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This is one raging monster of a machine. The Medio is bookended by giant aerofoils that run down the lengths of the sides of the chassis. These make it look like it's part of a military fighter jet -- not exactly elegant, but you do look serious about your cinema. There's nothing soft and homely about the Medio, it's definitely a PVR for bodybuilders. Just when you thought home cinema was getting sleeker, something like this comes along and throws its breakfast across the room.
It's beautifully built. Moore has clearly put a lot of effort into maintaining a gorgeous finish throughout. Where other Media Centers are blighted by wobbly CD trays and flimsy hatches, the Medio is largely seamless and intelligently laid out. The Medio is the same shape as a desktop PC, so there'll be no tucking this under the television unless you've got a seriously big cabinet to house it in.
Our review model arrived in a huge aluminium briefcase, the kind of thing that James Bond baddies carry nuclear bombs around in. Inside we found the Medio's peripherals recessed into foam rubber. These include the Gyration keyboard and mouse, AV cables for connecting the Medio to your home-cinema system and, of course, the Moore Medio itself.
You'll need to clear a lot of shelf space in your living room to store the Medio -- we easily stacked four DVD players in the same amount of space the Medio occupies. It's worth noting that the Medio doesn't quite conform to the standard 19-inch rack format of most consumer hi-fi -- it's a couple of millimetres wider. Also, despite its industrial looks, the Medio we reviewed was not fully rack mountable. You'll need to buy brackets and fit them to the Medio yourself to rack mount it alongside any hardcore power amplifiers.
For most home-cinema fans, the Medio's kooky looks make it an extremely appealing alternative to the bland offerings from other Media Center manufacturers. The rear of the chassis is more conventional though. The row of PCI slots and regular PC ports will be familiar to anyone who's dived behind their desktop PC to plug in a USB cable or speakers. Our review model lacked phono connectors -- still de facto for home cinema -- although there was a digital audio-out socket which will provide better sound. Fortunately, the audio specifications for the Medio are highly customisable. If you need a different soundcard Moore will fit this for you.
Like other Media Center manufacturers -- with the notable exception of Evesham -- Moore hasn't used a slot-loading CD/DVD drive. Although the Medio's CD tray is more solid than some we've tested, installing a slot-loader would have been a much neater and less vulnerable option. Hopefully Moore will offer this in a future redesign.
Turning the Medio upside-down reveals a testimony to its creators etched into the brushed metal chassis underneath. The team behind this Media Center was obviously very proud of its work -- and for good reason. This is the most laboriously well-crafted PC case we've seen outside Apple.
Our review model came pre-configured as a Windows Media Center Edition PC and games like Hitman Contracts, Thief and Splinter Cell were included in the box. Unlike the other Media Centers we've tested, the Medio didn't pester us for information about user accounts we'd like to set up, or bombard us with pointless help documents. This is how Media Center PCs should arrive -- ready to work, like a TiVo or Sky Plus box.
Two 160GB hard disks were installed in our Medio, and Windows Media Center Edition was installed in a 20GB partition on the first drive. This makes it significantly easier to reinstall the operating system if everything goes nuclear. A large Zalman Silent CPU cooling system keeps everything from melting into a gooey mess when things start hotting up. The Medio is relatively quiet during operation -- the fins along the side of the chassis serve partly as heat sinks -- but there is still some audible fan noise. This is unlikely to be a problem when Armageddon is thundering out of your speakers, but it did remind us of how much electricity these Media Centers chomp through while doing some fairly basic PVR operations.
A Creative Audigy 2 card is slotted into one of the Medio's PCI slots. This provided us with digital audio in and out as well as speaker connections and a FireWire port. Moore includes a high-end cable for hooking up digital audio, making it easy to attach the sound card to an amplifier. To feed a digital TV signal into the Medio, we used one of its two TV cards to receive the signal from a coaxial cable attached to an aerial socket. The Medio's TV card can decode free digital TV without an external Freeview box.
The Medio is bundled with a Gyration keyboard and mouse. These are both wireless -- the keyboard takes batteries and the mouse recharges via a cradle. Gryration is a well-proven peripheral choice, and this is a much better input system than the proprietary wireless keyboards and mice that are usually included with Media Center PCs. We needed to provide line-of-sight to the Gyration receiver because while reception is good, it's not flawless. We did notice some erratic behaviour from the mouse in some seating positions, but this was quickly remedied.
A Radeon 9600XT graphics card cranks some serious graphics action out of the Medio. Like most components in the Medio this is customisable, but for a rampage in Grand Theft Auto it's more than sufficient. Games like Hitman Contracts and Thief were equally snappy. There's nothing quite so fun as blasting civilians into little pieces on a surround sound system.
PVR functions on the Medio are as you would expect with any Media Center PC. The Windows interface for scheduling digital video recording is excellent. You are however tied to the inherent limitations of digital television in the UK. Anyone likely to buy a Medio will probably already have a large plasma or LCD TV -- currently digital TV looks quite flakey on both. Things get even worse if you use the S-video output. Although this disguises some artefacts by blurring the picture, we found the S-video picture was dull and unsaturated. Moore doesn't recommend using the S-video port, and we would advise you to stick with either the VGA or DVI outputs.
Although we still find the idea of using an entire Windows desktop system as a PVR to be incredible overkill, the Medio came closer than anything else to convincing us that there is some mileage in the concept. Big-screen TV owners may be disappointed by the output of recorded digital TV, but this is a limitation of the source signal and not the Medio. If you're looking for a powerful way of storing high-definition films, or DVDs, and accessing them in your living room, the Medio is currently top of the PVR pack.
Edited by Mary Lojkine