If you haven’t yet installed a WiFi network in your home, let me tell you that you have no idea what you’re missing. Being able to use the Internet from anywhere in, or around your house is fantastic. But it’s even more of a boon with a machine like the eXentia, where it doesn’t matter where you set it up, it will be fully functional and online in seconds. Of course you could attach a WiFi adapter to any Media Center PC, but it would just be yet another attachment to add to what is probably an already messy system.
Of course having integrated wireless networking isn’t only good for downloading updates and EPGs. It also means that you can share data on the eXentia with other devices, and that the eXentia can access devices like network printers,
Despite its compact dimensions, the eXentia can pack quite a punch. Elonex is offering the eXentia in a range of configurations with processor options running from a 2.6GHz Pentium 4 right up to a 3.2GHz Pentium 4.
We decided to take a look at the top of the range machine equipped with a 3.2GHz P4, 512MB of RAM, a 250GB hard disk and an ATi Radeon 9600 graphics card. With this kind of specification, the eXentia is not far off the performance of a conventional high-end PC. What’s amazing is that such high-end components can be shoe horned into such a slim casing.
It’s probably the CPU cooling solution that’s the most impressive. In an attempt to keep noise levels down, the eXentia only has two 80mm fans to keep everything cool. This means that there can be no active cooling on either the CPU or the graphics card. Now, with a 3.2GHz P4 ticking over, keeping things cool isn’t particularly easy, but if you look inside the eXentia you can see how Elonex has managed it. The processor is encased in a heatsink assembly that has no fewer than four heat pipes attached to it. All four heat pipes draw the heat away from the CPU and funnel it out of the system case. The setup appears to work very well since I kept the eXentia running for days without any hint of heat dissipation problems.
The graphics card is something of a limiting factor since the eXentia chassis can’t accept a card with active cooling. It also needs to be a low profile card to fit inside the case. That said, the Radeon 9600 produces decent enough performance without the need for active cooling, so it’s not a bad solution to employ.
The SYSmark score is pretty impressive by any standards, let alone for an all-in-one PC. The overall SYSmark score of 309 has only ever been bettered by heavy duty machines equipped with AMD Athlon 64 FX-51 chips. Obviously 3D performance isn’t quite as impressive since this is more down to the graphics card than anything else. That said, you should still be able to play 3D games on the eXentia, just don’t expect to be pumping the resolution up high.
In Media Center mode the eXentia is a joy to use. Armed with the Media Center remote control (rather slimmer than the standard Microsoft one shipped with other MCE machines), it’s easy to navigate all the multimedia features you could want. You can pause live TV while you’re watching it, or watch the beginning of a recording while the rest of the programme is still being aired. Of course this is nothing new for anyone who’s used TiVo but it’s a great feature nonetheless. The TV image was as good as anything you’d get from a conventional television, although this is obviously dependant on the reception in your area and the quality of your aerial