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MEDIA SERVER REVIEWS

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John Higgins Posted: Apr 27, 2008 0 comments
The one HTPC to rule them all.

A couple of years ago, home theater personal computers were on the cusp of being the next big thing. Everyone wanted to make them to get in on the market, and why not? The ability to put all of your home theater media in one box is incredible. No more getting up to sift through CDs or DVDs only to find that the one movie you want to watch is missing. Instead, you can store movies on a hard drive and access them by remote.

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Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Apr 27, 2008 0 comments
A media center…minus the PC.

In theory, I’m a big fan of the all-in-one media center, a single device through which you can enjoy all of your digital entertainment: DVDs, music, photos, and video. In practice, though, I’ve been less than impressed by the Media Center PCs I’ve used, of both the Windows XP and Vista varieties. Nothing ever works quite as seamlessly as it should, I don’t want to keep a keyboard and mouse in my living room, and, most importantly, system crashes make me angry.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Mar 24, 2008 0 comments
It’s like a UFO landed between your sofa and TV.

You’ve seen me write in these pages about the allure of the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system for PC, with its integrated Media Center application for serious next-generation living rooms. And you probably have one or more techy friends who extol the virtues of their multimedia PC, with its countless hours of stored music and video, TV recording, and the benefits of Internet access. But beyond custom-building your own rig or buying a traditional tower to stand next to your stylish A/V rack, how can you introduce a home-theater-friendly computer to your HDTV? Several manufacturers offer PCs with a form factor in the realm of traditional consumer electronics, namely a horizontal box with a remote control and a front-panel readout. The release of Alienware’s first such machine, the DHS-321, kicked off an evolution from that “digital home system” to their new high-definition entertainment center, code-named Hangar18.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 18, 2008 Published: Dec 18, 2007 0 comments
Sometimes cutting the cord is a mixed blessing.

Certain catch phrases from my youth have stuck with me more than others. I was never a "Where's the beef?" fan, but lately, the one that keeps coming to mind is, "I want my MTV." It's not so much for the images of hyperactive rock stars and animated moon missions so much as the underlying fervor with which individuals demanded their favorite programming. That could pretty much apply to all TV these days, as well as movies or even video games—and the options for a media-hungry generation have never been as varied, or as powerful. I won't call the Slingbox a revolution for the same reason I won't apply that term to my beloved TiVo. Their uses of technology are bold, but the Slingbox has been a tad slow to penetrate the mainstream, as was the DVR in its early years. The Slingbox, if you don't recall our November 2006 review, is a network-ready place-shifting device that streams the audio and video from a connected home theater component, making it available on a PC connected to the Internet. Rather than start a game of Me Too with the more established Sling Media, competitor Monsoon Multimedia has upped the ante in two significant ways that you can probably figure out from the moniker of this particular model from their HAVA line.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 15, 2007 0 comments
Yeah, stick this in your PC. . ..

Whatever happened to portable TVs, anyway? I know my dad had one. It was a fairly bulky affair with a relatively small black-and-white screen. But the novelty eventually wore off; even the slenderized Sony Watchman didn't exactly take the world by storm, did it? Their allure is still undeniable, and they're certainly still out there, resting upon the knees of tailgaters and beachgoers. But shifts in the ways we use technology have also inspired the tech-savvy to put TV tuners into the omnipresent PC, conceivably turning a laptop into a portable HDTV, with a few caveats.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 15, 2007 Published: Oct 15, 2007 0 comments
Stream like you've never streamed before.

I guess the Internet is never going to hit maximum capacity.

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Rebecca Day Posted: Oct 16, 2007 Published: Sep 17, 2007 0 comments
Bringing ReplayTV to the next frontier.

The company that invented the DVR is re-inventing it. ReplayTV has left the living room to TiVo, last-generation ReplayTV recorders, and cable and satellite providers that offer DVRs as a premium feature.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 20, 2007 0 comments
How Intel works with Windows Vista to create the "Ultimate" HTPC

Over in the June issue of the Home Theater print magazine, I wrote about the wonders of the Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate, the most highly-featured version of their new operating system, and how its many features make it a great match for the latest HTPCs. Which begs the question, "What are home theater PCs wearing in the Vista age?" And to help answer my query, Intel sent over a test machine custom-built around their Intel Core 2 Duo processor, specifically designed for audio/video applications, running Windows Vista Ultimate.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 16, 2007 Published: Jun 16, 2007 0 comments
Think of it as legal steroids for your HTPC.

Plenty of people don't give operating systems a second thought. But they determine what we see and hear and ultimately how we interact with our computer—and everything stored on it. Such software is Microsoft's bread and butter, and they've gone to great lengths to put it at the front of everyone's minds. This is especially true for their radically advanced, new Windows Vista, which is available in several flavors. The guide I downloaded from their Website was more than 300 pages, so there is simply no way to list all the features. Instead, I will quickly point out that the Ultimate version of Windows Vista, which I tested, is the most complete; it combines all the lower-tier functions and adds some unique extras.

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John Higgins Posted: Jan 31, 2007 0 comments
Have HD DVD; will travel

Having an HD DVD player in a notebook isn't a new, revolutionary idea. There have been a couple of notebooks released with one inside, but it is the next logical step in the ever-changing computer market. Not only is high-definition video and audio now a portable possibility, but the ease of mass storage makes backing up loads of vital information a one-disc prospect. The Pavilion dv9000t is HP's offering for on-the-go HD DVD.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
Ready-made living-room multimedia.

We're down with entertainment PCs here at Home Theater. For those of you who are ready to share the joy, there are basically two ways to join the party. For the hands-on approach, we've written about specific best-of-the-best audio and video cards and other devices that you can plug into your own custom-built box. But, for some readers, personal success has brought with it the notion of luxury. Companies like HP are only too happy to remove the guesswork from the equation and pre-assemble a bundle for you, which you can purchase with one phone call or just a few clicks online. Their Pavilion Media Center TV m7580n HTPC is just such a system.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 04, 2006 Published: Nov 04, 2006 0 comments
New streaming and networking options for the home and beyond.

Sling Media
I bet our founding fathers came to this same conclusion: One of the obstacles to true freedom is the necessity of wrapping your mind around the new benefits that await you. Take the Slingbox. It's a revolutionary piece of hardware, if you can grasp the relationship between audio, video, and networking. It takes the signal from any standard home entertainment device and streams it to a computer elsewhere in your house—or via the Internet to a laptop, desktop, and even certain phones. The best source component to use with the Slingbox is a DVR, as it combines live TV with stored content and recording capability, all of which you can control remotely.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 24, 2006 0 comments
The fruit takes root in the living room.

A while back, we Home Theater drones were all on Macs, and life was good. Then, one day, the powers that be told us that the bulk of us were switching to PC, and that was that. I had a few annoying differences to work through, but I eventually forgot my first real computer. And then the Mac mini showed up for review in its pretty white cardboard box, and it reminded me of the experience of bumping into a friend from the old neighborhood: familiar, sure, but with a lot of catching up to do.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 19, 2006 0 comments
The most important Xbox 360 accessory you'll ever own.

Remember the buzz shortly after the launch of the Microsoft Xbox 360 last year regarding concerns of the super-powered system overheating amid all of that heavy bit-lifting? Nyko has stepped up and done something about it.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Apr 18, 2006 Published: Apr 19, 2006 0 comments
READY or not, here comes another PC for the HT.

PCs and home theaters have long posed the old square-peg/round-hole quandary to consumers, as the fundamental incongruities have slowed the adoption of potentially sophisticated, versatile computer gear into the living room. Expanded functionality brings with it an increased level of complexity that more proactive, simplified operating systems like Microsoft's Windows Media Center Edition have only begun to address. Of course, the hardware itself needs to be powerful enough to provide a glitch-free user experience, as well.

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