Compact media PC falls short: DreamVision Media Centre

Pioneer Computers' latest Windows XP Media Center Edition system is small, attractive and (generally) quiet, but its potential as an entertainment centre is marred by poor design.

Unsurprisingly for a small PC, the power supply is external and the two hard drives are 5400rpm notebook units. However, the overall performance (84 in PC World Bench 5 and 4625 in 3DMark 2001) is similar to Pioneer's 900T Media Center notebook on page 80.

With no PCI expansion slots, TV functionality is provided by an external high-definition digital tuner, rather than a combined analog TV tuner/graphics card like ATI's All-In-Wonder products. Along with the USB receiver for the mismatched Creative wireless keyboard and mouse and the USB receiver for the Windows XP MCE remote, this makes three devices competing for the two USB 2.0 ports at the rear. Your only option is to use one of the four USB ports under the front panel, ruining the PC's minimal good looks.

The Polyview PT-725A monitor is a basic 17in LCD with a slightly below-par contrast ratio and no digital input, but good brightness and a reasonable 16ms response time. During general use - like DVD playback - the DreamVision Media Centre is appreciably quiet, but running 3D games soon ramps the cooling system up to an intrusive level.

Verdict The DreamVision Media Centre is priced very competi­tively, but could have done with a little more thought. Buying just the base unit (priced at $2499) would let you choose better peripherals.

Pioneer DreamVision Media Centre

Price: $2999 ($2499 for base unit only) Vendor: Pioneer Computers Phone: (02) 9690 2888 URL: Specifications: AMD Athlon 64 3000+; 1GB DDR400 RAM; nForce3 150MCP chipset; 256MB Radeon X800 Pro graphics card; 2x80GB Hitachi hard drives; Pioneer 8X DVD+/- RW; on-board Realtec ALC655 5.1 audio; Creative wireless keyboard and mouse; Windows XP MCE remote; Polyview PT-725A 17in SXGA LCD monitor; Creative Inspire 5200 5.1 speakers; DreamVision HDTV USB 2.0 tuner. Features: 7 Value: 7 Overall: 5

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