Top positive review
One person found this helpful
A great little media PC, great spec with SSD and SPDIF and much more versatile than Smart devices.
on 28 October 2015
Great little media PC (although not that little - check the size), quiet and does the job. You can hear the fan just about and it is possible to reduce that by reducing the performance through the BIOS tools. I have it mounted vertically in an open TV unit and connected to LG LED TV via HDMI and optical to AV receiver. It looks good, though I thought the blue LED power light (a ring around the power button) although nice is too bright. I disabled that in the BIOS and its all good now.
I got it for running KODI for my media library off a NAS and play BBC iPlayer (without having to change hardware every time they change the software) and other such players - much more versatile than smart TVs or devices. Don't need a separate DVD or bluray player either. This is a great spec for this purpose, powerful enough video processing and graphics and the sound outputs also allow dolby 5.1 through optical or jacks. I got it in special offer at a much reduced price - well worth it.
You do need to install an operating system. I got a refurbished Win 7 Pro for 40 quid and it works well, and though had to install huge amount of updates and activate it by telephone, it was otherwise hassle free. Installing the BIOS tools from the supplied CD is a good idea as it allows tweaks (such as switching off the power light) easily. NOTE the mboard is an ASROCK board - its best to update the important drivers via the mboard manufacturer but updating the drivers is slightly painful using their tools - as usual the documentation is not great. 1. they don't compare the versions properly so you don't know if a thing needs updating, 2. they recommend the drivers to be updated in the order given and then list the same ATI graphics driver twice but you're not sure if it is the same and that takes a LONG time to download and update. 3. you don't need all the listed drivers. Fortunately you can select which drivers you download. The ASROCK BIOS is good and easy to navigate and tweak and lots of good options.
The bootup time of this is excellent - there's really no need for a sleep mode. Helped by the included SSD disk. Its small at 120GB (111GiB) but more than enough for my needs as all my media are on a NAS. Performance is great - I had four Lord of the Rings Extended edition DVDs playing at the same time in VLC player windows - no stuttering and full 5.1 audio, even when one was made full screen (the sound tracks all overlapped). I don't have any blurays to try.
When first connected to the TV the picture (desktop) was slightly off the edge of the screen (all round). I had to find the settings in the ATI Catalyst driver to tweak that for this display (not easy to find). And then I found that the text and icons were too small. Of course I wanted to keep the recommended 1920x1080 resolution but had to go through a whole host of windows settings to increase text and icon sizes without also making the windows giant sized (it was easier in WinXP). They simplified it too much in Win7 and you have to have an Aero theme to be able to do it too (I don't like nor need the silly gimmicks of Aero).
It is easy to wake the PC up from sleep or even shutdown mode through the remote keyboard I was using (Rii - and you have to enable that option in BIOS). Its probably easy to do from LAN too, however, I have it on wifi and I could not get it to wake from wifi. The atheros network card apparently has the ability to wake on wireless lan, however, it didn't work and the option in the driver settings is greyed out. Some research leads me to believe that this function is only meant for enterprise users with the right network management software - apparently, it has been released in an Acer PC that wakes over Internet wirelessly and can be used then remotely. So, basically the ability is there but Atheros have nixed it by requiring special secret software to enable it. Only solution is powerline network, which should also provide a more stable network than wifi.
I have not tried controlling it or KODI from my smartphone yet but intend to do so. I am using a Rii remote keyboard which is like a remote control that looks like a tiny full keyboard with trackpad. A great idea and it works great when it works but its only so so because of stuttering in mouse and keyboard use (v.annoying), weak wireless connection and battery that could last longer (they could have used a smartphone battery).
The only criticism I have is that the power plug was badly located in the package. A UK power plug is quite big and it was squeezed between the outer cardboard and front fascia - very risk but fortunately no noticeable damage.