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Niveus Media Rainier Edition 500HD Media Center PC Reviewed

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Niveus-Media-Rainier-Edition.gifNiveus Media offers high-end media center PCs sold exclusively through custom-retail channels.  The company's Rainier Series is its most affordable line and features four models with varying amounts of hard-drive storage and functionality.  As its name suggests, the Rainier Edition 500HD ($4,699) has a 500GB hard drive, as well as a built-in Blu-ray drive that supports 1080p/60 or 1080p/24 playback via the unit's HDMI output.  It is ISF-certified.  Running the Windows Vista Ultimate operating system, the Niveus unit features a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 processor and 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, using a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8500GT graphics card and Arcsoft Total Media Theater software for disc playback.  Other video outputs include DVI and component video with BNC-style connectors.  The Rainier Edition 500HD does have DVR functionality; however, it lacks internal TV tuners.  In order to view and record TV signals, you need to add the optional Digital Cable Receiver ($1,499), which is actually two ATI TV Wonder digital cable tuners.  Each tuner includes a CableCARD slot and NTSC/ATSC/Clear-QAM tuner to support both digital cable and over-the-air tuning.

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On the audio side, the Rainier Edition 500HD sports an Intel HD Audio chip that allows for up to 7.1-channel output and supports 24-bit/192-kHz playback.  Audio outputs include HDMI, optical digital and 7.1-channel analog audio.  The player can internally decode Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus and pass it over the analog audio outs.

As with other Windows Media Center PCs, the Rainier Edition 500HD provides a simple user interface through which you can access and import music, photos and movies.  In addition to the BD/DVD/CD drive, this device has a nice amount of peripheral connections, including six USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports and one SD/MMC card reader.  In terms of Internet functionality, the unit supports gigabit Ethernet and has integrated 802.11b/g Wi-Fi.  The menu provides access to the Niveus HD Media Store, where you can easily purchase and download standard- and high-resolution music from MusicGiants.  The back-panel RS-232 port allows for easier integration into an advanced control system.  An IR remote and a wireless RF keyboard are included.

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