Optima Entertainment Media Centre
- Incredible design, Solid performance, Quiet
- Missing antivirus software
For the average person wanting their first foray into the world of media centres we can't think of a better pre-built alternative currently on the market.
Price$ 1,999.95 (AUD)
As far as most media centres go, they have real trouble blending into the lounge room. Trying to condense a huge PC tower into something that looks like a DVD player is never going to be an easy task and most companies have only met with small degrees of success.
The Optima Entertainment Media Centre takes this challenge, sprints past the finish line and keeps running into the sunset. It looks absolutely gorgeous. This is the first media centre we've looked at that really gets point for design. It is a suave, black number about the thickness of a standard home entertainment device, with a glossy finish across the front. What's more, the DVD drive is also black; finally a company has blended their drive in with their colour scheme. The front of the unit has a bare minimum of LEDs with a tiny indicator above the power switch and a small display that simply says OPTIMA.
Two panels drop down, revealing the DVD tray and a set of flash memory slots which cover all the basic formats. There are also all the media buttons you'd find on a regular DVD player, such as play, stop and scene skip. Overall the design looks exquisite and packs in all the functionality you could want.
We were equally enamoured with the level of noise output by the system. It was absolutely whisper quiet. We had to put our ears right up to the grill before we encounter any sort of audible sound. The one exception to this was the hard drives, which, under load produced a noticeable grinding but that is virtually unavoidable regardless of your system design.
But does the performance match the physique? With computers, you basically get what you pay for; rarely are there products that stand out as exceptional value for money. The Optima is in line with what we'd expect. For the price you get a solid performer that has more than enough power to crunch through any media tasks you'd require of it and then some. It has a 2.8 GHz dual core processor with a gigabyte of ram and a Radeon X300 graphics chip. There is 200 gigabytes of storage space available to record and store your media, which isn't a massive quantity, compared to something like the Claritas CTS-1000, but considering the cost and size of the unit this is more than adequate.
In our benchmark tests it performed about average, netting a score of 1121 in 3Dmark05 and 87 in WorldBench. We found it booted up quickly and had none of the problems at start-up exhibited by many of its competitors. This may be partially due to the fact that no virus protection software comes with the system. On many other media centres, the virus protection causes a small lag at power-up whilst it fires up all the necessary bits of software, but that is not the case here, so keep in mind you'll need your own anti-virus software when running this machine (unless you like to live dangerously and place your entire media collection at risk on a daily basis).
Indeed the entire operating system is fairly bare when you first receive the system. Next to no software comes installed, apart from some basic media tools like PowerDVD, and whilst some people will think of this as a negative to be honest we found it a boon. A lot of that extra software is fundamentally useless and clutters up the system. The Windows Media Centre Edition interface offers more than enough tools to perform all your media centre functions, so apart from the lack of antivirus software we can't fault Optima for this.
The one thing the system does come equipped with is a 30 day free subscription to IceTV, which is virtual necessity for anyone wanting to run a media centre. Whilst this obviously won't compete with the free twelve months offered by the Claritas, it is enough to give you a taste of the service and falls in line with the rest of the competition.
We were satisfied with the number of ports presented by the Optima. It offered what is now a fairly standard array of DVI, VGA, Stereo, Co-axial and Optical outputs; however we were also very pleased to find a few RCA audio connections which are not often found on PCs. We connected it to our TV using a DVI to HDMI cable and had no problems.
To put it simply - this system delivers what it promises and won't look astray occupying centre stage in your lounge room.
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