Round the back of the system you’ll find S-Video inputs and outputs on the TV Tuner card, and an S-Video output on the graphics card. There’s an Ethernet socket and connections for the analogue audio capable of delivering eight channels of sound. There’s also a Coaxial digital audio output but no optical. There are four USB 2.0 ports and one FireWire. There are also DVI, VGA and S-Video ports on the back of the system but these are from the graphics chip – just make sure that you remember to connect your monitor/TV to the graphics card instead, unless you want to try a multi-monitor scenario.
Unlike many of the Media Centers I’ve looked at recently, the receivers for the keyboard and the remote have not been integrated. Instead, two unsightly black boxes have to be connected to two of the USB ports at the rear. It certainly works but again, it’s far from elegant and I would have preferred to have seen the case modded to fit them.
More disappointing though is the quality of the keyboard. It’s a small, cheap and plasticky affair with an oily finish. Also, the mouse buttons on the left are rattly. The worst offender is the mouse ball on the right – it has a poor feel and is hard to control.
A wireless keyboard such as this would have been acceptable even a year ago, but as we’ve seen from recent reviews things have moved on. In fact, this was my overall issue with the Hi-Grade DMS Extreme. There’s certainly no arguing with the choice of components Hi-Grade has gone with, but by going with an off-the-shelf case the system falls short of the tight custom made integration that we’ve seen from the likes of Sony and Acer. It simply looks too home made. This would have been forgivable were the Hi-Grade cheaper, but in fact it’s over £100 more than the Sony Media Center, which in terms of looks and integration is leagues ahead.
The Hi-Grade is a competently built Media Center system with a string of choice of components. However, even taking into account the Blu-ray drive it feels overpriced. The external remote dongles and the poor keyboard particularly jar. Compared to the more attractive, better integrated and less expensive Sony Blu-ray Media Center the Hi-Grade really struggles to make a case for itself.
”’Update:”’ Hi-Grade has contacted us to let us know that a more affordable version of the DMS Extreme is available with the same CPU (Core 2 Duo T7200) but with two 250GB hard disk drives and 1GB of RAM for £1,598 including VAT.
Score in detail