OrigenAE Tech. S21T
- Integrated touch screen can scale up to a resolution of 1920x1080, the case can accommodate up to 10 hard drives, it has a removable motherboard tray
- The power supply plate was difficult to re-attach, front USB ports couldn't be used unless the devices had their own power supply, very expensive
All up, the S21T is an enticing (albeit very expensive) option for a home-theatre PC. The integrated 12.1in touch screen is adequate for browsing and selecting media files without using a mouse or keyboard, but ultimately, a Windows SideShow controller device might've been a better option.
Price$ 1,969.00 (AUD)
It can be argued that the perfect home-theatre PC enclosure is yet to be conceived. With so many requirements to juggle -- component cooling, low noise emission, remote control functionality, elegant and convenient physical design, room for high-definition components -- it can be hard to accommodate everyone's needs, yet Origen AE seems to be onto something with the S21T.
For starters, it's a large enclosure, capable of housing a full-size motherboard and graphics card (as long as it doesn't have a too-tall heat sink), and numerous hard drives, yet it looks like a stylish home-theatre component. The case is made out of sturdy aluminium, it looks good, and has a built-in infrared transceiver for the supplied Windows Media Centre remote control.
Most intriguing, however, is the built-in 12.1in, motorised, LCD touch screen, which negates the need for a monitor, keyboard or mouse to be connected to the system. No more dangly cables in the lounge room!
It's a high-definition touch screen, which can scale up to a resolution of 1920x1080. This means that it can be used effectively in a 'cloned' mode when connected to a high-resolution TV or monitor. We had some trouble getting 'cloned' mode to work at the maximum resolution while using an ATI Radeon HD 2600-based card, but we had no problems when using an NVIDIA GeForce 8500-based card. The supplied stylus, once calibrated with the screen set to 1920x1080, is surprisingly accurate, despite having a thickish end, but text from system folders and media player software is hard to read on the small screen.
The touch screen needs to be connected to a motherboard's internal USB pin-header, and it can be connected to a graphics card using a D-Sub pass-through cable (and a D-Sub to DVI adapter, if required). A hidden button underneath the case will activate the screen's motor, which tilts the screen downward to reveal the optical drive, a media card reader, USB, audio and FireWire ports.
Unfortunately, the USB ports at the front of the case share the same USB cable as the screen and, in turn, the same USB hub on the motherboard, which means that there isn't enough power for the USB ports. Only externally-powered USB devices could be used on those ports during our tests. Even USB keys were enough to make Windows Vista warn us that there wasn't enough power to run them.
On the inside, the case isn't too hard to work on. There are a handful of cables that need to be connected (the fans, touch screen and USB ports, and FireWire port), and holes in the case's horizontal support bar can be used to efficiently manage and tie-down cables.
The motherboard tray is removable, so is the plate that holds the power supply in place, but lining these bits of metal up with the chassis can be difficult when putting the case back together. Hard drives sit vertically, instead of horizontally, which is great for installation and removal (and they are very easy to install). The drives are mounted on rubber screws that sit in vertical rails and are designed to minimise vibration, especially as the enclosure can house up to 10 drives. However, they don't seem to do much. During our tests, the vibration from our hard drive travelled through the enclosure and was felt on the desk.
For cooling, the case has 9cm fans located under each hard drive bay and there is a 12cm extraction fan at the rear of the case. These are relatively quiet so the most noise will come from the CPU, graphics card and power supply fans in a typical configuration. It's best to install a modular power supply, so that unneeded cables can be removed. Non-modular supplies with plenty of cables will have to be crammed into the hard drive bay in front of the supply.
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