When the full production Luminas hit the street, there will be extra connectivity located on the right hand side as well – integrated alongside the card reader will be S/PDIF in, S-Video in, composite video in, stereo audio in, headphone and microphone sockets, two USB 2.0 ports and one six-pin FireWire port.
On the review sample, graphics were handled by an ATI Radeon 9600 card with 128MB of memory. Although this card is getting long in the tooth, it’s still fine for a Media Center PC. That said, if you do envisage wanting to play games on the Lumina, Elonex will offer a range of different graphics solutions to suit your needs.
Taking care of the TV side of things is a Hauppauge Win TV PVR-500 dual TV tuner card. Support for dual tuners is one of the major advantages of Media Center 2005, and it means that you can record one programme while you’re watching another one. The tuner card is analogue rather than digital, but Elonex does offer a DVB solution, and there will be a dual digital tuner card available early 2005. Unlike other Media Center solutions that I’ve looked at with two separate TV tuner cards, the Lumina doesn’t need two aerial feeds, or an external splitter – instead there’s a single aerial socket which feeds both tuners.
Now, although having dual TV tuner support is a great feature, the Lumina goes one step further. Because the LCD screen that the Lumina is built into is also a television, you actually have three TV tuners at your disposal. So, you could record two different programmes with the Hauppauge dual tuner and then choose to watch a third, different channel using the TV tuner that’s integrated into the screen.
Connectivity is very well catered for with a standard 10/100 Ethernet adapter taking care of wired networking. But it’s the wireless side of the equation that’s really interesting – the Lumina has an integrated 802.11a/b/g adapter, so you’ll be able to connect to the Internet wherever you place the Lumina, if you’ve got a wireless router setup in your home.
Connection to the Internet is paramount for a Media Center device, not least because of the ability to download the electronic programme guides, so you can schedule which TV shows you want to watch and record. But with the Lumina, Internet connection is even more important, since the high screen resolution means that you can use it to do anything that you’d usually do on a PC, including checking email or browsing web sites.
Another new feature in Media Center 2005 is the Online Spotlight section. Online Spotlight gives you a list of websites that have been tailored specifically for a Media Center environment. Although the content in Online Spotlight is limited at present, there’s no doubt the Microsoft will be working hard to increase this. One cool Online Spotlight service that was accessible from the Lumina was Music Brigade – a service that streams music videos direct to your screen. The selection of artists and videos is impressive, and although the quality isn’t great, it’s a nice little toy for showing off Media Center.
The final part of the connectivity lineup is the integrated 56K modem. Now, you may be wondering why you’d want a modem in a machine like this, considering the other connection options at your disposal. Well, I wouldn’t expect anyone that buys the Lumina to still be using a dialup Internet service, but having a modem in a Media Center PC does bring one cool feature to the table – caller ID. So, if you happen to be watching TV or a movie on the Lumina and the phone rings, the number of who is calling will be displayed on the screen, giving you the information you need to decide whether to get up and take the call, or just let it ring. It may not be the most compelling feature that the Lumina has on offer, bit it’s definitely a novel one.