Not all convergence devices result in a happy marriage, as illustrated by Pacco Group's $999 Ix My CIU (Central Interface Unit). The system combines a flat-panel TV, an FM radio, and a DVD player with a PC. The result? Let's just say that communication is the cornerstone to any successful union. The TV can't talk to the PC, which means you can't record any of your favorite shows to the hard drive, let alone burn them to DVD. Making matters worse, the TV and PC functionality, taken individually, each leave something to be desired. At 15 inches, the screen is too small for most TV-viewing scenarios, and the PC is slow. We suggest you think twice before you wed yourself to the Ix My CIU.
We're not sold on the Ix My CIU's design either. The silver bezel around the screen is overly large, and at 5.5 inches in depth, the system is chunky compared with other all-in-ones we've seen, such as MPC's. Of course, the Ix My CIU's extra depth gives Pacco Group room to cram a TV, an FM tuner, some speakers, a recordable DVD drive, and a five-in-one memory reader into the box. Internal expansion isn't an option: the case isn't designed to be opened, and you'll void the warranty if you do so. On the back of the case, there's an Ethernet jack, four USB 2.0 ports, and RCA and S-Video ports. A FireWire connector, however, is noticeably absent.
Unlike most PCs with entertainment aspirations, such as those running Microsoft's Media Center OS (the Ix My CIU runs Windows XP Home), the Ix My CIU has a full-fledged TV built right in. Instead of relying on a TV tuner card, TV viewing on the Ix My CIU requires virtually no processing power, but at the same time, it robs the system of one of the more useful convergence features: a personal video recorder (PVR). You can't store TV programs on the hard drive or burn shows to DVD. You can burn other video files to DVD with the includedapp, and CD-creation chores are handled by Ahead Software's . The rest of the software bundle is made up of annoying trial offers; a productivity suite is not present.
Watching TV on the Ix My CIU isn't a horrible experience. The screen's image was bright, with accurate colors, but at 15 inches, it's far too small for a machine that's primarily a TV. The Ix My CIU has built-in stereo speakers below the screen, but as with most integrated speakers, they sounded shallow and tinny in our tests. Luckily, the system has audio outputs for an external speaker set.