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Medion Akoya P36888 Multimedia Center PC with Blu-ray - Medion Akoya P36888
At 410 x 370 x 180mm (WxDxH), the P36888 is one of the smallest tower cases I've seen recently, even more unexpected considering the impressive specifications. Also surprising is the ventilation, since aside from the PSU there is only one fan grille in the entire chassis. It's very solid too, with a matte black steel main chassis and piano black glossy plastic front.
This little machine's front is kept very clean, thanks to the LG Blu-ray drive (which, for those of you that care, can also handle HD-DVD) being hidden behind a custom door that sits flush with its surround. The only disadvantage here is that the open/eject button requires a lot of pressure before it will operate.
There is also a plethora of connections hidden away behind a panel at the P36888's front. This panel slides down at the press of a button, which is an impressive effect, and reveals a free 3.5in bay in addition to a media hub. Here you'll find a memory card reader supporting everything from CF to xD, two USB ports, mini and standard FireWire ports, 3.5mm audio jacks and more unusually, video ports including composite and S-Video. The only thing that's missing both here and at the machine's back is e-SATA, which considering its claims of being a full multimedia centre is regrettable. The last point of note about the front is the triangular power button, which emits a soft blue glow when the PC is turned on.
Moving around to the back, it's pretty sparse. A further four USB ports join another FireWire port and Gigabit Ethernet, below which you'll find analogue connectivity for 7.1-channel surround sound. Unfortunately, there is no sign of any digital sound outputs, a baffling omission on a Blu-ray equipped system and an unfortunate choice for cost-cutting. Below this we have DVI and VGA ports, and the proprietary breakout connector common to most NVidia cards. Last of all is a single antenna port from the aforementioned DVB-T tuner card.
Opening the case up is really easy, though you'll need a screwdriver to remove the two screws securing the side panel. Inside, layout is quite tidy, and though cable management is rudimentary at best, this is not the kind of high-end rig where you'd expect much attention to be lavished on these kinds of details.
Nor is the Medion Akoya P36888 particularly upgrade-friendly: there is only one free PCI slot and one mini PCIe. Both RAM slots are filled, though 3GB should be plenty to be getting on with. The hard drive is mounted vertically and there are no free HDD bays, though again it'll take a while to fill up the 1,000GBs' worth. Besides, you can always stick another one in the free 3.5in floppy or 5.4in bays.
The one thing that immediately grabs our attention is the huge plastic shroud which cleverly directs warm air from the CPU cooler straight out of the case. And with this single CPU fan the PC remains very quiet during operation - and thankfully, also quite cool.
A Fortron 350W PSU is plenty to keep this system happy, but does present a potential problem if you want to upgrade the video-card to something more capable than the GeForce 9300GS. You'll also want to make sure that if you upgrade, it's to a two-slot card that vents all its heat outside the case, as otherwise things will start getting toasty real quick.