Elonex have produced an all-in-one media centre that is so simple to install you just need to drill some holes in the wall and provide an aerial and power.
The eXtentia (UK£2114, €3162) is essentially a slim wall-mounted PC with a TFT display – the display is bright and clear and has a 17” diagonal viewing area, running at 1280 x 768 pixels.
The media centre will connect to your home network through its integrated 802.11g interface, or even plain old Ethernet. Interestingly, there’s a dial up modem on the motherboard, though this probably won’t see much action: if you’re going to hang something this expensive on the wall to watch your DVDs, no doubt your internet access will be broadband.
Also inside the eXtentia is a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor with 512mb of RAM. Both memory slots are full, so if you ever want to upgrade you’ll have to throw the original sticks out. The graphics card is a Radeon 9600 – which isn’t bad for a media centre, though it might struggle in a couple of years when playing new games.
Sound is stereo with the integrated speakers and sub-woofer – but since there’s a full set of 5.1 outputs, including optical, presented at the back you can plug it into your existing set-up. Other connections for getting media into and out of the PC include five USB ports, Firewire and a variety of AV ports for camcorders.
Control of the eXtentia is through a wireless keyboard and mouse, and more traditional infra-red remote control. There’s a handy 8-format memory card reader so that you can display photographs and transfer files form all your other devices – and let’s face it, you probably use at least four different card types.
The unit runs Microsoft’s Windows Media Centre, and this provides the user interface for recording TV programmes onto the 250gb hard disk.
We can look forward to seeing a lot more of these devices in the future – Sony have already had success with their Vaio lifstyle PC, whilst Dell and Gateway are offering more products that are aimed at domestic media use.
What’s not known though is if public are ready yet for a TV that needs service packs, a firewall and anti-virus software – perhaps media centres will come to use an embedded OS and be more like the TiVo.