Gaming on your Couch
Sometimes really unique products come across our door step and we just love to tell our readers about things that might normally fall outside the PC hardware field. The COUCHMASTER, essentially a piece of furniture made for gaming, is one of those items.
The COUCHMASTER, produced by a German company called Nerdytec, is a device built to help gamers use a mouse and keyboard while sitting on a couch and gaming in large screen environments. It has a pair of foam-stuffed side block that hold up a wood-constructed center panel that puts your mouse and keyboard at a comfortable angle.
Cable routing is made simple with Velcro removable panels under the keyboard and mouse and some versions of COUCHMASTER include a 4-port USB hub for connecting input devices, audio headsets, etc. The only that didn't work in our testing were external hard drives - just not enough power coming from the USB 3.0 connection through the include extension cable.
I played the entirety of Bioshock Infinite with the COUCHMASTER, and other than getting some odd looks from my wife, couldn't think of a more impressive and comfortable way to play PC games from a distance and without a standard desk setup.
I would love to see some changes like the addition of recessed drink holders on the sides, but otherwise, the only drawback to Nerdytec's COUCHMASTER is the price; it starts at $170 or so USD.
Check out the full video review posted below!!
UPDATE: The CouchMaster is now for sale in the US now!
Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2013 - 07:08 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: piixl, PC, Media Center, htpc, edgecenter
London-based startup PiixL recently launched a new media center PC called the EdgeCenter that attaches to the back of your television via VESA mount to turn any TV into a so-called smart TV. The PC comes in one of three configurations with (Media, Gamer, and Max) Windows 8 and increasing levels of hardware performance. The aluminum EdgeCenter chassis will attach to most TVs larger than 32-inches and can extend to bring the optical drive and other front IO ports to the edge of your TV for easy access. The EdgeCenter reportedly offers a quiet cooling system capable of dissipating 500W in a chassis that is (up to) 54mm thick. Users can use traditional mouse, keyboard, or remote to control it, or they can use gesture-based controls from up to 5 meters away.
The Media Edition offers up an AMD A10 5700 APU with HD7660D graphics, 1TB of mechanical storage, and 4GB of RAM. The Gamer Edition steps things up a notch with an Intel Core i5 3550 processor, an AMD 7870 2GB graphics card, 2TB of mechanical storage, and 8GB of RAM. Finally, the Max Edition features an Intel Core i7 3770 CPU, a NVIDIA GTX 680 4GB graphics card, 2TB HDD, 20GB SLC SSD (Intel SRT), and 16GB of RAM. Not bad at all for a PC that sits behind the TV. Having a PC mounted via VESA mount is not a new concept, but the EdgeCenter looks to pack the most horsepower an OEM has managed to cram into such a PC.
All three models support Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, Blu Ray playback, optical and analog audio output, and an SD card slot for getting your media onto the device. The Media Edition EdgeCenter has VGA, HDMI, and DVI vidio outputs, while the Gamer edition has DVI, HDMI, and two mini-DisplayPort outputs. Finally, the Max Edition EdgeCenter PC has one DisplayPort, one DVI, and one HDMI port. It is definitely an interesting design with plenty of computing horsepower for gaming and media center needs. PiixL has fitted each model with an 80+ Gold power supply and has stated that the PCs are designed with 24/7 operation in mind.
The PiixL EdgeCenter is available for purchase now, but the performance will cost you a lot more money than your typical media center PC. The Media Edition, Gamer Edition, and Max Edition PCs start at £720.28, £1,116.76, and £1,513.25 respectively. For US customers that works out to about $1,085.97, $1,683.74, and $2,281.45. And that’s the bad news, it offers some impressive hardware, but is fairly expensive. Hopefully, if the EdgeCenter does well, we will see cheaper versions stateside at some point.
Subject: Systems | March 15, 2013 - 08:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, PIVOS, XIOS DS Media Play, android 4.0, xmbc
The XIOS DS Media Play is an Android 4.0 device powered by a Cortex-A9 and Mali-400 graphics, capable of streaming local and online media content including HTML5 and Flash to a TV. Not quite a full HTPC in some ways but certainly more than a cable box at only 4" square and 0.6" tall it can be hidden in plain sight. Overclockers Club tried out the functionality of both the native OS and the XBMC as well as using a variety of apps from the Google Play store, all with great success. For a mere $110 they feel it is a great value; check out the full review for a longer list of compatible media and tricks you can do with local storage.
"The XIOS DS Media Play looks sleek and has a very small footprint but packs some interesting features. The Android OS will bring new life to your TV and the thousands available apps in the Google Play Store translate into an impressive potential of fun, productivity, and entertainment. The box provides a great experience as is but PIVOS went the extra mile and collaborated with the XBMC Media Center development team to bring the software with hardware decoding to the Android OS. Add the connectivity capabilities of the unit and we have a serious threat to those fancy HTPC systems at a mere asking price of $115. Built around the ARM CORTEX-A9 CPU and a MALI-400 MP GPU, the XIOS DS Media Play has what it takes to satisfy the needs of the majority of media lovers."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Sapphire EDGE VS8 @ techPowerUp
- Sapphire Mini Edge HD4 review: mini Celeron PC
- Western Digital WD TV Play Media Player Review @ Legit Reviews
- HDPLEX H5.TODD Fanless HTPC Case @ SPCR
- Antec ISK 110 VESA Case @ Kitguru
- Rosewill Ultra-Slim "RedMere" HDMI Cables Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- How To Update The Firmware Of Your Astro Byond Decoder @ TechARP
Subject: Systems | March 4, 2013 - 09:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SFF, htpc, zotac, zbox ad06 plus, E2-1800
Zotac's ZBOX AD06 plus puts some graphical zip into a tiny package using an AMD E2-1800 1.7GHz and 2GB MHz DDR3-1333 with 320GB of local storage on a 5400RPM HDD. They've included a VESA mount so it is quite possible to attach this device to the back of a display and control most functions with the included remote control. Heat should not be an issue, when displaying 1080P clips it only pulls 16.8W, 27.7W when under full loads such as transcoding. The benchmark results that TechPowerUp saw might not measure up to a full desktop system but they are certainly at the top of the pile when it comes to similar systems. You can expect to pay just under $300 for the full system when it becomes available, or about $200 without RAM or HDD if you happen to have some handy.
"The Zotac ZBOX AD06 utilizes the newest generation of AMD APUs, while the Plus model comes fully configured with a 320 GB hard drive and pre-installed memory."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Zotac ZBOX ID83 Plus Mini PC Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Gateway SX2380-UR318 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Sapphire EDGE VS8 Barebones Model @ Kitguru
- High-End Meets Small Form Factor: GeForce Titan in Falcon Northwest's Tiki @ AnandTech
- iBuyPower Revolt System Review: Closing the Boutique and Opening the Store @ AnandTech
- PCSpecialist Vanquish Z11 @ Kitguru
- Building a DIY All-in-One PC with GIGABYTE's H77TN Thin Mini-ITX @ Tweaktown
- Apple Mac mini (2012) @ Hardware.info
Subject: Systems | February 12, 2013 - 07:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, Hauppauge, HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition
Now that capturing PC gaming is so easy to do, through either software or hardware, game walkthroughs and trick videos are commonplace on YouTube but the console gamers have not had that ability until recently. XSReviews recently took a look at the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition which is a device that sits on an HDMI connection between your console or PC and your display and is capable of either passing through or recording a 1080p signal. Unfortunately their testing did not go smoothly and even after updating the software they had issues recording or even playing at 1080p, however at 720p the device worked as advertised. If you are needing to record at full resolution you might want to wait for another patch as you might run into some of the same issues.
"On PC, it’s pretty easy to record footage of your games. Whether you’re using streaming software like XSplit or recording directly to your hard drive with Fraps, getting your gameplay out there is fairly well understood.
For consoles, it’s much harder – with a locked down environment devoid of third party applications, you can’t just download a program off the ‘net and start recording. Instead, you’ll need some physical hardware to do the job.
Enter the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition. This small cuboid is designed to make recording and even streaming your gameplay incredibly simple – just hook up a few wires and, if the back of the box is to be believed, you’ll be away.
In this review, we’ll put that to the test as we enter the exciting world of console recording and streaming!"
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Dune HD TV-303D Universal FullHD Network Media Player Review @ NikKTech
- Sapphire EDGE HD4 Mini PC @ Kitguru
- Antennas Direct ClearStream Micron-R HDTV High Gain Indoor Antenna Review @ ModSynergy
- Fractal Design Node 605 HTPC Chassis @ Tweaktown
- Cubitek Mini Cube ITX Case Review @ Pro-Clockers
- Silverstonetek Grandia GD07 HTPC Enclosure @ Metku.net
- Netgear NeoTV MAX HD Streaming Player Review @ Legit Reviews
Subject: Systems | February 6, 2013 - 03:55 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbmc 12, SFF, openelec 3.0, htpc, arctic
Arctic has released a small form factor PC that comes pre-installed with the recently-released XBMC 12 media center software. The Arctic MC001-XBMC is available in the United States and Europe. It measures 161 x 40 x 266mm with the PC attached to the stand. The MC001-XBMC comes in black or white and should fit easily into your AV rack.
The HTPC can be used to playback a variety of music and video file formats and can also be used as a network attached storage (NAS) device. On the software side of things, it comes pre-loaded with XBMC 12 “Frodo” and Openelec 3.0. It can act as a media center and television PVR.
The HTPC is powered by a dual core Intel Atom D525 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, 2GB DDR3 1333MHz system memory, and a 1TB laptop hard drive (5400 RPM). Networking is handled by a Gigabit Ethernet controller and a 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi radio.
The front of the system includes an IR receiver, two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks (headphone/mic), and a card reader. The back of the MC001-XBMC features the following IO options.
- 6 x analog audio jacks
- 1 x S/PDIF optical audio output
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
- 5 x USB 2.0
- 1 x DVB-T connector for the ATSC tuner
- 1 x DC power jack (19V, 60W)
The XBMC 12 UI is a Windows Media Center alternative, and while setting up TV recording features requires additional software and is more difficult to setup it is otherwise a decent media center experience. Users can control the HTPC using the included infrared remote or via apps on Android or iOS smartphones.
The MC001-XBMC comes with a two year warranty and has an MSRP of $229 US or EUR 199. It is no speed demon by any means, but the SFF system is plenty of hardware to playback up to 1080p video files.
Subject: Motherboards | February 3, 2013 - 10:09 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: trinity, mini-itx, htpc, asrock, APU, amd, A85X
Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer ASRock has shown off a new mini-ITX motherboard aimed at home theater PC (HTPC) users called the FM2A85X-ITX. The new motherboard uses AMD’s A85X chipset and supports the company’s latest Trinity accelerated processing units (APUs).
The FM2A85X-ITX motherboard features an AMD FM2 socket surrounded by two DDR3 DIMM slots (max of 32GB 1866MHz RAM), a PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, and seven SATA 6Gbps ports. A six phase VRM, two USB 3.0 headers, 8 channel audio chip, and RAID 0/1/10 support round out the package.
External IO on the mini-ITX motherboard includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 1 x eSATA 6Gbps
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF
- 5 x Analog audio jacks
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x VGA
According to Tech Power Up, the new motherboard will cost around $110 USD. Thanks to the form factor, APU support, and multitude of storage connectivity options, the board would make for an excellent addition to a HTPC build!
Read about other mini-ITX motherboard options at PC Perspective!
Subject: Systems | January 23, 2013 - 10:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, ceton, my media center, win8, Metro
Ceton's My Media Center is a replacement interface for Windows Media Center's UI, allowing you to control functions on a device separate from the display which is connected to your WMC. That means that any device running the Metro interface of Win8, which is any flavour of Win8, can be set up to connect to your HTPC and allow you to control WMC even if you are out of the house and it won't interfere with anyone who happens to be using it at the time. The Companion software is loaded onto both the HTPC and the secondary device and with a little configuration, which Missing Remote details here, you will be in full control of WMC from anywhere.
"Earlier today a new Windows 8 "Metro" version of Ceton's suite of applications for managing Windows Media Center joined the existing lineup of Andriod, Windows Phone and iOS companion apps priced at $4.99. As part of this effort they were rebranded from "Ceton Companion Apps" to "My Media Center". All the great functionality for browsing recordings, managing series and scheduling, and browsing the guide is still there, but this time Windows 8 tablet and desktop "Metro" users can also join the party. We had a chance to take an early spin through the updated UI, let's dig in."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- ASRock VisionX 321B Ivy Bridge HTPC @ Tweaktown
- Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case @ Kitguru
- Sony Vegas Pro 12: A Quick Look at a New Standard in Video Editing @ Legit Reviews
- AVerMedia RECentral Live Gamer HD Capture Card @ eTeknix
- Sling Media Slingbox 500 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Asus O!Play Mini Plus Smart TV Set-Top Box Review @ eTeknix
Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 10, 2013 - 02:09 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: htpc, HDPLEX, h5.todd, h3.todd, fanless
Custom case manufacture HDPLEX recently introduces two new fanless cases with the H3.TODD and H5.TODD. Both cases support mini-ITX motherboards and would blend well into your home AV rack. The fanless chassis are constructed of 6063T aluminum and come in powder coated black or brushed aluminum silver. The H3.TODD and H5.TODD are cases that also double as CPU heatsinks by way of copper heatpipes that carry heat away from the processor into the aluminum case. Both can support processors up to 75W TPDs without requiring fans.
Both the H3.TODD and H5.TODD are compatible with LGA 775, 1155, and 1156 Intel processors and AMD AM2, AM3, FM1, and FM2 chips. Further, the cases come with a single USB 3.0 port on the front. HDPLEX will also include a power supply and IR reciever with the cases for an additional fee.
The H3.TODD measures 325 x 298 x 60mm and weighs 12.5 lbs (5.5 kg). The case supports mini-ITX motherboards, 3.5” hard drives, and 12.7mm optical drives.
On the other hand, the H5.TODD is a wider case that can support both Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX form factor motherboards as well as a single full height PCI-E expansion card. The case measures 325 x 438 x 60mm and is a total of 16 lbs (7.5kg) by itself.
The H3.TODD is available for pre-order now for $248 while the H5.TODD is currently in stock for $275. Pre-orders for the H3.TODD should being shipping on January 25, 2013.
You can find more photos of the cases on the HDPLEX website.
Subject: Systems | January 10, 2013 - 07:06 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: CES, nuc, next unit of computing, Intel, htpc, haswell, core i5, celeron 847, ces 2013
Intel released its first Next Unit of Computing system last year, and it seems that the 4 x 4-inch computer was enough of a success that Intel is ready to introduce new models. The Tech Report managed to talk to Intel on the CES show floor, and the x86 chip-maker is planning as many as three new models for release later this year.
Intel is reportedly planning a cheaper model as well as two higher-performance models. The former is a NUC system that switches out the current-generation’s Core i3-3217U processor for a cheaper Celeron 847 chip. While the Core i3-3217U is a dual core part with HyperThreading clocked at 1.8GHz. It is a 22nm, 17W part with 3MB of cache. On the other hand, the Intel Celeron 847 CPU that will allegedly be at the heart of the next NUC is an older 32nm chip with two physical cores, no HyperThreading, 2MB of cache, and a clockspeed of 1.1GHz. It does retain the same 17W TDP, but it is an older and slower part (and cheaper as a result).
This new NUC is said to be available for around $220 with a Thunderbolt port or $190 without Thunderbolt. That makes it as much as $100 cheaper than the current-generation NUC that we reviewed in December 2012.
In addition to the Celeron-powered model, Intel is also ramping up the performance with a Core-i5 powered NUC due in April 2013. There is no word on pricing but it should be available for purchase sometime in April 2013. It will have USB 3.0, triple monitor, and vPro support. The article in question was not clear on whether the Core i5 NUC will keep the Thunderbolt port in addition to USB 3.0 or if it will simply be swapped out. One concern I have is heat as the Core i5 chip will be faster and run hotter than the Core i3-3217U. With the current generation NUC, there were issues of heat that caused the system to hard lock during large file transfers over the network. Granted that particular issue is thought to be caused from heat generated by the NIC and SSD heat causing a component to overheat, but any new/additional heat (like that of a faster CPU) in the same NUC form factor may be problematic. Here’s hoping that Intel has found a way to resolve the overheating issue with the new 2013 models.
Finally, Intel is reportedly also planning to release a Haswell-powered processor in Q4 of this year. IT seems that Intel is preparing a trifecta of NUCs aimed at lower cost, higher performance, and higher efficiency (Haswell) respectively.
Are you excited about the Next Unit of Computing form factor?
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!