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October 5, 2007 by Mike Chin
This category of PCs has been with us for a number of years now, whether you call it the Home Theater (HTPC), Entertainment PC (ePC), or Media PC. The commonalities among them are, usually:
- Runs Media Center Edition of Windows XP or Vista
- Has more RAM and often a better graphics card than business PCs
- Good I/O connectivity with all kinds of media
- May contain a TV tuner and a more serious sound card
- Often looks the part of a home entertainment center, rather than a computer -- i.e., it's horizontal, not a tower
All the big brands offer products that are promoted as Media PCs, but not all of them look the part. A quick look through Dell, Gateway and HP's web sites shows that only HP currently offers one that actually looks a bit like a VCR of old, rather than a tower box. A few specialists ply more appealing wares, such as the impressive fanless chassis systems from Niveus Media, the SPCR Media Center Silent PC from EndPC Noise, and the AVA series Media Center from Tranquil PC.
Still, it's difficult to assess the extent to which consumers have embraced the ePC. Sales statistics are hard to come by. At best, it appears that with the Windows MCE widely accepted as the media OS of choice, more brands have shown interest in going after this market niche. It may still be early in the life cycle of the Media PC, however, and the most assured way of making sales to this sector is probably to the DIY enthusiast.
Let's face it: Despite the relative ease of MCE's remote control and simplified onscreen user interface, a Media PC is still a computer. In the end, you still have to mess with it the way you do with most computers. This means the user must have a strong interest in multimedia entertainment as well as a willingness and enough expertise to tinker with a PC from time to time. This excludes many people. Even many who are quite comfortable around computers still aren't ready for one in their entertainment room. A game console, OK, but leave the PC elsewhere.
This may be why there are so many high end media PC cases now on the market with prices ranging well beyond $500 just for a case (sometimes without even a power supply). The focus is still on the techno-DIY early adopter. Interestingly, except for a few Shuttle-style small form factor designs, barebones systems with a horizontal case have been rare. Which brings us to the Hiper Media Center, the rare slim barebones system that found its way to SPCR's lab over the summer. First, a bit of background about the company.
Hiper Group is a UK company started in 2002. Their name is short for High Performance Group. Power supplies were their first products, but they have expanded their range to include keyboards, fans, accessories, cases and media PCs. They've been focused on the EU market; they've just begun selling through online retailer Newegg in the past few months.
Now, the thing that's unusual about this system is that it's really slim. A picture tells a thousand words...
...so maybe two pictures tells a couple thousand words?
The dimensions listed in the specification table below are 430 x 310 x 53mm. For those more comfortable with English units, that's barely 2" tall, 17" wide and a foot deep. It's no bigger than many home CD or DVD players. Now this is a box made to fit in well into the home entertainment console!
What's in it? The details are listed below from Hiper Group's web site, but to summarize, the Hiper Media Center
HMC-2K53A-H2 houses a full featured micro-ATX motherboard by MSI based on the nVidia GeForce 6150 chipset along with a 200W power supply in a small, very low profile case that has room for one hard drive and a notebook-style slot optical drive. Notable standard equipment include a complete front panel card reader and I/O board hidden under a pop-up cover, built-in Wi-Fi, and a VFD display with 6 external function buttons. It is just about the slimmest PC you'll see anywhere.
If the images of this Hiper seem strangely familiar to regular readers, it's no surprise. It was the object of Brendan Wynn's desire, who wrote an article on Measuring Heatpipe Efficiency last year while thinking up quiet ways to cool the Hiper.
Hiper Media Center
||430mm x 310mm x 53mm (WxDxH)
Standard Size Micro ATX format / ITX
|| Accepts AMD AM2
Ventilation Intake on Top Cover
| Hard Drive
||Accepts standard 3.5"
||Accepts up to 4 x DDRII
||Requires slot notebook drive
||200W (100~240V) CE, UL, TUV, ROHS
| Front I/O
||2 x USB
|Audio (speaker, MIC, audio in)
|1 x 1394
||SD Card, MultiMediaCard, CompactFlash, MicroDrive, Memory Stick, Smart Media
||VFD (with 6 external function buttons)
||Optional MCE/Vista Approved RF Remote Control
| HDD Fan
||40 mm / 4000 rpm / frameless
| Southbridge Fan
||Optional 4000 rpm Blower / Dual Ball Bearing
||1 x PCI add on slot bezel
||1 pc (450mm)
||1 pc (450mm)
| IDE Converter
||Slimline to standard IDE
|| Riser Card
|Help support this site, buy the Hiper Media Center HMC2K53AA3 from one of our affiliate retailers!|
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