Hiper Media Center Barebones PC

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GENERATIONAL CONFUSION

The HMC-2K53A-H2 is the second generation of the Hiper Media Center. The previous generation had distinctly inferior cosmetics and less functionality. Unfortunately, it also turns out that as this review was being written, a third generation is already about to replace the H2. The new model is called HMC-2K53A-A3, and although it looks the same externally, there are substantial differences. The big difference comes from factors beyond Hiper's control: As mentioned, MSI has discontinued the nVidia NF 6150 chipset K9NGM2 motherboard, so the H2 could not be continued without change anyway. The new board in the A3 is another MSI, model K9AGM2 (MS-7327), which is based around the AMD 690G and ATI SB600 chipsets. There are three variants of the 7327 board. On close examination, the K9AGM2-FIH appears to be closest to the one used in the upcoming A3 version of the Hiper Media Center.

The new A3 board brings two important changes:

  • HDMI port: This is arguably the most important addition, as the single unified A/V interface has quickly become the ruling standard for modern TVs and related gear. It certainly makes hookups much simpler and tidier.
  • Radeon X1250 integrated graphics, which can share up to 512MB of system memory. We already documented the performance of this new IGC in our recent review of the Albatron KI690-AM2 motherboard, which produced the best graphics performance we've seen from any IGC.

Hiper also took the opportunity to add another feature not directly related to motherboard change:

  • A built-in infrared transceiver module with the receptor built right into the front panel, and...
  • A Vista-only compatible IR remote control as standard equipment.

All of these changes are likely to mean a better product overall than the H2 sample reviewed here:

  • The Radeon X1250 embedded in the AMD 690G chipset provides better HD video performance.
  • Proper Vista support for CnQ is much more likely.
  • An integrated remote sensor port and supplied remote control are very welcome for a media PC.

However, the acoustic characteristics will not be changed, as the same power supply is employed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Hiper HMC-2K53A-H2 has the perfect shape and size for a media PC. That alone makes the product interesting; there are no other comparable DIY cases or barebones systems. The I/O panel with extensive A/V phono connectors helps make up for the lack of HDMI. Performance with media-related functions is quite good. Its thermal performance is plenty good enough as long as you stay reasonable with core component choices. An attempt to run a >100W TDP processor or the latest high end gaming card will certainly lead to overheating; the latter wouldn't fit anyway.

The acoustic performance is not bad once the TV or music is on, but it could be quieter, as our experiments showed. Energy efficiency could also be improved, although this does not have any direct bearing on other aspects of performance. The $300 asking price seems reasonable.

It's too bad that we did not get the newest 3rd generation version of the Hiper Media Center to examine, but our suspicion is that the differences detailed above tell most of the story.

In summary, the Hiper Media Center HMC-2K53A-H2 is a barebones PC with some excellent strengths and a few weaknesses. Chances are, you won't be able to buy one any more, as it is being discontinued, but this review should give you a good idea of what the new replacement A3 version will be like.

PROS

* Great shape, size & style
* Nice feature set
* Variety of video/audio outputs
* Good high definition playback
* Low power consumption
* Good supplied CPU cooler
CONS

* A bit noisy
* No CnQ support in Vista
* No HDMI
* PSU could be more efficient

Much thanks to Hiper Group for this product sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
Shuttle XPC X100 mini PC
Shuttle SD11G5 Pentium-M barebones PC
EndPCNoise/SPCR Model Eleven: Media Center PC
Albatron KI690-AM2 Mini-ITX motherboard

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