Living Room PCs from MvixUSA

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PC makers have been trying to land a computer masquerarding as a home theater component in your living room for nearly two decades. The latest attempt comes by way of MvixUSA, a little known manufacturer of media servers and players.


The company's HDHome initiative features two models: the entry-level S2 and the more robust S4. The latter has faster processing, double the included RAM and hard drive storage, and more expansion.

Both models contain slot-loading Blu-ray Disc players with DVD up-conversion via the HDMI output to your HDTV set. Both contain ATSC TV tuners and the ability to buffer or record to a hard drive. The Windows 7 Media Center is included, which means the entertainment menus for music, video and photos are designed for a big TV screen and viewable from ten feet away. A remote is included. A highly detailed TV program guide with lots of useful links is automatically updated via the Internet.

What makes the idea of a Windows-based home theater component so much more attractive today than a few years ago is the abundance of broadband entertainment from Netflix to Hulu to YouTube. Whether you stream or download, view content for free, as a 24-hour rental, or as a no-expiration purchase, having a fully functional computer connected to your TV doesn't limit you to whatever deals makers of Internet-connected Blu-ray players, TV sets or media players have made to funnel entertainment to their users.

By the way, the Mvix HDHome models don't look anything like the computer in your office or even a notebook temporarily attached to a TV. Featuring a glossy piano-black finish, curved lines and flip covers that hide ports, either one of these computers should fit easily into your home entertainment center. With no vents on top, either model can slide into a rack of A/V components.

Each computer includes Bluetooth v 2.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity as well as a 10/100/1000 LAN port. (The S4 contains two such ports.) Each sports a multicard reader/writer (SmartMedia, Memory Stick, Secure Digital and Compact Flash).

HDHome open front view HDHome back panel view

Each model includes six USB 2.0 ports and an eSATA port. Video is output through VGA, DVI and HDMI ports. Beside HDMI, audio is output through S/PDIF optical and coaxial ports. The HDHome models support High-Definition 3D Audio and Direct Sound 3D. There's also a headphone jack and a microphone input. Both inputs are 3.5mm stereo.

The S2 contains an Intel Atom 330 processor with Nvidia ION graphics; the S4, an AMD Athlon 64 4200+ CPU and ATI Radeon 3200HD graphics. The S2 has two Hot Swap Bays; the S4 has four. These are not ordinary bays. HDHome uses hot-swappable SATA drives offering ample storage space configured as RAID 5 to eliminate data loss in the event of a system failure. Whether you're storing home video, digital photos or your favorite TV series, HDHome is optimized to protect the family data.

The S2 comes with 2GB of RAM; the S4, 4GB. Each model's memory expandability tops out at 4GB. In addition to the remote and a power adapter, both models come with HDMI cables and include Power DVD 9 software and Windows 7 Home Premium.