Reviews

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.

Sep 07 2011

Review - Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 USB CableCARD Tuner

Intro

Hauppauge has had a long tradition of delivering tuners and capture solutions to the home theater PC (HTPC) market so it is only appropriate that the legacy continues in the modern era with Hauppauge’s new CableCARD offering, the WinTV-DCR-2650. Offering two tuners, a USB connection to PCs and a tantalizing low retail price in the Digital Cable Tuner (DCT) market, the WinTV-DCR-2650 is poised to find its way into many HTPC enthusiasts’ hands.

Sep 05 2011

Review - SuperTooth Disco Bluetooth Speaker

Many of us have home theater setups in a particular room in our homes fully configured and ready to integrate with all our content and devices. But what about when you want to take that entertainment to another room, outside or even to someone else’s house? That’s where the SuperTooth Disco Bluetooth Speaker comes into play as it is a fully portable and powerful speaker setup designed to let you wirelessly send audio from a variety of devices to it. With an MSRP of $149 the Disco is positioned right where other portable audio solutions are placed but with the added benefit of being connected without power or wires to your audio player.

SuperTooth Disco Bluetooth

SPECIFICATIONS

As always let’s start with the specifications and marketing speak given to us by the manufacturer of the SuperTooth Disco Bluetooth Speaker:

Your music anywhere, anytime thanks to its record-breaking battery life and its carry case. Powerful, it is the most powerful portable Bluetooth A2DP speaker on the market at the moment.

Aug 31 2011

Review - First Look: Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB CableCARD Tuner

ImageCompared to just a few weeks ago, it is a great time to be in the market for a Digital Cable Tuner (DCT).  We just took a look at devices from SiliconDust and Hauppauge and now it is Ceton's turn because their newest tuner, the $299 InfiniTV 4 USB, arrived this afternoon.  Obviously we have not had much time to test it, so there will be a full review in the next few days but in the short time it has been here we had a chance to put together a quick look at the device.

Aug 31 2011

Review - AVerMedia AVerTV USB HD DVR

AVerTV

We spend a good deal of time covering digital cable tuners (DCT) because they are popular and quite possibly the easiest way to get premium content into the home theater PC (HTPC). They do have some downsides, however. For example, if the content the DCT records is copy-protected, it can only be played back within Windows Media Center and can’t be analyzed for automated commercial skipping purposes. There is also no support for utilizing a service provider’s video on demand (VOD) offerings.

There is an answer to those two problems when using an audio-video (AV) capture solution. Today, we’ll be examining the AVerMedia AVerTV USB HD DVR which, like the Hauppauge Colossus we reviewed, is an AV capture solution that can handle both SD and HD video and can be utilized not just to work with HTPC DVR software, but also to capture any type of video for applications such as recording video gameplay, video stored on a camcorder or VHS tape, etc.

Aug 29 2011

Review - SilverStone TJ08-E Micro-ATX Chassis

TJ08-E

We learned from our recent chassis poll that a number of you are using tower or desktop style enclosures for your home theater PCs (HTPC); thus, we felt that we should expand our chassis reviews to include more products in these form factors. Today, we take a look at the SilverStone TJ08-E Micro-ATX tower chassis.

The TJ08 Evolution is an update of the original TJ08 chassis from SilverStone’s Temjin series. With the ability to house 13.25" long expansion cards and a 165mm high CPU cooler along with four 3.5" and one 2.5" internal bays, two 5.25" and one 3.5" external bays, two USB 3.0 ports, a positive pressure cooling design with a 180mm fan, the fully-painted aluminum/steel chassis can accommodate most systems. It is perhaps fairly routine sounding until examining the dimensions. At 15.16" x 8.27" x 14.72", the TJ08-E has a lot to offer for such a compact size.

Aug 24 2011

Review - SiliconDust HDHomeRun PRIME Digital Cable Tuner

HDHomeRun PRIME

As the long-time leader in network connected digital TV tuners, when SiliconDust announced the three CableCARD tuner HDHomeRun PRIME labeling it “highly-anticipated” would be an understatement.  Offering native support for Window 7 Media Center via its gigabit Ethernet port, the PRIME is also unique in what is becoming a [welcomely] crowded market for Digital Cable Tuners (DCT) not just because of its attractive price point, but also because as a standalone network device it does not require a PC host or drivers to function with other devices or software implementing the Digital Receiver Interface (DRI) specification.    Explicit network support reaps a more obvious benefit as well--providing freedom to locate the DCT and home theater PC (HTPC) in discrete, convenient locations as well as provide a full cable lineup to chassis with limited (or no) internal PCIe expansion. 

Aug 19 2011

Review - First Look: SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime Digital Cable Tuner

HD HomeRun PrimeA few months ago there was no competition in the market for Digital Cable Tuners, now there are several form factors, OEMs and interfaces to choose from. Earlier today Aaron provided a first look at Hauppauge's WinTV-DCR-2650 Dual Digital Cable Tuner.  Now it is time to do the same for its big brother - the three tuner, $250 network enabled SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime.

Aug 19 2011

Review - First Look: Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 Dual Digital Cable Tuner

WinTV-DCR-2650Getting 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!

Aug 16 2011

Review - Grace Digital Audio GDI-IRD4000 Allegro Portable Wi-Fi Internet Radio

Grace Digital Allegro

The world of Internet-based streaming audio services is vast compared to traditional terrestrial (AM and FM) radio solutions. If you’ve got an old alarm clock or portable boombox, it likely is limited to terrestrial options and perhaps some physical media. Grace Digital Audio is aiming to modernize these devices with their Allegro portable Wi-Fi Internet radio, the smaller sibling of Grace Digital’s Micro Hi-Fi system we recently reviewed.

The Allegro advertises access to thousands of Internet radio streams, podcasts, popular services such as Pandora, SiriusXM, MP3Tunes, NPR, BBC, etc., audio stored on a PC or MAC, an alarm clock and “unparalleled audio quality for a portable radio” via Wi-Fi without the use of a computer. If that were not enough, Grace Digital Audio also includes an infrared (IR) remote control and offers free Android and iOS remote control apps. The Allegro’s long list of features is likely to suit many so let’s see if it deserves a spot in your home or office.

Aug 09 2011

Review - IOGEAR GUWAVKIT2 Wireless HD Computer to TV Kit

IOGEAR GUWAVKIT2

Do you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you want to show off photos, a video or some other content on your laptop on your big screen without the means to do so? You know the drill; everyone crowds awkwardly around the small screen on your laptop and feigns interest even though they are terribly uncomfortable. This is one of the situations IOGEAR hopes to resolve with the GUWAVKIT 2 Wireless HD Computer to TV Kit.

We’ve taken a look at a number of wireless video transmission solutions over the past year from brite-View, Veebeam and Warpia each offering a different performance and price point. Similar to the Warpia and Veebeam transmission kits, the IOGEAR GUWAVKIT2 uses Wireless USB technology to add a USB graphics device to a PC and transmit the screen wirelessly to a receiving device connected to a display. IOGEAR’s proposition is simple: the GUWAVKIT2 wirelessly delivers any computer content including HD video up to 720p with an in-room transmission distance of up to 30 feet while being easy to install and operate.

Aug 01 2011

Review - MANHATTAN 2800 Acoustic Series Bluetooth Bookshelf Speaker System

MANHATTAN 2800 BTAs desirable as placing an audio video receiver (AVR) or amplifier and full set of speakers at each point of media consumption would be, it is impractical from a cost and aesthetic perspective.  With the convenience of wired and wireless audio support alongside medium density fiberboard (MDF) construction, the MANHATTAN 2800 Acoustic Series Bluetooth Bookshelf Speaker System promises to deliver value and flexibility in the crowded segment of PC-style amplified stereo speakers.

Aug 01 2011

Review - Wesena ITX2 Mini-ITX SFF Chassis

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?

Wesena ITX2

SPECIFICATIONS

As we usually do when starting reviews let’s take a look at the specifications and requirements for the Wesena ITX2, since there are quite a few important aspects.

Jul 28 2011

Review - Grace Digital GDI-IRMS300 Internet Micro Hi-Fi Stereo System

With Pandora recently going public never has there been more of an attention and focus surrounding streaming radio services. Grace Digital is a company which focuses specifically on media in the home have targeted the GDI-IRMS300 Internet Micro Hi-Fi Stereo System for the home audio enthusiast who is looking to integrate streaming Internet audio into their home without the need for wires or a full blown computer. With an MSRP of $249.99 this unit offers a full compact stereo system with a receiver, amplifier and a set of bookshelf speakers.

Grace Digital

SPECIFICATIONS

When it comes to audio solutions integrating online radio the usability is almost as important as the hardware itself. For a solution like the GDI-IRMS300 however it is being priced almost as a stereo replacement (hence the name) instead of an addition. There are numerous Grace Digital Internet radios which provide a lower cost solution if you are wanting to complement your current setup.

That being said however, specs are always still worth looking at and here is what the GDI-IRMS300 Internet Micro Hi-Fi Stereo System provides.

Jul 25 2011

Review - Genius LuxeMate T810 Media Center Wireless Keyboard

We have reviewed a number of wireless keyboards over the years, from the tiniest Logitech Dinovo Mini to the oblong shaped IOGear GKM581R. Every wireless keyboard has its pros and cons based on what exactly you are looking for and how often you will use it. Genius is a relative newcomer to this world and are coming in with a full featured, no compromises LuxeMate T810 Media Center keyboard. Offering virtually complete keyboard support with an included touch mouse the T810 is aiming to be your full time HTPC keyboard of choice, but is it too much for what you need?

Genius Luxemate T810
SPECIFICATIONS

Let’s take a look at the technical specifications according to the Genius website.

Jul 21 2011

Review - Hauppauge Colossus

Hauppauge Colossus

We have been providing a Q&A thread at Missing Remote to help answer questions regarding the Hauppauge Colossus. Now that the Colossus has been out for several months, we think it’s a good time to provide a review.

For those unfamiliar with the Hauppauge Colossus, it is an HD-capable video capture device that can be used to capture all types of video whether it comes from a TV provider’s set-top box, video game console or VCR. The Colossus features a plethora of inputs and outputs all in a single PCIe x1 slot to cover all of these capture scenarios. Compared to tuner-based solutions, the Hauppauge Colossus can potentially offer the ultimate choice in HDTV programming providers as well as provide the ability to record content completely free of DRM.

We’ll take a look at how well the Colossus performs as both a capture device for HDTV sources in a home theater PC (HTPC) scenario as well as when used as a general capture device for tasks such as videogame recording.

Jul 20 2011

Review - Warpia StreamHD SWP120A

In the past year several companies have avoided the “media player” conversation instead opting to focus their efforts on wirelessly streaming their HDMI signal from their laptop directly to their HD televsisions. What Veebeam and Brite-View have done well, each with their own pros and cons, is now where Warpia is attempting to compete with their StreamHD SWP120A unit. Leveraging your existing system for multi-function usage--as a personal computer and also as part time home theater PC (HTPC) duties--is the proposition the StreamHD offers, and at a cost of just under $140 it is priced directly between the lower priced Veebeam and higher Brite-View.

SPECIFICATIONS

Before getting into the tests and user experience, let’s take a peak at the system specs for the Warpia StreamHD SWP120A device.       

Jul 17 2011

Review - IOGEAR GKM581R Wireless HTPC Keyboard

Often a good wireless keyboard/mouse all-in-one separates a good home theater PC (HTPC) experience from frustration.  Unsung when functioning properly and abused otherwise, it is critical to select a device with good range and a feature set that matches the expected use--which if it includes anything more than casual typing a larger keyboard is the way to go.  With up to 33’ of wireless range in a mid-size form factor the IOGEAR GKM581R promises to deliver on each of these requirements.

Jul 12 2011

Review - First Look: Remote Potato HD for the iPad

ImageToday, the folks over at Remote Potato have released their latest application: Remote Potato HD for the iPad. Last night, I was given the chance to do an early review of the latest product. For over a year now, I have been using Remote Potato to do remote scheduling and managing of my series recordings. Prior to the release of Remote Potato HD, I have been using the and Android client on my phone and tablet. Being that I also have an iPad, I took up the opportunity to put this new application through its paces. Since I already had Remote Potato installed and my ports on my router already forwarded correctly to support the use of Remote Potato on my Android phone, there was nothing I needed to do to get connected to the server from my iPad.

Setup was simple, all I had to do was input the URL for my server (in my case, my dynamic DNS name), the port number, enabled the security, input my credentials and off I went. When the Remote Potato application first connected, it had to pull down and cache the guide data which took a few minutes. Once that was complete, I had full access to my EGP grid, was able to browse per channel, pull up my scheduled recordings and setup new recordings all from my iPad while away from my home no where near my HTPC.

The application itself is clean looking and well put together. It reminds me a lot of another application I use quite regularly, Air Video. I like the simple feel to the home screen, it gives me all the information I want in an easy to use interface. Pulling up each menu is fluid and scrolling is really smooth.

Jul 11 2011

Review - Intel DH61AG Media Series Mini-ITX Motherboard and Core i5-2390T

Image

Not that long ago it was a significant challenge to build a small and quiet home theater PC (HTPC).  Mini-ITX was an option, but case selection was limited and more importantly the form factor was held back by the lack of decent integrated video performance and the power/heat dissipation requirements of the processor (CPU) and graphics (GPU).  With both of those concerns addressed with Intel’s Sandy Bridge (SNB) architecture the next, natural evolution turned toward the mainboard.  Intel responded again with a thin PC standard and today we have a chance to look at the first full featured implementation – the Intel DH61AG Media Series motherboard.  In our first look several features were outlined besides the slim physique that make it especially interesting to the HTPC crowd; including a built in 19V DC power connector, mSATA support, eight channel analog line level audio and the brand new “HTPC” header which, with the right hardware can enable affordable HDMI CEC on the PC; today we couple it with a 2.7GHz 35 watt Core i5-2390T to find out if DH61AG makes good on the initial promise.

Jul 11 2011

Review - XtremeMac InCharge Home BT Wireless iPhone Audio Streaming

As the cellular phone has continued to improve its feature offerings, so too have companies attempted to find a home for that product within the connected home theater. Over the years we have seen universal remotes, video docking stations and a number of other devices which aim to capitalize on the popularity of those mobile devices. XtremeMac sure is hoping you are one of these and have the InCharge Home BT (Bluetooth) device which aims to connect your iPhone to your stereo via Bluetooth. Sounds simple enough.

A quick glance at the XtremeMac homepage and it is obvious that the company focuses on a very particular category of products: accessories for the iPhone and iPod. From cables to cases, there’s not much I could think of wanting as an iPhone user that this company doesn’t make.

InCharge Home BT

Jul 07 2011

Review - Elgato HDHomeRun HDHR3 Dual Tuner

When I initially saw the announcement from Elgato that they have released the HDHomeRun under their own brand name I was immediately curious as to what this was all about. After all, the SiliconDust HDHomeRun has been one of the most popular tuners for home theater PC (HTPC) users since 2006. What Elgato is offering is the 3rd revision to the HDHomeRun hardware, coupled with the latest version of their Mac-exclusive EyeTV 3 software. Retailing at $179.95, it’s exactly $50 more than the PC-only version (note that from Elgato’s website the EyeTV 3 software costs $80), so it is a savings of at least $30.

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