Once you’ve started the machine and are running Media Center, the 3XS Classic Media Centre is very easy to use with the remote – though note my comments later on the actual remote control. It handled all the media we threw at it with no signs of struggling and was commendably quiet, even though it has fans.
Unlike some earlier Media Center-style machines, which had a simple operating system dedicated to handling CD playback without starting Windows, the 3XS Classic Media Centre does need it running, but of course Windows Vista has a good set of stand-by options and the machine takes little power when switched to hibernation mode. You then get a quick start-up when you want to play media.
There are a few rough edges though. The Windows remote control is not that sensitive and we had to press buttons several times to get a response. Scan says SilverStone is working on improved drivers and that the machine will be supplied with Microsoft’s external receiver, too, which in our experience provides a very robust connection.
The dual DVB-T digital TV tuner is a neat little USB dongle from Hauppauge, but it’s not neat enough to prevent it blocking the other three USB sockets when you plug it into the fourth. Scan supplies a USB extension cable to get round this.
Our review sample also started to the Windows Vista desktop, and the Media Center icon wasn’t installed on the desktop. If the machine’s intended for the less experienced customer, and is supplied without keyboard or mouse, it would be better to start straight to Media Center – Scan says this will be the default.
It’s a shame wireless networking isn’t built-in, as having to run cables room to room for Internet access or to link to a home server can be messy. Cabled networking is supplied, of course, but in a £1,000 machine it should be more than the option it currently is.
We tried to run PCMark 05, but received an error message about video buffer set-up. This is nothing to worry about and is largely due to the very new state of the nVidia 8500 drivers. Scan will be updating the card within the next week or so.
The machine we saw was just at the end of its development cycle, so our minor criticisms are likely to be dealt with by the time the system is released. The 3XS Classic Media Centre is a very effective Media Center and looks sleek and purposeful. We’d have liked to see wireless networking built in and for it to be a tad cheaper. Even with the fancy low-profile case, it’s around £200 more than the mainstream competition.