Evesham eBox 3 Media Center

Media Centre PCs are not uncommon, but by the same token there has never been anything vaguely common about the Evesham eBox range.

It can genuinely lay claim to being the original sleek, non-PC looking, designed to fit into your living room PC.

Now it’s back, but this time in black brushed aluminium and designed to blend in with the rest of your home entertainment hardware rather than stand out.

But stand out it does when it comes to specification and performance, even on the base model that we played with, featuring an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor (with options right up to a whiz-bang 4800+X2), 160GB SATA 7200rpm hard drive (options up to 400GB), 512MB DDR 333MHz, ATI Radeon Xpress 200 series graphics, DVD writer, Microsoft MCE-certified remote control, wireless keyboard and optical tilt mouse, and XP Media Center Edition 2005 OS.

All this for just £699 including VAT is amazingly good value for money, especially when you consider the excellent Evesham Gold Warranty with its 3 years parts and labour cover, 2 years of which are on-site.

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed we haven’t mentioned the all important TV tuner in that list. That is because we felt that this was one area where the eBox could do better.

A single hybrid digital freeview and analogue tuner comes as standard, but the twin tuner is a £100 option. This is a shame because when you invest in a Media Centre alternative to a Sky+ box you kind of expect, understandably, Sky+-alike PVR performance.

And that means the ability to record one channel while watching another, or recording two channels while watching a pre-recorded programme. And you’ll need the optional twin tuner for that. However, even when you add this component you still have something that represents excellent value for money.

However, we were certainly not disappointed by the noise of this highly impressive home entertainment package, or rather the lack of any. Considering the relatively small footprint (430 x 288 x 98mm) Evesham have done a fine job of keeping the unit both cool and quiet, certainly quiet enough so as to blend into the background while watching EastEnders.

Nor were we upset by the front mounted headphone, mic, USB2.0 sockets (x2) and FireWire. There’s nothing worse than having to fiddle around the back of a home entertainment device just to plug your headphones in! While round there on the back you get all the connectivity you need as well, including S-Video, SPDIF for digital audio, and audio outs for rear, side and centre (sub) speakers along with another FireWire, 4 USB and both DVI and VGA outputs.

For a PC, TV, DVD and Hi-Fi all in one stylish package, the eBox is hard to beat and harder to resist.

Verdict

Would we buy one? No. But only because we’d probably not be able to resist the eBox "special bundle" which throws a set of Acoustic Energy Aego M system speakers and a sexy 32-inch Evesham LCD display into the package for less than £1500 all in.

Should you buy one? Yes, if you want looks that match the performance and noise levels that belie it.