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HTPC/PVR Articles

Pivos Aios HD Media Center Review
The Pivos Aios HD Media Center aims to make the HTPC experience as simple for the mainstream user as possible.

ASUS O!Play HDP-R1 HD Media Player Review
A media player!? Despite diving into the tech world every day, this type of device was not on my radar. What is this little black box capable of? Let's find out.

Zune HD Preview
NVIDIA and Microsoft launched a series of public previews across the US and we managed to sneak and try the newest media player into the touchscreen war.

Gigabyte 7600GS w/HDMI Review
Gigabyte releases its new 7600GS with HDMI. The new card is one of the first of its kind, which is HDMI-HDCP ready and primed for HDTVs.

Sempron 3400+ Review
Our review of one of AMD's Socket 754 offerings, the 64 bit capable Sempron 3400+ unveils how the Socket 754 Sempron family performs against its more espensive Socket 939 brethren.


ATI to soon launch new IGP

2 comments Carl Poirier - 8:08pm (PST) Like Share

Part of the first 800 series chipset

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ATI has freshly lost its title of the best IGP manufacturer. The Core i5 661  IGP, clocked at 900MHz, proved to be superior to the HD 3300 and HD 4200 which previously were at the top of the performance crown. This is at stock settings though; what Neoseeker labs concluded is that the ATI graphics processor is still faster clock-for-clock. However, the problem is that the vast majority of people do not overclock integrated graphics processors found in retail computers.

ATI is not standing still in front of that. Losing the performance crown in the IGP market after so long is quite disappointing, however it is not going to be for long; the 785G and 790GX chipsets are soon going to see their successor. The latter will feature a new IGP, which will supposedly be the fastest IGP ever. Now I can read that magical keyword in your head: "When!?"

As you have probably noticed, AMD is going to launch a few new processors in late January. The HD 5xxx graphics card series is also going to be expanded with a few new models and the first chipset of the 800 series is scheduled to launch after that. Let's also note that a new iteration of ATI's Hybrid Crossfire will be made possible with a dedicated GPU from the latest generation. As always, we'll believe it when we see it!

Categories: Video Cards HTPC/PVR

HTPC, priced right?

7 comments William Henning - 12:45pm (PST) Like Share

Acer announces a decently priced SFF PC with lots of HTPC potential

Acer has announced the Aspire X1200 series of small form factor desktop PC's.

All three models feature:

  • dual core AMD processors
  • Nvidia GeForce 8200 on-board graphics
  • HDMI output
  • VGA output
  • a PCIe 2.0 x16 expansion slot
  • a PCIe 2.0 x1 expansion slot
  • five USB 2.0 ports on the front
  • four USB 2.0 ports on the back
  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports
  • Ethernet
  • Modem
  • multi-card reader
  • firewire
  • audio jacks on the front and back
  • 16x DVD+R/RW DL drive
  • 4GB RAM
  • 10.6" x 4.0" x 14.4"
  • Windows Vista Premium SP1

The three specific models announced today are:


  • $449.99
  • AMD Athlon X2 4850e
  • 320GB SATAII hard drive


  • $459.99
  • AMD Athlon X2 5000+
  • 320GB SATAII hard drive


  • $699.99
  • AMD Athlon X2 4850e
  • 500GB SATAII hard drive
  • 22" wide screen LCD display



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AMD releases new ATI All-In-Wonder HD

1 comments William Henning - 12:47pm (PST) Like Share

The TV Wonder brand is resurrected!

The new ATI TV Wonder HD combines a very capable TV tuner with a lower end Radeon GPU to bring a one slot solution to home theatre PC's.

The TV tuner portion is quite capable:

  • Analog TV (off the air or cable)
  • ATSC off the air digital SD/HD input
  • ClearQAM unencrypted cable QAM SD/HD input

The TV output portion is quite nice too:

  • enhanced DVD upscaling
  • HD decoding
  • HDMI with Dolby 5.1
  • accessory kit with additional I/O jacks available

The GPU portion is not meant for heavy gamers, but is sufficient for casual lower resolution gaming

  • 120 stream processors
  • DX 10.1 support
  • 128 bit memory interface

The board has a PCIe 2.0 x16 interface, and comes with more software than you can shake a stick at.

The only thing that it really lacks, which would have made it a killer card, is the ability to record HD content from a component video input - which is conspicously absent from the device.

Categories: Video Cards HTPC/PVR

Hauppage HD-PVR ... 1080i H.264 video digitizer coming RSN

3 comments William Henning - 2:42pm (PST) Like Share

RIAA/MPAA is going to flip over this one... and users everywhere will rejoice.

Finally something I've been wanting is going to become available - Hauppage will be bringing out a component video input digitizer with real-time H.264 encoding from 1080i (and presumably 720p) video.

FINALLY we will be able to make fair use of our HDTV signals... I will be able to time shift Stargate!!!

The MPAA can be expected to cry havoc, but guess what, Beta/VHS did not kill the movie industry, recording HD won't either.

This bit of tech goodness will supposedly set us back about $250.


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Categories: HTPC/PVR

BD+ gets a kick right off the bus

0 comments Gabriel Vega - 12:15pm (PST) Like Share

Latest SlySoft AnyDVD (HD) strips BD+ from discs

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Seems that the wheels keep turning for HD burning companies, with the format war settled and AACS cracked there was only one real thing left to tackle in the market, that of course being BD+

The latest version of AnyDVD ( manages to not really crack the VM system but instead to just remove the security as a whole from the disc so that people can have DRM free HD discs to run on any system or to pull off for personal use on storage devices. It's certainly a workable approach, if the system is said to not really be crackable for at least 10 years then why bother with it and instead why not just tell it to stay behind when pulling the data off.

The full detail list of comes down to this: 2008 03 19
- New (Blu-ray): Removes the BD+ protection from Blu-ray discs!
(for increased compatibility with titles released by Twentieth
Century Fox :-) )

- New (Blu-ray): Added option to enable / disable BD+ removal
- New (DVD): AnyDVD ripper no longer uses the Windows filesystem, it
has now its own UDF parser / reader.
Discs which cannot be read by Windows can now be copied with the
AnyDVD ripper.
- Fix (Blu-ray): Black display with some BD discs, e.g., "Layer Cake",
second release, "The Fugitive", "Wild Things" (all Region B)
- Fix (DVD): Small bugfix in "repairing defective disc structure"
function of AnyDVD ripper
- Fix (DVD): Problems with some Arccos protected titles, e.g.
"The Grudge", R1, US
- Some minor fixes and improvements
- Updated languages

Seems like the consumers are getting that leash around their neck loosened by the community at large, nice to see that the investments made on DRM paid off for the media companies.


More EEE PC's from Asus - including desktop models

0 comments William Henning - 11:21am (PST) Like Share

Asus is making more EEE style PC's

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Asus is apparently entering new markets with additional low priced Linux based computers.

  • E-DT: desktop PC's, bundled with a monitor, are to be introduced at CeBIT and will likely be available in April or May of this year. Initial E-DT's will apparently ship with Intel Celeron processors. Cost: between $200-$300
  • E-Monitor: 19"-21" LCD monitor with built-in PC (think iMac) but adds a TV tuner, expected September of this year for around $500.
  • E-TV: 42" LCD TV with built-in Linux PC with EEE PC style software, also expected in September, and it is to cost at most $200 more than just a 42" LCD TV.

If the EEE PC is any indication, these new products will sell like the proverbial hotcakes.

Asus apparently sold 10,000 Eee PC's in its first week, and expects a lot of competition in the latter half of 2008 - Acer, HP, MSI and Gigabyte are the likeliest competitors in the inexpensive sub-notebook space.

Jerry Shen, president of Asustek noted that the small screen size, low battery life and long recharging of the Eee PC are issues that they must and will address.

In other news, Asus has given up on adding touch screens to the EEE PC for now, citing lack of customer interest.


Kenbushi media center software - 180+ channels free for Windows, OSX, and soon Linux

1 comments William Henning - 2:49pm (PST) Like Share

Worth a look.

Kenbushi Pro V7.2 was released yesterday, and it now includes almost two hundred internet tv channels with a regularly updated program guide.

Here are some of its features, straight from their web site:

  • 180+ channels of free high-quality content
  • Plays all types of movies (avi, divx, H264, etc.)
  • Plays all music, including purchased iTunes songs
  • Auto media player selection (VLC, Quicktime)
  • Store media across any number of hard disks
  • View slideshows wirelessly on PSP, DS or PPC
  • Control media playback wirelessly with your PDA
  • Remotely synchronize folders via LAN or Internet

Could be interesting. Bonus: It's free for personal use.


AMD produces free upgrade for 690G chipset

1 comments William Henning - 1:01pm (PST) Like Share

New features for AMD 690G based motherboards...

A new BIOS from AMD adds a plethora of new features to motherboards based on its 690G chipset: with IGP

  • 720p video playback support
  • 1080p video playback
  • voltage adjustments
  • memory timing settings
  • multiplier settings for CPU clock
  • multiplier settings for HyperTransport clock
  • IGP GPU overclocking

You might want to improve the stock chipset cooler if you overclock the chipset a lot :-)

It sounds like with the new BIOS, the 690G will make a neat little HTPC platform!




Watch this commercial . . . or else!

3 comments J. Micah Grunert - 1:07pm (PST) Like Share

New technology will prevent TV veiwers from fast-forwarding through commercials. But, we can still skip American Idol if we want.

PVR's are great! Record, playback, rewind, fast-forward through all of you favorite television shows. Unfortunately, and with obvious reason, advertisers and networks don't particularly like it when we, the humble viewer, skip the same commercial we've seen a thousand times before. That's advertising revenue their loosing by not being able to coax people into buying their products.

It was only a matter of time, but someone can come up with a system that will prevent viewers from zipping through commercials. Cox Communications has inked a deal with the likes of ABC and ESPN to offer a video on demand service. Subscribers can order television shows such as Desperate Housewives (never seen it) and Grey's Anatomy (never seen it) for instant, on demand viewing. There will also be some select sporting events added to the on demand line up. Unfortunately, and my heart goes out to the viewers, the fast-foreword feature in their PVR will be disabled during on demand broadcasts.

Broadcasters have been crying foul ever since the dawn of Tivo, crying over lost revenue from skipped ads. In this case, ABC, ESPN, and their parent company Walt Disney, stipulated certain rules for Cox Communications if they were to start this video on demand service, and some form of anti-fast fore-warding technology was probably at the top of the list. It seems Cox is only too happy to abide by these network wishes, seemingly so when they said "We are excited about collaborating with Disney and using their great ABC and ESPN content to provide our customers with 'anywhere, anytime' access to content they value," said Cox president Pat Esser. It was also added "This project is another example of how our digital strategy integrates into our overall business strategy," said Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney. "It provides consumers with more access to our hit programming while showcasing our continued dedication to working with our distribution and advertising partners to develop and grow viable multiplatform business opportunities."

There's still a few details to hammer out, such as how long a commercial will run before viewers can skip it, and whether or not viewers can change the channel when a commercial pops up. Phillips Electronics had some time ago developed a simple embedded technology that would prevent viewers from skipping commercials all together. Needless to say, people got pretty ticked off. So, with the wisdom that only a multi-billion dollar corporation could have, Phillips released a statement saying that users could turn the anti-skip feature off all together if they so wanted. The old adage of beating a dead horse comes to mind for that one.

There has to be a better solution to all of this. Tivo, the PVR pioneer, has actually launched their own television commercial advertising division in the hopes of determining what ads are being watched, which are being skipped, and why. Google is launching their TV ad service that will allow advertisers to better target the viewing audience with more local ads. It may even help advertising companies make better ads. Microsoft is pushing their own solution, where ad content would be stored locally on a viewers PVR rather than broadcast through the air waves of cable system. Again, in the hopes of better developing and tracking target audiences.

Or perhaps the simplest solution of all, something I've been doing for a couple years. I don't watch TV anymore, say except for the evening news.


Memory + Heat Pipes = Cool!

2 comments J. Micah Grunert - 8:08am (PST) Like Share

OCZ rolls out some killer fast and wicked cool memory, with heat pipes!

Who doesn't use heat pipes nowadays? They're in CPU coolers, video card coolers, and motherboard chipset coolers. It now seems that OCZ had added 1 and 1 together to get this.

Pretty cool! This is the first time I've ever seen a heat pipe cooled slice of memory. Called the OCZ DDR2 PC-8500 Reaper HPC Edition memory, they do come with some fairly decent specs. 

  • 1066MHz DDR2
  • EPP 5-5-5-15 timings
  • Available in 2GB (2x1024MB)
  • Unbuffered
  • OCZ Lifetime Warranty
  • 2.1 Volts
  • 240 Pin DIMM

With the added features of . . .

  • Reaper HPC Heat sink
  • EPP-Ready
  • 2.4V EVP

I like these so far! The Reaper HPC Heat sink is way cool, both figuratively and literally. And even though the HPC does stand for Heat Pipe Conduit, it could also stand for Home Theater PC (HTPC). Memory like that would guarantee an incredibly quite HTPC viewing experience. The EPP (Enhanced Performance Profiles) guarantees that these modules will boot to their rated spec on the latest Nvidia SLI chipset mother boards. That's right, no BIOS CL timing tweaking needed here. But if you really want to, you can over volt these modules up to 2.4V without burning your lifetime warranty. Only extreme tweakers need apply.

Hmmm, maybe I should see about getting a couple of these sticks in for review?

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