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There are two critical requirements for a Media PC that's going to reside in your living room, it has to look great and be quiet as a mouse. Unfortunately, these two requirements are poles apart when it comes to designing and engineering a computer. In order to make a PC look good it needs to resemble a consumer electronics device with slim dimensions like a modern DVD player, but the slimmer and more attractive you make a PC, the hotter it becomes inside and the more fans you have to use to cool it, resulting in greater noise pollution. Tackling the problem from the other side, you can use a large case with lots of air flow, along with large fans spinning at low speed and making very little noise, but the result is a big, ugly system that no one would want in their living room.
However, German custom PC builder Hush Technologies has managed to create machines that fulfill both criteria with aplomb. Hush PCs, as the name suggests, are completely quiet in operation. This is due to the fact that there isn't a single fan spinning inside the system case - absolutely everything from the CPU to the graphics card is passively cooled. Now Hush has been building fanless ATX systems for some time and I reviewed one myself here, but this is the first time that Hush has taken its passively cooled PC design to its natural progression and equipped it with Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition.
This is the first Media Center PC ever to roll off the Hush production line, and I have to say that if this is Hush's idea of a first attempt, it's not leaving itself much room for improvement. Usually when I'm looking at an early sample of a new product, I find it to be a little rough around the edges, but everything on this Hush is as close to perfect as it's ever going to be. Of course from a hardware perspective this isn't surprising, but I thought that there might be a few software niggles, since Hush has never implemented Media Center before, but running MCE proved to be as smooth as the beautifully machined Hush casing.
Hush Technologies has definitely taken PC build quality to a new level with it's custom machined case. The front fascia is machined from a single billet of aluminium that's over a centimetre thick, but it's the side panels that are really impressive. Hush must have started with solid billets of aluminium of almost five and a half centimetres thick to create the side panels. Those solid blocks of aluminium have then been machined into vertical fins, then each one of the fins has again been machined with ridges for ultimate heat dissipation. About 15mm of the side panel has been left solid, in order to soak up all the heat, that is then radiated out through the fins.
The reason that you need the fins at the side to dissipate the heat, is that Hush uses passive heatsink and heatpipe technology to cool the system. The 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor is capped by a low-profile passive heatsink with a large heatpipe running through the centre of it. This heatpipe is then routed to the right hand side panel, where it runs for about 150mm to ensure as much surface contact as possible. The motherboard chipset is also topped with a passive heatsink, complete with heatpipe as well, but this one is routed to the left hand side panel. The ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card is also cooled passively with a heatsink and heatpipe assembly - this is also routed to the left hand side panel for heat dissipation.