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Media Center PCs have been around a while now, and there's no better all-round tool for recording, watching, listening to music and downloading media. But not everyone has the cash to go out and buy or build a second PC to put in their AV rack, and it isn't always the greatest idea if you want the ultimate in quality or reliability either.
The alternative is to buy a network streamer so you can access downloaded and ripped video and music stored on your PC while still being able to play your CD and DVD collection. But at this point most people's AV racks would be creaking, and again that issue of quality is always likely to raise its head. I haven't yet seen a dedicated network streamer that's capable of matching a decent DVD player for quality, and the same goes for music playback.
Helios thinks it has the answer. Build a player capable of combining all these functions, and concentrate on sound quality and picture quality at the same time, and customers will happily replace those three boxes with one. That's the theory at least, but can the X5000 live up to such lofty ideals?
It certainly seems to on paper. This is a DVD player that will upscale video to 1080p, a network streamer (wireless and wired) and ‘audiophile' CD player all in one; a box designed to streamline your AV rack without degrading the quality of your viewing and listening experience. And the X500 does all this for a mere £300. Surely there must be some weakness at such a low price.
There are no such shortcomings evident in the build quality, however, and here at least it does a pretty good impression of a high-quality AV component. Where most modern DVD and CD players below the £500 mark are built from lightweight aluminium or thin and flexible steel panels, the X5000's chassis is built like the proverbial battleship, with a rigid and heavy chassis that doesn't rattle at all. The front panel is hewn from a single slab of thick black aluminium with a top-quality brushed finish, and the whole thing is admirably well put-together. This, on its own, is impressive given the lowly price tag.
Under the hood the list of components, at least from an audio standpoint, is impressive. The X5000 uses a high-end Wolfson DAC, Burr Brown op amps in the pre-amp output stages, 'audio grade' capacitors (though no manufacturer is specified) - and an R-core linear power supply, which is at least a better bet than the switching affairs you get in cheaper gear. Don't confuse the latter with the hand-wound and toroidal transformers you get in more serious audiophile equipment, however.