Watching movies or listening to music isn’t a problem with the eXentia either. Not only does it sport a set of stereo speakers mounted either side of the screen, but there’s a subwoofer hidden at the back that helps produce a full and loud soundstage. It’s not as good as a set of quality speakers, but it’s the best sound that I’ve ever heard from an all-in-one PC.
If however you do want to improve on the built-in speakers, there’s a full set of 5.1-channel analogue outputs at the rear, or if you’ve got an amplifier with a surround sound processor, you can connect to it via the optical digital output.
There’s an S-Video output in case you want to play something back on a larger screen. While there is also a full complement of AV inputs in both composite and S-Video flavours so that you can import from devices like camcorders.
If you don’t have a wireless network set up, there’s a 10/100 Ethernet connector, and if you haven’t got a broadband connection, you can make use of the 56K modem that’s also present.
Connecting external devices won’t be a problem either with five USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire port for connecting a DV camcorder or even an iPod.
The eXentia even has a built-in FM radio tuner, in case you want to listen to a local radio station that you can’t get over the Internet. So, just about every possible base is covered.
Using the eXentia in PC mode is not much more difficult than navigating the Media Center functions. The wireless keyboard and mouse may not be quite up to the standard of the latest Microsoft offerings, but they function well and have longer range than my eyesight could cope with.
I honestly believe that someone could use the eXentia as the only PC they own. Because the only physical connections it needs are the power and aerial cables, you can have it on a desk when you’re working, then just pick it up and put it somewhere else if you want to watch a movie or TV.
One thing worth noting is that Elonex has decided to change the blue detailing on the eXentia to black for future models. Elonex says that it may well offer both colours in the future, but that it received a better customer reaction from a black and silver finish.
This kind of design, versatility and power has to come at a price though, and at £2,113.82 the eXentia isn’t particularly cheap. However, unless you absolutely must have the fastest processor available, my advice would be to drop the spec down to something like a 2.6GHz Pentium 4 and save yourself a wad of cash. You probably won’t notice the difference in performance, but you will notice the difference to your bank balance. The 2.6GHz version of the eXentia will set you back a very reasonable £1,526.32, although the memory and hard disk capacity drop to 256MB and 120GB respectively, and the graphics card becomes a Radeon 9200 instead of a 9600. That said, you'll still be able to do everything you're likely to want to do with an eXentia in this configuration.
I haven’t seen too much hardware based on Windows XP Media Center Edition since the launch at the end of September. I imagine the reason for this is that manufacturers are trying to come up with a special solution rather than just a PC with a fancy operating system. However, now that Elonex has finally released the eXentia, the competition will have to come up with an answer pretty soon or risk being left behind.
The production version of the Elonex eXentia has lived up to all the promise shown by the pre-production version I looked at in September. If you’re serious about having a PC based on Windows Media Center Edition, this is most definitely the one that you want.