A powerful PC that will fit nicely in the living room
Only 165mm wide and 50mm high
Picture quality a bit poor
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Evesham's Mini PC behaves just like a regular desktop computer except that it's designed with home entertainment in mind. It runs Windows XP Media Center Edition, the latest incarnation of Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system, which lets you access DVD, digital audio, video and digital TV.
But the most remarkable thing is its size - at a mere 165mm wide and 50mm high, it can be seamlessly integrated into your living room system.
The unit is quite stylish with a black and dark grey finish and eye-catching blue lights on the front, but the plastic dome on top is worryingly flimsy, and caves in when pressed lightly.
Despite its diminutive size, the Mini PC packs some serious power. At its heart is the Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 2GHz processing chip with 1GB of RAM and a 100GB hard-disk drive. It's a shame that the connections panel isn't as well-equipped - the inclusion of just two USB ports is a let-down, given that these will probably be snapped up by your keyboard and mouse.
There's a DVI output for piping pictures to your TV digitally plus an S-video output, which can be connected to your TV's component video input using the supplied cable adapter. There's also a 3.5mm audio line in socket that doubles as an optical digital audio output for connecting to your amplifier (you'll also find the relevant adaptor in the box) and an RF input for the single digital TV tuner.
The Mini PC is very fast, performing multiple tasks simultaneously with no locking up or slowing down. But even with all that power under the bonnet, the Mini PC runs remarkably quietly. There's a standard issue Media Center remote control in the box, which makes Microsoft's superbly designed interface very easy to navigate.
Using either DVI or S-video you can specify the output resolution (up to 1080i) but the picture quality isn't particularly impressive. With Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on DVD played though the S-video output, images appear soft with lacklustre colour saturation, and there are flickering lines of interference.
Matters improve through DVI but the picture is still not up to the razor sharp standards of a decent upscaling DVD deck. WMV HD content (downloaded from the Microsoft website) is astounding, though HD pictures via S-video/component video are marred by some interference.
When hooked up to a decent sound system the Mini PC turns in a superb performance, not only with Dolby Digital soundtracks but also with CD and MP3 playback.
The underwhelming picture performance and lack of connections are disappointing for this sort of money, but the fact that Evesham has squeezed so much processing power into such a small box is undeniably impressive. With a few tweaks, this could really deliver.
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