With Windows XP Media Center entering in to its second addition more and more manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. The latest company to enter the UK market is Medion, a German PC manufacturer that has decided that because of the inherently consumer approach of Media Center to sell the units in Toys R Us. With that in mind, is the unit consumer enough?
Unlike many manufacturers on the second round, Medion has stuck with a tower box design. Rather than beige, the unit is silver and back and does have some home entertainment value to it, however as a tower it just doesn’t have that under the television look and feel to it and we would struggle to convince the wife that this would look lovely next to the sofa.
However, with the inclusion of a Wireless G card, you can get away from this being a bundle of cables affair. In fact there are no real wires you have to worry about and it’s a nice feeling. The keyboard, mouse are both wireless options and of course, being Media Center you can control the media elements via a remote control. Build quality of the three is quite good with the mouse being the only element to let the team down. Due to a need / want to keep the cost down, Medion has opted for a ball mouse - something which we feel is a bit disappointing, however easily fixed.
Powered by a 3.4Ghz Intel Pentium 4 processor 550 with 1Mb L2 cache with 800 MHz FSB the machine is fast power most games and applications. The inclusion of 512Mb of ram also helps things along and the ATi Radeon X 600 Pro with 256Mb DDR-RAM memory, which works on the new graphic optimised PCI Express slot also means that when we tested it with doom 3 or similar titles we had no problems.
On the entertainment side, the machine comes with a DVD Re-Writer and standard DVD player. The player supports DVD+, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R and CD-RW at varying speeds and the stanard DVD player works at 16x.
Creating DVDs isn’t great if you haven’t got a hard drive big enough to cope and the MEDION PC5452 Media Center has 200Gb of space to fill.
The new edition of the Media Center is shipped with the machine and overall the new OS has had tweaks rather than large overhauls done to it. The included remote makes menu scrolling and selection easy and with the online elements you can now stream directly from services such as Napster. Because of the large hard drive and DVD drives, recording and then burning your favourite programmes is easy. The included tuner doesn’t offer support for direct connection via satellite, however does include support for FM radio.
Connectivity is offered in numerous formats Firewire, network card, 3.5in floppy, 2x USB 2.0, 4x USB1.1, audio in, mic in, s-video, composite, headphones, flash card reader (SmartMedia, SD, MMC, MemoryStick and Compact Flash) spread across the front and back of the PC. The front selection when not in use is covered by a sliding panel, and although offers most of the above, annoyingly doesn’t include a USB2.0 connection of the front. With so many MP3s and even some cameras now supporting the faster transfer speeds it would have been nice to see this on the front rather than having to climb behind the back of the machine every time you want to dock for music or pictures.
At £1099 all in, this is a cheap option for a machine that is actually quite powerful. Would you have it in the lounge though, probably not. A combination of style, noise (it becomes incredibly loud when you ask the machine to perform on games) does hinder the unit, likewise the lack of an optical mouse also annoyed us.
All that aside, Media Center 2005 is very easy to use and put this is a unit that is more like your 17in amplifier and you've got yourself a winner.
This product was kindly loaned to us by Toys R Us