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The original Hi-Grade DMS was a bit of a milestone, since the company commissioned the case specifically for the task and modified it to offer all the features that a user might want. The DMS II however is a different kettle of fish, this box is based on an Intel designed chassis and as such you can probably find very similar devices on sale elsewhere. Of course this isn’t a bad thing, and you’d hope that a company like Intel with its immense R&D budget could come up with a pretty good Media Center box.
I’ve looked at a great many Media Center solutions over the past couple of years, some of them very good, some of them not so good, and some of them downright puzzling. It seems that Media Center products fall into three categories – there’s the standard PC that also sports Media Center functionality like the Evesham Axis 64 X700, there’s the fully integrated solution like the Elonex Lumina and finally there’s the stand alone box that’s aimed squarely at the living room.
The Hi-Grade DMS II slots nicely into the third category and has been designed to sit unobtrusively under your TV. In some ways the DMSII does look more like a consumer electronics device than a PC, but as Benny pointed out when he saw it, it looks more like a 1980s VCR than a cutting edge home cinema appliance. I think the main reason for this is the huge clock/date display at the right, which reminds me of my old Ferguson Video Star – although this one isn’t constantly flashing!
As well as the time and date, this display also tells you what the machine is currently doing – eg. if you’re watching TV, then “TV” is displayed, or if you’re viewing a slideshow of images then “Picture” is displayed. The display will also show the name of each file being accessed, whether that be a picture, video clip or music track.
Below the display are your basic controls – Play, Stop, Pause, FF, RW, Skip Forward and Skip Backward. The design of these buttons is somewhat strange, with a large Play button at the centre, with the other buttons extending both left and right, in ever decreasing sizes. The result is that the Skip buttons are tiny, which is a shame considering the fact that these tend to be used quite often. That said, the whole point of a Media Center device is to use the remote control – but then I wonder why these buttons are exposed at all.
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