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October 7, 2015


Acer Aspire X1200 PC is cheap, tiny, and could be your next HTPC

by Brad Linder, posted Jul 8th 2008 6:31PM
Acer Aspire X1200
Who says home theater PCs have to be expensive? Sometimes all you need is a PC that's small enough to look good next to your TV, cable box, and video game console, and powerful enough to handle HD video. It looks like the Acer Aspire X1200 might just fit the bill. And this tiny (10.6" x 4" x 14.4") computer has a starting price of just $450.

The low end model is available today and packs an AMD Athlon X2 dual core CPU, NVIDIA GeForce 8200 graphics, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, a 16x DVD burner, a 14-in-1 card reader, and Windows Vista Home Premium. For a few bucks more you can get a faster CPU.

Or if you're willing to wait until July 13th you can get a $700 model with a 500GB hard drive and a 22-inch "widescreen LCD display." There's no word on what the resolution for that display will be, but $700 is a pretty decent price for a home theater PC packing Windows Media Center functionality as well as the bundled CyberLnk PowerDVD and Arcade Live software. Of course, you'll need to pony up some cash for a TV tuner if you want to watch or record live TV.

[via Engadget]

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Sony VGX-TP1 media center PC line gets an update

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 25th 2008 10:28AM
Sony has launched 2 new two new versions of its circular home theater PC. Both the Sony VGX-TP1D and the VGX-TP1DQ sport 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo CPUs, 2GB of RAM, GeForce 8400M GT graphics, WiFi, and HDMI and VGA outputs. They also pack 4 USB ports, Firewire, media card readers, TV tuners, and a wireless keyboard.

But while the TP1D comes in white and packs a 320GB hard drive, the TP1DQ comes in black, has a 500GB hard drive, and a Blu-Ray burner (the cheaper model comes with a dual-layer DVD burner).

Both machines are due out in Japan in a few weeks, with the TP1D selling for the equivalent of about $1400, while the TP1DQ will set you back about $1850.

[via Engadget]

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Lian-Li Tyr X2000 HTPC case is a towering choice

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 24th 2008 4:53PM
Lian-Li Tyr X2000Most home theater PC cases aim to make a computer look as much like a DVD player as possible. They typically lay on their sides like an old-school PC or a VCR and they hide most of the inputs and outputs on the back so that you don't get distracted by too many lights and other doohickeys when you're looking at your TV.

The Lian-Li Tyr X2000 computer case certainly hides away all the nasty bits on the back of the unit. But unlike its peers, the X2000 is a horizontal, tower case. It's still pretty sexy looking, but it's probably not going to fit on the any shelf on your TV stand.

The case has plenty of room for the media center components of your dreams though. You can slap in up to six SATA hard drives, and there's space for 8 PCI cards. Throw in a couple of dual-tuner cards, a zippy little CPU and a ton of storage and RAM and you could theoretically build a little monster capable of recording up to 16 TV shows at once. You know, if you can find 16 things worth watching during the summer.

[via Engadget]

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Cannon PC shows off media center with 6 CableCARDs

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 20th 2008 11:57AM
Cannon PCThink your TiVo HD is pretty hot stuff because it can record 2 shows at once? Cannon PC, makers of high end media center computers recently demonstrated a system that's cable of recording 6 HDTV programs simultaneously using 6 CableCARDs.

As you can tell from the screengrab, Cannon PC isn't ready to sell a consumer model with 6 CableCARDs just yet. But the company wanted to show that it is possible. Windows Vista Media Center only includes native support for 2 CableCARDs, so the trick isn't just designing a system with a huge hard drive, massive amounts of RAM, and space in the box for 6 tuners. The company also had to adjust the software to allow additional CableCARDs.

You can see the results yourself in a YouTube video posted by Cannon PC.

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Hauppauge HD-PVR begins shipping

by Brad Linder, posted May 29th 2008 4:57PM
Hauppauge HD-PVRHauppauge has begun shipping the HD-PVR. This little box is the first consumer level device capable of capturing HDTV from an analog source and performing real-time H.264 compression. What that means is you can hook the $249 box up to your digital cable, satellite, or other set top box and record high definition TV shows on your PC without the need for a pricy CableCARD.

The quality might not be as high as the video quality you'll get from an ATSC, ClearQAM, or CableCard tuner. But the HD-PVR is extremely versatile since it works with a variety of devices. It includes S-Video and composite and component inputs. So if your video device supports any of those standards, you're all set.

The box can handle 1080i and 720p resolutions. Several major media center applications for Windows already support the HD-PVR, including BeyondTV, SageTV and GB-PVR. Windows Vista Media Center support is coming, and MythTV developers are working on adding support to the open source Linux media center application.

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Cannon PC announces media center packed with 4 CableCARD tuners

by Brad Linder, posted May 29th 2008 1:59PM
Cannon PC
Back in the day before everybody wanted these newfangled digital cable, satellite, and OTA HDTV tuners, you could easily cram 4 or 5 standard definition TV tuners in any old PC and record half a dozen TV shows at once. Now you can relive all that excitement, with an uber-expensive home theater PC capable of recording up to 4 digital cable programs at once.

Cannon PC has announced the availability of systems with dual CableCARDs. And the companly plans to release quad CableCARD systems soon. CableCARDs let you watch digital cable television without a set top box.

There are three models in Cannon PC's Pro AV series, the LX, EX, and RX series. All three have a Blu-Ray DVD drive, a 28-in-1 card readers, gold plated audio connectors, and USB and Firewire ports. The EX model gets a 12 inch HD touchscreen and up to 6GB of storage space, while the RX unit is a rack mount system.

Prices range from $4000 to $6500, and that's without the quad CableCard option. So if you've got your heart set on one of these puppies, you might want to start saving. And then keep saving.

[via Engadget]

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Okoro OMS-ZX100 comes with solid state memory, high price tag

by Brad Linder, posted Mar 31st 2008 1:55PM
OMS-ZX100While solid state memory is all the rage in laptops these days, it's not something you see in media center computers very often. That's because while solid state disks are usually faster and more durable than old fashioned hard disks, they're much more expensive. Like, you can pick up a half terabyte hard drive for cheaper than a 32GB SSD.

But Okoro Media Systems' latest PC gives you the best of both worlds, with a 32GB SSD for the operating system and other important files, and a 1TB HDD for storing music, videos, and all your other media goodies. The OMS-ZX100 also packs a 3GHz quad core processor, 3GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT video card with HDMI output, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD playback, and Windows Vista Ultimate. You can also get the case painted in "any automotive color," which is a nice perk that doesn't quite make up for the fact that this sucker will set you back more than a used car. Prices start at $5995.

[via Engadget]

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HTPC makers add Blu-Ray ripping/management software

by Brad Linder, posted Mar 14th 2008 2:01PM
Niveus Movie Gallery
High end home theater PC makers Niveus and VidaBox are treading into shady waters by adding features that either enable or compliment ripping HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs. Now, in theory there's nothing wrong with using software that can rip video from a disc, if it's a disc you own the rights to, like say your wedding video. But generally speaking, renting a movie from NetFlix and then ripping it is a no no.

But that hasn't stopped VidaBox from adding the option to rip high definition movies to its media center computers. The software won't play encrypted video streams, but if you've got third party software that can rip encrypted movies, VidaBox's software will let you watch your videos.

Niveus is taking a different approach, by developing a new media management program that will let users watch any video saved on their computer, whether that video is a recorded TV show or a ripped DVD or Blu-Ray disc. Because the Niveus Movie Gallery doesn't inlcude any ripping software, Niveus reps are confident they won't run into any legal troubles.

Niveus's software also has a nifty feature that displays ripped high definition movies when you're using your main computer but hides them from view when you're using a Media extender device. That makes a lot of sense, since ripped high definition videos will tend to be huge files that might not play very well over a network connection. The Movie Gallery application also has a recommendation engine that will show similar titles you might want to watch. Niveus plans to release a beta version of the application in a few weeks.

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Omaura unveils high concept HTPC case

by Brad Linder, posted Dec 12th 2007 9:02AM
Omaura concept HTPC caseLooking for a special case to house your home theater PC's hard drive, motherboard, video card, CPU, and TV tuners? High-end HTPC case maker Omaura is showing off a design concept for one of the strangest (and most attractive) media center PC cases we've seen in a while.

As you can see in the top image, the case looks more like a speaker or TV base than a computer case. You could easily place this case in front of your TV cart or under your wall-mounted HDTV and odds are nobody would even know what it was.

But when you open the case you can see that not only does it house all of your HTPC components, but it makes upgrading your PC a snap. The unfolding case gives you far more room to maneuver when you're trying to slap a new PCI card or RAM DIMM onto the motherboard.

It's not clear whether this particular HTPC will ever see the light of day, or what kind of price tag it would carry. But it's nice to drool dream, isn't it?

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Media Portal team announces plans for Media Portal II

by Brad Linder, posted Nov 16th 2007 6:58PM
Media PortalThe folks behind open source media center application Media Portal are preparing to launch the first public alpha of Media Portal II.

The goal is to make the application more open and customizable. In other words, it will be easier for developers to design plugins and it should be simpler for end users to download and install skins, plugins, and other add-ons. The basic system will be pretty minimal, with most of the functionality provided through those add-ons.

Another goal is to add an auto-update feature that will make it easier to keep your system up to date.

Because Media Portal II is still in its infancy, the team will continue to support the original Media Portal application for now.

[via Missing Remote]

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SE2 Labs preparing to ship the $20,000 ITC One home theater system

by Brad Linder, posted Nov 7th 2007 5:30PM

A few months back we caught wind of a new $20,000 home theater system in a box from startup SE2 Labs. Yesterday we got to take a look at it. And well, it's a $20,000 home theater system in a box.

Believe it or not, some of the cheapest components in the ITC One are things like a Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and HD-DVD drive. The serious high end stuff in here are the bits you never notice until you listen to your friends' crappy stereo system. SE2 Labs president Michael Pyle points out that the ITC One includes a video scaler that normally sells for $6500, a surround sound processor that goes for $6,000 and amplifiers that cost $5,000.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Pyle says you'd spend closer to $60,000 if you bought all of the components in the ITC One separately. The company keeps the price down by buying just the circuit boards, not the finished products. And the advantage of buying an ITC one is that everything is designed to work together from the home automation system to the video game consoles.

The company plans to ship the ITC One within a month, and will show an updated version at CES with wireless HDMI and wireless powered speakers.

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Cram a media center PC into an old school sterero

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 12th 2007 9:00AM
HTPC case mod
The thing about computer parts is you can put them in pretty much anything these days. Well, if you know what you're doing. Otherwise you're liable to fry a few circuit boards here and there.

But one industrious hardware hacker decided that he liked the look of his old school stereo system enough to keep it around, even though he had a plans to use slightly more high tech components in his media center setup. So he crammed an Athlon XP 2500+ processor, 2 250 GB hard drives, 1GB of RAM, a DVD burner, and a dual tuner TV card in there. Oh yeah, and to top it off he fit a BenQ 15-inch monitor and some USB ports in the top.

The whole thing powers a video projector and a set of bookshelf speakers. The analog clock display on the front of the unit shows the current time, songs playing, and weather conditions.

[via Gizmodo]

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Sony drops VAIO VGX-XL3 media center

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 1st 2007 3:00PM
Sony VAIO XL3Sony appears to be killing is VAIO VGX-XL3 media center after less than half a year on the market. First announced in January, the XL3 has only been available since April.

There's no word on why Sony is pulling the product, but we're guessing it probably has something to do with low sales. Still, the XL3 was the only Sony media center PC that packed integrated CableCard support.

We doubt Sony is pulling out of the home theater PC market altogether, but it is possible we could see the company focus its efforts more heavily on the PS3 than standalone PC boxes. While the Playstation3 bears a high price tag for a video game console, it's significantly cheaper than the $3300 XL3, and you might already have one in the living room. Sony plans to launch a TV tuner attachment for the PS3 soon, and it might be reasonable to expect a CableCard add-on at some point down the road, which could turn the PS3 into a full-fledged HD PVR with built-in Blu-Ray support.

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Moneaul announces $5000 media center on a stick

by Brad Linder, posted Sep 8th 2007 5:00PM
Moneaul I*magineHigh end home theater PC makers Moneaul have answered that age old question "why can't I mount my HTPC on a stick" with the awkwardly named I*magine PC.

Moneaul are the same folks who brought us the first $1 million jewel-encrusted media center PC, and more recently a sub-$1000 "silent" machine.

The I*magine falls in between with a nice set of specs and an odd design that works vertically or horizontally. If you like your PCs vertical, you can also mount the I*magine on a pole since it likely won't fit in your media center.

The PC packs a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 256MB ATI 2400 PRO graphics card, 2GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI, 5.1 channel audio, and a speaker on each end. There's also a built in flash card reader and a microphone for voice commands. Is it worth the $5000 asking price? Probably not. But we're pretty sure you'll be the only one on your block to stick a PC on a pole if you buy one. And how can you put a value on that?

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Harmon Kardon shows off ridiculously powerful media center

by Brad Linder, posted Sep 4th 2007 5:01PM
Think your home theater PC is pretty cool because you can record two high definition shows at the same time? Harmon Kardon is displaying an HTPC at IFA that can handle 8 simultaneous HD recordings.

Gizmodo managed to get a few details and snap a few pictures of hte DVC600, but we've got more questions than answers at the moment. Here's what we know. It will support Blu-Ray playback, sport custom Unix-based software, and cost between 3,000 and 4,000 Euros (or about $4,000 to $5500 US).

What we don't know is if the DVC600 will be available in the US, or what kind of high definition inputs it supports. Are you going to need to line up a series of HDTV antennas if this puppy ever hits the US, or will there be CableCard support?

We're probably putting the cart in front of the horse here though. Odds are this dreamy machine will only be available to Europeans with cash burning a hole in their pockets.

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