With a new operating system comes a fresh attempt at popularising the media centre, and Acer has announced its Aspire iDea 510 to coincide with the recent release of Windows Vista Premium.
Acer is pitching this device as a niche product, which is unusual for a large company, and is perhaps based on the public's luke-warm reception of previous media centre PCs. It will be available in only 50 stores Australia-wide, including David Jones and Myer, which matches the unit's "exclusive" price of AU$2999.
The iDea 510 is a very slender unit, and looks quite fetching in its silver and black skin. It packs in all the features you'd expect from a premium PC: twin digital tuners, low noise output, 500GB hard drive, HDMI output, and a slot-loading dual-layer DVD burner.
The PC comes with several peripherals, including a remote control, and a keyboard with a trackpad on the side. This is handy, because we believe one of the biggest "killer apps" for media centers is not "Pause Live TV", but Internet browsing -- just try to make your DVD recorder do that!
Of course, the Acer also comes bundled with the Vista version of Media Center, which is one of the best looking and easiest to use front ends yet. Combined with Intel's Viiv enhancements this should make the iDea a compelling content source.
If TV watching is your thing, you'll be happy to know that the machine comes with a 12 month subscription to the IceTV EPG.
Three thousand dollars is a lot for a media centre -- especially when you consider that devices such as the PS3 and Xbox 360 can do many of the same functions. Even if you buy a DVD recorder with hard drive as well you'll still have change from two grand.
Acer is happy to admit that the Aspire iDea 510 is a proprietary design, which means that it's not easily upgradeable beyond adding a larger hard drive or more RAM.
Also, the Acer TV pictured in the gallery is not included for the price, so you'll need a TV with at least 720p capability to make the most of the PC functions.
The Acer Aspire iDea 510 is a stylish looking addition to the scant number of Media Center systems on the market. Yes, it is a niche product, but first impressions are that it's a sturdy unit and should find a happy home for enthusiasts willing to put a little time into it.