While the latest technology usually tends toward miniaturization, including PCs such as the Apple Mac Mini and the Blueado Mini m5e, some people just like the feeling of conspicuous consumption they get from a big, bold box of electronics. Home-theater types are especially size conscious, looking for ever-bigger preamps, speakers, and screens. If you want a massive Media Center to go along with your other considerable home-theater components, the Okoro GX300 will fit the bill, looming large in your A/V rack while looking the part of a high-end A/V receiver. It's the biggest entertainment PC we've seen since the Niveus Denali, and at $5,045, it's almost as expensive. Its high-end parts help justify its sky-high price, as does a unique front-panel touch screen. If you have the means, you'll find the Okoro GX300 will ably handle nearly any media task while also serving as a conversation starter.
We doubt many of your friends have a PC housed in a massive brushed-metal case that measures 17 inches wide by 16.5 inches deep by 7 inches high, let alone one that features a 7-inch color touch screen on the front panel. Why mirror your desktop on a tiny LCD built into the chassis? It provides an easy way to access your media without having to turn on your display or hunt for the remote. It's especially useful when playing music, for example. The touch screen was accurate once we tweaked it with a built-in calibration utility, but even our not-too-stubby fingers had trouble with anything smaller than the Windows Media Center 10-foot interface. We had much better luck using a capped pen as a stylus.
Getting the touch screen up and running was no small chore. It required taking one of the two DVI outputs from the ATI X1900 XTX video card and routing it to an included transcoder box, about the size of a laptop power supply. That box outputs its own DVI cable to a separate input on the back of the PC via a PCI card that is internally connected to the touch screen. On top of all that, you'll have to plug in an AC adapter for the transcoder to work. It's a major hassle, but once you have it set up and tucked away, you shouldn't have to deal with it again. The touch screen itself can be turned on or off with a power button on the front panel of the system. Setup for mirroring your desktop on the touch screen is done through ATI's Catalyst Control Center software.
Also on the front panel reside media control buttons; a blue, illuminated power button; and a single optical-drive drawer. The optical-drive door is labeled simply DVD, although the drive inside is actually a double-layer DVD burner.
On the back panel, there are dual DVI outputs, one of which is used by the touch screen, plus an S-Video output and a dongle connector for component-video output. A DVI-to-VGA adapter is included. There are four USB 2.0 ports and a single FireWire port, plus parallel and serial connections, and PS/2 keyboard and mouse connections. You can ignore the audio connections built into the motherboard; the GX300 has an HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 PCI card, which includes an optical TosLink output.
The most impressive aspect of the Okoro GX300 might be its astounding storage capacity. Inside the case, three 500GB Hitachi hard drives are in a RAID 5 array, giving you 1TB of storage with 500GB of redundant space. A separate 40GB laptop drive acts as your C: drive, storing the OS and all applications. The huge case is tightly packed, and the small laptop drive barely fits in--another full-size drive would have been out of the question. From the online configurator on Okoro's Web site, you can also choose a RAID 0 array, which will combine two 500GB drives for 1TB of space, saving you $450 in the process.
The 2.8GHz AMD Athlon FX-57 is more CPU than a media center system really needs, but the Okoro GX300 still performed below our expectations, coming in 30 percent behind than the Polywell Poly 975MCE, with an only slightly faster Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955 processor. We chalk up its somewhat disappointing 203 SysMark 2004 score to the slower laptop hard drive, which spins at only 5,400rpm, as opposed to the standard desktop hard drive speed of 7,200rpm. Since we received our review unit, Okoro has told us that the 40GB laptop drive for applications has been replaced by a standard 160GB desktop hard drive.
Despite the hard drive issues, the Okoro GX300 turned in some of the most impressive gaming scores we've seen in a dedicated media center system. Thanks to its top-of-the-line ATI Radeon X1900 XTX video card, it churned out an impressive 113.9 frames per second in Doom 3 at a resolution of 1,024x768.
Besides the touch screen, the Okoro GX300 can be controlled via a Microsoft Media Center wireless keyboard or a SnapStream Firefly remote control, both included. Bundled software was sparse, but Okoro offers both SageTV or Beyond TV in its (very limited) online configurator.
Like the hard drives, the Okoro GX300 includes an abundance of TV tuners. There's a single ATI TV Wonder Elite PCI card and dual Vbox over-the-air HDTV tuners, for which you'll have to connect an external antenna (or two). It's great for fans of over-the-air HD, but if you're not partial to external antennas, it's not an ideal setup.
Okoro's excellent quick-start guide is a full-color, 10-page guide that uses system photos to lead you through hooking up various components and wiring up the somewhat tricky touch screen. After that, the service and support falls flat. The warranty is skimpy for such a high-priced system: you get a standard one-year term on parts and labor but only 90 days of telephone tech support. We tried calling Okoro to ask how that would work, but we were sent to a voicemail system. There is a brief FAQ page on the Okoro Web site that answers a few specific questions, while the Knowledge Base and Forums links don't seem to work at all. Okoro later told us that they, "quite often support our customers well after this [90-day] time period" and will soon extend their phone support for the full length of the warranty, as well as add new Web support options.