S1Digital Media Center

S1Digital Media Center

S1mediaCenter.jpgS1Digital’s sexy-looking Media Center Platinum Edition—which is available, for the record, in either black or silver—will look right at home next to your home-entertainment gear. Whether this extra-deep PC will fit into your home-entertainment center is a whole other question.

Measuring 15 inches wide, the Ahanix MCE601 case that S1Digital chose to house this system is about the same width as most home-theater components. But measuring 18 inches deep, the case will extend three or more inches further into your cabinet than the average A/V receiver. You’ll also need to take into account S1Digital’s location requirements: There must be a minimum of two inches of airflow clearance above the case; and if you place the unit in a cabinet, the back must be entirely open.

The case houses a conventional ATX motherboard (an Intel D945PVS, to be precise), and if you stand the unit on its side, its profile looks just like a mid-tower case. There’s a double-layer DVD burner and a media-card reader stacked in front of the motherboard on the right, and a 3.5-inch hard drive bay in front of the motherboard on the left.

Media mavens with burgeoning music and movie libraries will appreciate the two vacancies in that drive bay, although it’s an open question as to whether or not the case’s twin 6cm fans would be able to provide adequate cooling. The exhaust fans—which are quiet, but by no means silent—are located about as far as they can be from the drive bay. The Nexus PHT-7750 CPU heatsink/fan combo, on the other hand, whirred along while producing almost no noise at all—not bad considering that it’s tasked with cooling a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 640 (with its hot-as-magma Prescott core).

S1Digital offers a very limited number of options, but the stock machine comes with just about everything you could want in a media-center PC, including a dual-tuner Hauppauge PVR-500MCE card for standard-definition TV and FM radio, and a single FusionHDTV5 tuner card for over-the-air high-definition TV broadcasts (you’ll need a $40 antenna).

The system also comes with 1GB of memory, a 320GB Western Digital SATA hard drive, Gigabit Ethernet on the mobo, and an 802.11b/g LAN card in one of the PCI slots. The media-card reader is hidden behind a drop-down panel and handles just about every flash memory standard you can think of, including SD, xD, CompactFlash, Microdrive, and Memory Stick. You’ll also find two USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire port conveniently located in the hidden bay.

The Platinum Edition performance was pathetic compared with our zero-point rigs. The system’s nVidia GeForce 6600 GT certainly won’t float hardcore gamers’ boats (S1Digital does include nVidia’s otherwise optional PureVideo decoder). But let’s face it: There’s no simple way to build a dead-quiet PC that delivers tremendous performance, while maintaining the rig in a formfactor that seamlessly blends into a home-theater system. Judged by those criteria, our biggest knocks against this system are that it’s more than a bit portly and a trifle loud.
Michael Brown

Month Reviewed: January 2006

+ Gloria Swanson: Equipped with just about every media device you can think of.

-Swanson TV Dinner: Big case won't fit in some entertainment centers; not quiet enough.

Verdict: 8

www.s1digital.com

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