HTPC Hardware

Jan 08 2013

News - TigerDirect.com and Intel Build Your Own PC for Charity @ CES

TigetDirect.com and Intel are hosting a build your own PC for charity and our own Andrew Van Til has been selected to compete in the journalist race. He is racing for the charity of his children’s school. Here is hoping he wins. There has been regional competitions all around the country and some of the contestants have built computers as fast as 6:30 minutes. You can view the entire completion on www.charitypcrace.com. They are tasked with assembling Intel CPU Based Systems from the ground up. Let cheer on Andrew.

Click Through to Check out the full Press Release

 

Nov 27 2012

News - Intel NUC Reviewed, Thermal Issue Identified

Intel's Next Unit of Computing (NUC) shot to the top of many HTPC enthusiasts' Santa lists when Intel finally revealed the final specs and prices earlier this month. The NUC will be available in two versions, the Thunderbolt-equipped DC3217BY and the DCDC3217IYE, which forgoes the Thunderbolt port in favor of a Gigabit Ethernet port. Our friends at TechReport recently got to take the DC3217BY for a spin and seemed to come away generally pleased with the experience. Certainly it looks like the NUC will have more than enough SFF horsepower to serve as a capable HTPC so long as internal storage capacity is not a major concern.

The Cliff's Notes version is simple: Intel should have called this an Ultrabox, in an obvious play on the Ultrabook name. The guts of the NUC are essentially the same as an Ultrabook's, right down to the 17W dual-core Ivy Bridge processor. This CPU, with the incredibly catchy name Core i3-3217U, has four threads via Hyper-Threading and runs at 1.8GHz, with 3MB of L3 cache. It's not exactly a screamer by desktop standards, but it's vastly more capable than your average Intel Atom or AMD Brazos CPU. 

TechReport

Hot NUCUnfortuantely, the NUC was not without its issues. In particular, the TechReport reviewer, Scott Wasson, noticed issues with the system buckling under the load of large file transfers across a network, with the transfer slowing to a stop and taking the rest of system down with it. In his review, Scott posited some theories about what was occurring, and after reaching out to Intel, posted a follow-up confirming that the issue was a result of thermal issues surrounding the placement of the wirless NIC and the SSD. Intel is reportedly working on a fix and is currently confident that the issue only affects the DC3217BY and not the DCDC3217IYE. With the NUC release imminent, it will be interesting to see how Intel fixes the issue.

In our recent review of Intel's "Next Unit of Computing" barebones box, we explained a snafu we encountered with large network file transfers causing the system to lock up. At the time, we were working with Intel on resolving the problem and suspected it was confined to our particular review unit. After further testing, we have a clearer sense of the nature of the problem, and potential NUC buyers should read carefully from here.

TechReport

Oct 07 2012

News - Intel Aims for the Media Server Market with New Atom-Based Storage Platform

Intel Atom Storage Platform

I know only one other person who has a home server and a fleeting few more who have a NAS device in their homes, but all of these people do so specifically to accomodate the increasingly massive amounts of media that they not only want to store, but pipe around the house. Intel thinks there is a growing market here and has taken the wraps off a new storage platform built around the Atom D2550 and D2500. The goal is not only to bring low-power x86 processing to the SMB NAS market, but to push the NAS as a media player for the consumer market. Intel is specifically playing up the new platform's HDMI output and 1080p video playback, and the first offerings from Thecus, Asustor, and QNAP also include unique features to tap into the platform's multimedia capabilities. I have never been able to decide which is nerdier, running an HTPC or running a NAS, but Intel seems bent on finding the nerd nexus that brings these together in one package.

Figures published by Gartner predict a sevenfold leap in the average household’s storage requirements in the next few years – from 464 GB in 2011 to 3.3 TB in 2016. Responding to the challenge, the chip giant’s latest storage push seeks to take NAS devices out of the closet and into the lounge, courtesy of improved hardware acceleration for multimedia, 1080p video playback and that direct connection to the TV.

We Got Served

--Press Release After the Break--

Oct 03 2012

News - Logitech Harmony Touch Announced (Officially)

Hey look, everybody! Logitech has announced a new Harmony remote control. That's right, the Logitech Harmony Touch that Best Buy started selling over the weekend now officially exists. While it is certainly nice of Logitech to acknowledge the existence of the new remote control, there was not much to announce that we hadn't already learned from the box that ashoemaker took a picture of. The Harmony Touch is a fairly traditional candy bar remote dominated by a 2.4 inch color touchscreen that supports taps and swipes. The touchscreen can be used to control activites as well as provide direct access to up to 50 specific channels, complete with channel numbers and customizable channel icons. The placement of the transport controls above the touchscreen, near the front end of the remote control will probably be a sticking point for anyone not interested in Logitech's vision of controlling the home theater from a touchscreen, though. The Harmony Touch will sell for $249, comes with a charging dock, and supports up to 15 devices via IR.

 Logitech Harmony Touch

One interesting note from the Logitech blog suggests that the MyHarmony.com website where users register and setup their remotes has been changed to allow users to swap out an old remote for a new remote. Given how inflexible the MyHarmony.com account system has been in the past, even this small change will be welcome for long-time Harmony users, though I suspect that MyHarmony.com still does not allow for more than one Harmony remote to be registered per account at one time.

It features a simple, streamlined design and a touch-screen that lets you smoothly swipe and tap your way to your favorite entertainment options, including one-touch activities such as “Watch TV” and “Listen to Music.” Channel icons and numbers for your favorite networks are automatically provided based on your location and TV service provider, and you can add, remove and organize your favorites right on the remote.

Logitech Blog

--Press Release After the Break--

Oct 03 2012

News - Ceton Echo Slightly Delayed, Release of the Ceton Q on Indefinite Hold

Hot on the heels of sharing fantastic news about the Ceton Companion App extending its reach to the Nook, comes some less welcome news. Ceton has shared some updates on the Ceton Q and the Ceton Echo. Unfortunately, the Ceton Echo has been delayed a little bit. The beta units will not be shipped this week as the alpha testing has gone on a bit longer than anticipated, but the company is still confident that they will make the holiday shopping season.

Ceton Q on Hold

If only that was the worst news the company had to share. Plans to release the Ceton Q have been placed on hold. Ceton had planned for the Q to run on Windows Embedded and was using Windows Embedded 7 for the demo units at CES this year, but because Microsoft is refusing to confirm one way or another if Windows Media Center will be included in Windows Embedded 8, Ceton has made the decision that the best course of action is to pull back from launching the Q this year.

Do note that I have not mentioned anything about the Q being cancelled. Ceton is holding out the possibility that the Q might still come in 2013 in some form, but the company has decided that they are better served being open and transparent with where things are going for the company right now, a example I wish more companies would follow. Hopefully this simply proves to be a temporary setback, or perhaps even an opportunity for Ceton to take the Q in some new, unexpected, and undoubtedly awesome direction.

What we have decided is that the Ceton Q as previewed at CES will not launch this year as we planned 10 months ago.  It’s possible the Q will launch in 2013, either as initially envisioned or perhaps re-envisioned, but we can’t guarantee that at this point.  We know there is a ton of interest in the Q and that this news will be disappointing to a lot of you but we think it’s important to be upfront about where things stand.

Ceton

Oct 01 2012

News - Cooler Master Elite 120 Reviewed

There was a veritable flood of intriguing Mini-ITX cases released this summer, including the Cooler Master Elite 120. Cooler Master took a somewhat conservative apporach with the Elite 120, offering up a fairly conventional shoebox-style case that didn't rock the boat by eliminating the 5.25" bay or limiting internal bays to 2.5" drives. The result is a largish, jack-of-all-trades Mini-ITX case. It may not scream HTPC, but part of the beauty of Cooler Master's approach is that the Elite 120 will fit into any role. Use it in your home theater stack this year and then pass it off to the kid's room next year. The Cooler Master Elite 120 might not quite offer the cooling capacity that Cooler Master was hoping for, but with a flexible design and some aggressive pricing, the Elite 120 might just fit the bill for the right setup. 

Coolermaster Elite 120

The Elite 120 Advanced is about as far from the Cosmos II as you can get and still be considered a "computer case". Since it's designed to use a standard ATX power supply and has a full-sized 5.25" bay, some might argue that it's on the large end of the mini-ITX case spectrum, and while they'd be right, it's still pretty tiny in absolute terms.

Benchmark Reviews

Sep 30 2012

News - AMD Trinity for the HTPC Previewed

AMD A10AMD's latest processors, the desktop version of their Trinity processors, will be released next month, but the company recently decided to allow the press to offer up "previews" of certain aspects of the new chips' performance ahead of the lifting of the official embargo in October. The move has been met with some controversy as the previews may not offer a complete picture of Trinity's performance, but for anyone interested in gaining some insight to how Trinity might work out for HTPCs, our friends at Anandtech have put together an HTPC-specific evaluation of the forthcoming AMD A10-5800K. Running at 3.8GHz and packing an integrated Radeon HD 7660D GPU, the A10-5800K and its 100W TDP are probably overkill as far as most HTPC enthusiasts are concerned, so some questions will remain unanswered, but it is a start. Feature-wise, it sounds like Trinity has all of the pieces it needs to be competitive with Intel in at least this one specific market segment, though its hard not to be a bit disappointed that the 7660D GPU lacks some of the more forward-looking video playback capabilities of its discrete siblings. If the 65W Trinity processors can be as competitive and offer a more reasonable power envelope, then Trinity might be set to offer a compelling alternative to Ivy Bridge for HTPCs.

AMD provided us with an A10-5800K APU along with the Asus F2 A85-M Pro motherboard for our test drive. Purists might balk at the idea of an overclockable 100W TDP processor being used in tests intended to analyze the HTPC capabilities. However, the A10-5800K comes with the AMD Radeon HD 7660D, the highest end GPU in the Trinity lineup. Using this as the review platform gives readers an understanding of the maximum HTPC capabilities of the Trinity lineup. 

Anandtech

Sep 30 2012

News - Unannounced Logitech Harmony Touch Pops Up at Best Buy

Logitech HarmonyLogitech Harmony remotes are perennial favorites around these parts. Their programmability makes them an ideal solution in a home theater with an array of equipment, and their emphasis on activity-based usage can go a long way toward making a home theater easier to use, an especially important consideration for those of us with friends and family who may not share our geeky patience. It has been awhile since Logitech released a new higher-end remote control, but it sounds like that is about to change. Evidently AVS Forums member, ashoemaker, was cruising his/her local Best Buy and stumbled across an unexpected treat in the form of the Logitech Harmony Touch, an unannounced and previously unheard-of new Harmony remote control. Although ashoemaker posted some pictures of the box on the Best Buy shelf, there is not a whole lot to go on at this point spec-wise, but it appears that the remote comes with a charging dock and gets its name from the finger swipe-supporting touch screen that appears to dominate the upper half of the remote. If ashoemaker is correct on the $249 price tag, then the Harmony Touch looks set to settle into the Harmony lineup between the Harmony One Advanced and the Harmony 900.

A new Logitech Harmony remote control, the Harmony Remote Touch is now available for sale at retail. According to a post on the AVS Forum, the new remote control, was seen at Best Buy this morning. With a candy bar form factor and a touch screen in the middle, it appears to be a cross between the current Harmony One and the Harmony 1100 Advanced Universal remote (the one with the 3.5″ touchscreen).

Tech of the Hub

 

Sep 18 2012

News - Lian LI PC-Q16 Mini-ITX Case Reviews

Lian Li PC-Q16

Lian Li has built a reputation for quality and design with their aluminum cases over the years and the company has consistently been one of the biggest supporters of the Mini-ITX format. The Lian Li PC-Q16 is one of their cube-style Mini-ITX cases. To help trim a bit off the case's girth, the PC-Q16 forgoes an ODD slot of any sort, but still manages to leave room for a 3.5" HDD and three 2.5" HDDs. The Q16 is definitely intended to be a looker with its brushed alumimnum and clean front face, Some folks will probably be dissappointed that there is no option for adding a flash reader and the lack of internal Blu-Ray options, but there are USB 3.0 ports to help make up for it. The PC-Q16 is definitely a tighter squeeze internally than some of the other Mini-ITX cases grabbing headlines over the last few months, but it looks like there might be a fair trade of function for form in this particualr case.

Companies have been making computers and cases that will blend in with other home theatre items such as a reciever or DVD player. Lian Li is no exception and have put out quite a few great looking HTPC cases for MATX and ITX sized motherboards. They were kind enough to send the PC-Q16 case for us to review.

Funky Kit

Sep 15 2012

News - BitFenix Prodigy Reviewed

The BitFenix Prodigy Mini-ITX case has been out for a few months already, and though that might be a lifetime in tech time, the reviews keep coming. This time it's the white version on the table, and although there is no fuctional difference between the white and black versions, it's still refreshing to get such a thorough visual tour of the surprising sharp-looking white variant. White would be a bit too conspicuous for my tastes, but if you like that old-school Mac look, I suspect the white Prodigy won't disappoint. Plus, the black version seems to have become as rare as hen's teeth online lately. Hopefully this is a sign that BitFenix has struck a chord with consumers, and not just reviewers and custom builders on Ebay.

BitFenix Prodigy White

With the Prodigy, BitFenix has a compact, mini ITX compatible case in their portfolio, which is perfectly suitable to build a small but yet powerful system. Furhtermore this nice looking little case should also offer plenty of space in the interior.

ocaholic

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