.  The system uses an AMD E-350 which means that not only will you be able to play HD video without worry you will be able to get some light gaming in as well.  Head on over to ThinkComputers to see the new ZBOX in action.

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"All-in-One PC’s have been getting quite popular over the past few years. When Intel released the Atom processor we really saw All-in-One PC’s become affordable. One of the most popular All-in-One series of PC’s is Zotac’s ZBOX. These really appealed to the SFF (Small Form Factor) and HTPC (Home Theater PC) crowd. Now Zotac is bringing AMD’s Fusion E-350 APU in to the ZBOX’s series. Today we will be taking a look at the ZBOX HD-AD02 Plus that packs the E-350 1.6GHz APU as well as integrated Radeon HD 6310 graphics, 2GB of DDR3, 250GB hard drive and WiFi. Let's take a look and see if it is the perfect SFF system for you!"

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Systems

ASRock's small unassuming HTPC hides real power

Subject: Systems | August 2, 2011 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: asrock, CoreHT-252B, htpc

Inside the 195mm (7.6") x 70mm (2.8") x 186mm (7.2")  ASRock CoreHT-252B HTPC you will find a Core i5 2520m, 8GB DDR3-1333, a Lite-ON Blu-ray combodrive and a 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Black HDD.  Pretty much all that you would need to run a proper HTPC and in a form that will look fine sitting under a TV.  For input and output you have S/PDIF, mic-in, headphone-out, HDMI 4.1a and VGA as well as 2 USB 3.0, 4 USB 2.0 and an eSATA3 port for data transfer if you don't want to use the wired or wireless NICs.  They sell it without an OS, which can be welcome for those wanting to build a MythTV or other non-Windows MCE HTPC and Overclockers Club were also glad of the upgrade options that this HTPC offers.  Head to their full review here.
 

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"If, on the other hand, you want an HTPC that can also act as a desktop replacement, look no further. There's adequate power for rendering of all sorts and the included RAM ought to cover most non-professional needs, but, if more is required, the board does support 8GB. Storage can be upgraded to include another 2.5" storage drive, and the included WD Scorpio Black could easily be replaced with an SSD. If more power is needed, the board will support the Core i7 2720m for more processing power (two more cores and threads!). A Blu-ray drive and wireless 802.11n wireless are included as standard."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

HTPC

Western Digital offers a great way to store and stream your media

Subject: Systems | July 25, 2011 - 11:28 AM |
Tagged: htpc, western digital

The Western Digital TV Live Hub is a 1TB external HDD with some extra tricks up its plastic sleeve.  It's outputs include ethernet, USB 2.0, HDMI, Composite A/V, Component video and optical out, with support for an even wider variety of audio and video codecs but not for some premium services like iTunes and Amazon.  Think Computers loved the onscreen interface controlled by the remote as well as the fact that it comes with a 1TB HDD so that you don't have to spend more money to get the full functionality of the media device, they would have loved to see some video cables included as well.

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“For most people their TV is the center of entertainment in the living room. You watch cable television on it, you play your video game consoles on it and you watch DVD and Blu-ray movies on it. We all know there are devices for that, but what about all of the media you have on your PC? All the videos you have taken, shows you have downloaded and even the photos you have. No one wants to sit around a small computer screen and watch these. This is where the Western Digital TV Live Hub comes in. It is a HD media player that supports pretty much any file type and has a 1TB hard drive for all of your media. Let’s take a look an see what Western Digital has brought to the table in the HD media player market!"

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

HTPC

Can you go with wireless HDMI over USB 2.0 with VStream?

Subject: Systems | July 13, 2011 - 09:55 AM |
Tagged: wireless, htpc, hdmi

At its heart the VStream WPCTV1080H is comprised of an L-shaped USB 2.0 dongle for your PC and a second dongle which plugs into the base station which also has a  power cord and HDMI plug.  This setup, along with a 2.4GHz dual core processor, is intended to transmit up to a 1080p signal wirelessly from the computer with the dongle to the base station and on to your TV.  The Tech Report gave the $120 VStream a try and found that the bandwidth available over USB 2.0 caused some problems, ranging from dropped frames and colour banding when watching movies to nasty aliasing on 2D application, especially when they tried using it to connect to a 24 " monitor and used it to browse the web.  Lets hope there is a USB 3.0 version in the works, or even a wireless DisplayPort model.

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"This $120 adapter promises to output 1080p video wirelessly via nothing more than a USB dongle. Does it fulfill its promise, and is it worth the money?"

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Step into the HTPC arena to witness the battle for iGPU dominance

Subject: Systems | July 5, 2011 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: htpc, llano, sandybridge; a3850; i3 2100, amd, Intel, APU

In one corner is the $140 AMD A8-3850 and in the other is the $135 Intel Core i3-2100T, with matching motherboards both about $100.  We have seen how the new Llano chips stack up in computation and gaming but their use in HTPC systems is also important and requires different benchmarks.  Bjorn3D takes a look at the two chips ability to properly render Blu-ray at the proper 23.976 fps naturally as well as taking advantage of Direct X Video Acceleration.  Take a look to see how AMD's new APU can handle a role as an HTPC.

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"In addition to being a capable mainstream APU, the Llano and the new Lynx platform have the potential to be a perfect match for a more capable HTPC system. In this article we are taking a look at the HTPC capabilities of the A3850 and a Gigabyte A75 motherboard, and contrasting it to a comparable Intel system with a Core i3-2100T and an ASRock H67 motherboard."

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Systems

Source: Bjorn3D