You also get a card reader at the rear which accepts CompactFlash and more importantly PC Cards. The latter can be used with the optional PC Card WiFi adapter - this is definitely an option that's worth investing in, because if there's one thing that a Media Center PC needs, it's an Internet connection. Not only is an Internet connection necessary for the Electronic Programme Guides, but it will also allow you to make use of the Media Center Online Spotlight services. The former will allow you to make sure you record your favourite programmes, while the latter will give you access to online services tailored to the Media Center environment.
So what is the Tranquil T2.e like in use? Well it looks good, but nowhere near as good as the Hush. Also, the fanless design is less of an achievement considering the hardware platform that it's based on. Add to this the fact that the T2.e uses an external power supply, which means that Tranquil didn't have to worry about the heat created by the PSU. But I'm not trying to take anything away from Tranquil's engineers - they set out to build a completely fanless Media Center PC and did just that.
What Tranquil has done with the T2.e is prove something that I've suspected for a very long time - that you don't need particularly powerful hardware in order to make a decent Media Center PC. Running the T2.e through all the duties that would be expected of a Media Center PC, it performed very well indeed. Whether you're watching TV, recording TV, watching a DVD, streaming video or time-shifting video, the T2.e doesn't miss a step.
That said, I did hit the limits of the hardware when I tried playing back some WMV9 High Definition Video content. The T2.e struggled to keep up any kind of frame rate when playing back HD video - this is probably due to a combination of modest CPU power and a lack of HD acceleration on the graphics chip.
So, the Tranquil T2.e isn't quite as stylish, well built or downright desirable as the Hush, and the hardware does limit HD video playback, but it does have one very important factor in its favour - price. With a base price of £938.83 including VAT, the Tranquil is just over half the price of the Hush, making it a much more affordable prospect.
Unfortunately, despite the price difference, I would still bite the bullet and give my credit card number to Hush. The Tranquil is a great little Media Center system at a great price, but the Hush is a design master piece. But it's not just looks and build quality, the Hush also has key features that are missing from the Tranquil, like integrated WiFi and front mounted USB, FireWire and audio ports.
The T2.e is tantalisingly close to being a great Media Center PC, but it needs a little bit of work here and there. There's no doubt that HD video content is going to become more prevalent in 2005 and any Media Center PC needs to be able to handle the format. Some front mounted ports would be useful too, allowing you to connect up your digital camera, camcorder or even a memory card reader. Ultimately though, if you can't afford the Hush E2-MCE, the Tranquil T2.e is reasonably priced alternative.
Tranquil has managed to create a totally fanless Media Center PC at a very attractive price. The choice of hardware means that HD video is off the menu, and it's lacking some front mounted connection options, but on the whole, the T2.e is nice little machine that would look good in any living room.