Reviews

Jan 06 2012

Review - SilverStone Grandia GD06 HTPC Chassis

Silverstone Technology was founded in 2003 and has been building cases specifically for the home theater PC (HTPC) market since almost the very beginning. Today, Silverstone produces HTPC cases across four different lines, including the “mainstream” Grandia line. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the most recent addition to the Grandia lineup, the GD06. With room for a micro-atx motherboard, a full-size graphics card, and up to 5 hard drives, the Grandia GD06 is intended to be flexible enough to house a standard HTPC, a gaming PC, or even a media server.
 
SilverStone Grandia GD06


SPECIFICATIONS

Construction TypeDesktop HTPC Chassis
Chassis MaterialAluminum front door, plastic front panel, 0.8mm SECC body
Dimensions (WxHxD)440mm x 150mm x 340mm
Weight5.6 kg
ColorBlack
Motherboard CompatibilityMicro-ATZ, DTX, Mini-ITX
Cooling SystemRight: 2 x 120mm intake fans @ 1200rpm
Left: 1 x 120mm intake fan @ 1200rpm
Rear: 2 x 80mm fans (optional) 
Expansion4 x full-height slots
1 x full-height side slot for riser cards and other applications 
Drive BaysExternal:
1 x 5.25"

Internal:
4 x 3.5" and 1 x 2.5"
or
3 x 3.5" and 2 x 2.5"
Power SupplySupports ATX PSUs with a maximum depth of 150mm
CPU CoolerSupports CPU coolers up to 70mm with ODD
Supports CPU coolers up to 120mm without ODD 

 

TEST SYSTEM

Dec 26 2011

Review - Streacom FC5 Silent HTPC Chassis


The quest for the silent home theater computer (HTPC) is one that almost all enthusiasts have faced and either given up or achieved at some point in their life. The quest for the perfectly silent computer has gone in circles from acoustic dampening the case, to spinning down processor fans, to even using slower hard drives because the decreased speed caused less noise. We’ve come a long way since then, with more capable CPUs with lower thermal demands, CPU heatsink and fans (HSF) becoming significantly quieter and the growth of affordable solid state drives. Streacom has developed a series of chassis with this particular type of consumer in mind--one that fits appropriately in your AV component stack without it sacrificing acoustic levels. The Streacom FC5 hopes to achieve the goal of a silent HTPC with the usage of heat pipe cooling for the CPU instead of an actively cooled option.
Dec 20 2011

Review - Fractal Designs Arc Midi Mid Tower Case

We are continuing our reviews of Fractal Design cases today with their Arc Midi mid tower desktop case.  We have previously reviewed the Core 3000, Define Mini, Array R2, and Define XL.  Like the other Fractal Design cases, the Arc Midi features a sleek, minimalist design, but it stands out as a versatile case that would work equally well for gaming, HTPC, as a media server, or a combination of all three.  It can work as an HTPC but with more built in storage than the R2 and Define Mini.  It has 2 fewer HDD bays than the XL, but won’t cost near as much (~$50 less) if you are looking for a great server option, and although the Core 3000 is the closest in design and price, the Arc Midi is slightly larger (8 HDD bays as opposed to 6, more fans, etc.) and has a USB 3.0 port that the Core 3000 lacks.


SPECIFICATIONS
Dec 19 2011

Review - Aperion Audio Intimus 4T Tower Speaker

Aperion AudioCreating the right audio environment is a critical part of enabling an immersive home theater experience, but is often neglected either due to ignorance or the erroneous assumption that good sound is unattainably expensive.  The process of finding the right speakers is made even more difficult with few shops providing an adequate listening environment, let alone one with options in an affordable price range.  Speaker manufacturer Aperion Audio has a solution for these issues, offering their 150 watt, $550/pair Intimus 4T tower alongside a no-risk thirty day trial with shipping covered both ways, so they can be tested in the actual environment where they will see use. 

Dec 01 2011

Review - Peel Universal Smart Remote for iPhone and Android

We recently reviewed the Griffin Beacon Universal Remote device, which leverages the capabilities of an iPhone to be used to control your television and stereo components. Peel is a lesser known brand hoping to achieve similar success with their Peel Smart Remote device. Enclosed in a uniquely pear shaped unit and powered by a single C battery, the Peel shares many similarities to its Griffin counterpart -  except for its higher $99 suggested retail price. We will examine the details included with this higher MSRP to see which is worth your money.

Nov 29 2011

Review - Monsoon Vulkano Flow

The idea of being able to take your content wherever you go is one that has taken off since the launch of Slingbox--which supports connecting your set top box to their specific device, and then being able to control and stream that signal to your computer (or phone or Boxee Box) from anywhere in the world. Monsoon Multimedia is aiming to provide some competition to that space with their introduction of the Vulkano line of products which offers the same core functionality of watching your TV from any location, along with some more advanced features. The Vulkano Flow is Monsoon Multimedia’s base-line offering, which provides the same specifications as the others except with less storage.
Monsoon Vulkano Flow

Nov 08 2011

Review - Acer Revo RL100-U20P Home Theater PC

RL100

Many home theater PC (HTPC) enthusiasts dream of a system that is as slim as other consumer electronic devices such as a dedicated Blu-ray player. It is also an expensive and difficult proposition for most; thus, when Acer introduced its newest Revo 100, many took notice. Not only is the Revo 100 only one inch high, it also has a unique slide-out keyboard/touchpad clearly designed as an input device for the ten-foot experience. With a sub-$600 retail price, the Acer Revo 100 which packs an AMD K325 CPU and NVIDIA ION GPU certainly deserves a closer look.

Nov 06 2011

Review - Dune HD Smart H1 Media Streamer

Dune LogoConnected media streamers, like the pair from Roku and NETGEAR that we reviewed recently, focus on providing access to IP content but generally cannot handle local media well enough (if at all) to be a viable unifying solution.  Until we have enough bandwidth, and services able to deliver quality audio/video services over the Internet, those devices act as a supplement to players like the Dune HD Smart H1 that we will look at today.  Locally cached content includes a diverse set of file types and formats, so H1’s support for disc-less Blu-ray, M2TS, MKV, and all of the codecs commonly found within is an essential starting point.

Oct 31 2011

Review - Griffin Beacon Universal Remote for iPhone

The idea of universal remotes is nothing new, as is the idea of interactive smartphones. What has only been done sparingly, and mainly with home theater PC (HTPC) focused consumers in mind, has been the leveraging of your smartphone with your home theater. Griffin has made a name for itself for more general consumer electronics components, but is aiming to step in our world today with the Griffin Beacon remote device, which is aimed at the more general home theater user in place of a traditional universal remote. It’s idea is simple--merge the online capabilities of your iPhone (Android coming soon) with traditional infra-red (IR) devices.

DEVICE
Oct 24 2011

Review - NETGEAR NeoTV - NTV200 Connected Media Streamer

NTV200If you are in the market for an inexpensive connected media streamer, the number of options has exploded recently.  A couple weeks back we took a look at Roku’s XS, and today we have the newest member of NETGEAR’s NeoTV lineup - the NTV200.  At first glance, the unit’s price ($79.99) and lack of a USB port for local content sets it neatly in the middle of the multitude of players currently available, but breaks from the pack by offering VUDU alongside Netflix and the many other “also ran” applications we have come to expect from this segment.

Oct 24 2011

Review - Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender WN3000RP

In the last 5 - 10 years wireless has vastly changed how we connect devices to the internet in our homes. Every smartphone, laptop, tablet, media streamer, gaming console has the ability to connect to your network through your wireless access point. Along with the ability to no longer having to run an Ethernet cord everywhere you needed network connectivity, there were short comes. As almost everyone can attest to wireless is not 100% perfect, there is always a corner of your home, or an area in your back yard that your wireless can not reach.

That is where wireless repeaters or "range extenders" come into play, they allow you to extend your wireless coverage to distances greater than your access point at home can do on it's own. Lately the trend from many consumer network manufactures is bringing to market these range extenders. Today we were able to review one of the new 802.11N range extenders from Netgear, the Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender WN3000RP.

The Netgear range extender as we get into later on in the review, allows users to bridge the gap between where your wireless network starts to fall apart and where you would like to use your wireless devices but can not.

Oct 18 2011

Review - Sewell InjectIR - IR over HDMI Remote Extender


Those of you with older television cabinets or mounted televisions know the difficulty that comes with hiding your equipment out of site while still being able to control it. Radio frequency (RF) has its benefits but requires a special remote control as well as IR blasters for each individual device you are looking to control. Sewell has developed the InjectIR device for those users who don’t want the complexity of an IR setup but still want to be able to control their hidden devices.
Sewell InjectIR

Oct 16 2011

Review - MonoPrice HDMI to Component & R/L Stereo Audio Converter

MonoPrice HDMI to Component & R/L Stereo Audio Converter For those holding on to an aging HDTV or projector which lacks HDMI support, there are few options in a world where component (YPbPr) output is slowly being stripped away.  In fact, until recently there were only two, the HDFURY II and HDFURY III; but with the lower model starting at $180, neither is a perfect option for the thrifty.  Fortunately, there is now another solution provided by a company best known for their high quality HDMI cables; the MonoPrice HDMI to Component & R/L Stereo Audio Converter (MYCH01 / Product ID: 8125).  With an asking price of $39.92, it is natural to expect some compromise; after all we often get what we pay for.

Oct 11 2011

Review - Roku 2 XS

Roku

Roku made a name for itself by providing a device that, for many, is synonymous with Netflix streaming.  The quality of that service, and other premium, IP delivered media, has increased significantly since the original box was launched, necessitating an update to modernize the lineup and provide support for HD content.  To address this, we now have the Roku 2 comprised of three models: HD, XD, and XS, spanning the range from $60 to $100.  Each of the devices is capable of 5.1 bit streaming, but the Roku 2 HD, which is limited to 720p, it is not as interesting as the other two which are capable of delivering 1080p video.  Today we take a look at high-end XS, which tops the XD by including Roku’s Bluetooth gaming remote, a USB port, and Ethernet.

Oct 05 2011

Review - SilverStone TS07 USB 3.0 External Drive Enclosure

TS07

From a recent poll regarding external storage, it is clear that a significant number of respondents are making use of external storage options using interfaces such as USB and eSATA. One of the drawbacks of USB 2.0 is its lack of speed, while eSATA is not nearly as pervasive as USB. With USB 3.0 found in more motherboards, chassis (Fractal Design Define Mini, SilverStone TJ08-E), and expansion cards (SilverStone EC01), it seems like a perfect time to take a look at SilverStone’s new USB 3.0 3.5” external drive enclosure, the TS07.

Oct 03 2011

Review - AMD Llano A8-3800 CPU and GIGABYTE A75M-UD2H microATX Motherboard

LlanoNew platforms are particularly interesting to us as home theater PC (HTPC) enthusiasts because it gives us a chance to clearly see how a generation of progress can be transformed into tangible benefits.  Not long ago, integrated graphics processors (IGP) were strictly the choice of budget-minded consumers, but the recent relocation of the graphics processing unit (GPU) from the chipset to the processor made it a “first-class” citizen and brought new life to the solution while birthing a new concept – integrated processor graphics (IPG).  AMD was not the first to release an IPG, or APU (accelerated processing unit) as they refer to it, but with the introduction of the Brazos/Zacate line earlier this year, a glimpse of Lynx/Llano’s promise became available.   As a platform aimed at the ultra-portable market, Zacate demands significant compromise for use as a dedicated HTPC.  Llano’s mainstream desktop orientation, combining a full featured GPU and capable CPU, should address those tradeoffs with enough headroom and flexibility to provide solutions along the spectrum of client and server HTPC.  As we have with Intel’s Sandy Bridge family of IPGs, we plan to evaluate each step in AMD’s lineup – starting today with the 65W 2.4 GHz A8-3800,coupled with a GIGABYTE A75M-UD2H microATX motherboard.

Sep 27 2011

Review - SilverStone EC01 USB 3.0 Internal 19-Pin Dual Port PCI Express Card

Some of our recent enclosure reviews (SilverStone TJ08-E, Fractal Design Define Mini) have featured external USB 3.0 ports requiring a connection to a 19-pin header required by the USB 3.0 specification which poses a problem for most motherboards to date. While SilverStone was kind enough to provide an internal USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter with the TJ08-E, it would be ideal to take advantage of the USB 3.0 capability. Enter SilverStone’s EC01 PCI Express card providing a 19-pin internal connector capable of supporting two USB 3.0 ports.

Sep 25 2011

Review - Fractal Design Core 3000

So far, we have reviewed three chassis from Fractal Design, the Define R3 ATX, the Define Mini Micro-ATX and the Array R2 Mini-ITX, and have been impressed by their build quality and aesthetics. Today we are reviewing a chassis in their Core line which aims to provide a unique combination of design, features, cooling performance and value. The Fractal Design Core 3000 mid-tower desktop case builds off of the entry level Core 1000 by adding improved cable management, more cooling options and removable hard drive bays to allow for longer graphics cards of up to 420mm in length.

 


SPECIFICATIONS
The Fractal Design Core 3000 has a positive pressure cooling design and comes with three fans and has a total of seven fan slots. Also included is a fan control with support for three fans. The case can accommodate six hard drives of any size and has 2 5.25 bays with 1x 5,25>3,5 inch converter included. At 200x430x480mm and including support for Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX and ATX motherboards, the Core 3000 would certainly make a great Home Theater PC (HTPC) or home server case.

Sep 21 2011

Review - IOGEAR GUWIP204 Wireless USB Sharing Station

Ioger GUWIP204Over the past year we’ve reviewed a number of different wireless products that help enhance unique home theater environments, such as wireless HDMI streamers and Bluetooth speakers. For my living situation, the need to extend USB over a wireless network became relevant, and as such, I obtained the GUWIP204 4-Port Wireless USB Sharing Station from IOGEAR to achieve this objective. Things were not perfect however, as we attempted to use this product unconventionally.



SPECIFICATIONS

Before we begin and cover our experience with the GUWIP204 we should take a look at the specifications and its limitations according to IOGEAR. According to the product’s webpage:

IOGEAR's Wireless 4-Port USB Sharing Station enables any USB external hard drive, USB flash drive, USB memory card reader, USB webcam, USB speaker, or USB multi-function printer (MFP) to be shared over a Wi-Fi network among different users. It offers the flexibility to place your USB devices anywhere in the home or office as long as there is Wi-Fi coverage. You are no longer constrained by the 16’ distance limitation from your USB devices to your computers.

Sep 19 2011

Review - Fractal Design Array R2 Mini-ITX Chassis

Fractal Design Array R2In the last few weeks we have taken a look at a wide range of chassis based on feedback we’ve received from our readers in regards to what form factor is most used for their home theater PC (HTPC) as the results were mixed. But one form factor which has not been covered simply due to a lack of viable options has been the “cube” case, which I have admired for years but never saw one compact enough for my home theater space--most of the cube cases were either very large or made of the clear acrylic and flashy lights not at all suitable for a living room. Only recently coming from overseas and available in the US, the Fractal Design Array R2 chassis provides a blend of refinement with a ton of storage space options, in an all aluminum black enclosure--not exactly a cube by measurement, but of similar structure. Not being clearly a desktop nor HTPC chassis however, will this find a place in your environment?



SPECIFICATIONS

Let’s examine the cold hard facts of the features included within the Fractal Design Array R2 chassis:

Sep 14 2011

Review - IOGEAR GKM571R 2.4 GHz Multimedia Mini Keyboard

IOGEAR GKM571R 2.4 GHz Multimedia Mini KeyboardThe IOGEAR GKM571R is a palm-sized mini wireless 2.4 GHz wireless LED backlit keyboard with built-in laser trackball, mouse buttons and built-in scroll wheel.  It uses RF technology with an advertised range of 33 feet.  IOGEAR refers to the GKM57IR as “the ideal solution for the home entertainment living room and computer enthusiast looking to compliment their PC to TV solution.”  We needed to find out for ourselves, is it the ideal solution? My first impression certainty seemed so.

Sep 12 2011

Review - Wesena E5 Ultra Low Profile HTPC Chassis

Wesena Logo

When selecting the perfect chassis for your home theater PC (HTPC) it can be difficult to strike the right balance between looks and capability.  With multiple tuners increasingly becoming available in smaller and varied packages at more competitive prices, the form factor revolution in the client HTPC space made possible by no-compromise integrated processor graphics (IPG) systems is now a tangible reality for the primary HTPC as well.  Wesena has aggressively pushed into this space with chassis like the Micro-ATX/Mini-ITX compatible all-aluminum E5, which with its CE visage offers a near perfect look for the A/V stack.  There is some compromise because of the ultra-low-profile form factor but with two hard drive mounts, space for a slim optical drive and enough expansion to provide a viable enclosure for your main HTPC, it warrants a detailed look.

Sep 12 2011

Review - SoundScience Halo 6 LED Bias HDTV Backlight Kit by Antec

When Philips first introduced their Ambilight technology for their television sets they were all the rage--fantastic concept that actually works to help minimize the strain on your eyes while watching the television, but who wants to buy a brand new set just for a cool technology. Luckily the folks at Antec have got you covered...sort of. The soundscience halo 6 LED bias lighting kit is designed for monitors up to 24” in size on your desk. So what does a website focused on home theaters do, we grabbed two of these from our friends at Antec and tested them on a 50” plasma television. Let’s see how it matches up to the real deal.

Antec LED

SPECIFICATIONS

How much can be said about the specifications of a row of LED lights? Not much, but let’s look anyways.

Sep 08 2011

Review - Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB CableCARD Tuner

Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB BoxFor more than a year enthusiasts in the Home Theater PC (HTPC) community have known Ceton as the Kirkland, WA company that delivered the first true PCIe, and until recently only, Digital Cable Tuner (DCT) available on the market.  Discontent to sit out the recent, relative glut of CableCARD devices and form factors they have introduced a new external USB member to their four tuner product line with planned availability on September 19th -- aptly named “InfiniTV 4 USB.”  We recently reviewed two similarly external CableCARD tuners from Hauppauge and SiliconDust which entered the market ahead of Ceton, but time to market is only part of the equation as both devices have struggled with maturity; so the real question is if Ceton’s experience in the field can provide the same quality of experience we have come to expect from their earlier device.

Sep 08 2011

Review - Fractal Design Define Mini Micro-ATX Chassis

DM

Not too long ago, we took a look at Fractal Design’s Define R3 ATX chassis and came away impressed. Today, we’re going to examine the R3’s younger sibling, the Define Mini Micro-ATX tower chassis. The Define Mini holds a lot of promise with six 2.5”/3.5” internal and two 5.25” external bays, six fan slots, support for expansion cards up to 400mm in length, USB 3.0 port, dampened side panels and cable management features all intriguingly hidden behind a black, brushed steel door.

Syndicate content