In the home automation world, Exceptional Innovation is known for its Life|ware system, which is a software-based automation platform that runs on Windows Media Center PCs. The software allows for control of compatible products, such as lighting systems, security, HVAC and whole-house audio. If your entire home entertainment and automation system is controlled by a media center PC, you obviously want that PC to be as stable and robust as possible. Early on, EI partnered with HP to promote media center PCs but, when HP abruptly exited the home theater PC market, EI decided to develop its own media center PCs so that it could have greater control over the end product.
The result is the Life/media line of media center PCs, of which the LMS-700 is one of the top-shelf models. This unit has a 3TB hard drive, a DVD/CD burner and two NTSC/ATSC tuners to tune in over-the-air programming, with DVR functionality that allows you to record two HD shows simultaneously. For digital cable subscribers who would like access to premium HD channels, the Life/media LMS-750 has the same specs as the LMS-700, but also includes dual CableCARD/Clear-QAM tuners. Neither model currently supports Blu-ray playback. The LMS-700 does not have an HDMI output, offering two DVI outputs instead (interestingly, the step-down models, with smaller hard drives, do offer HDMI). The unit runs Windows Vista Ultimate and uses a 2.67GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM. Its graphics card is the 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8800GTS. In the audio realm, the LMS-700 uses a Dolby Home Theater Certified 7.1 sound card that's integrated into the motherboard. Audio outputs include one optical digital audio and one set of 7.1-channel analog audio outputs.
As with other Windows Media Center PCs, the LMS-700 provides a simple user interface through which you can access and import music, photos and movies. The LMS-700 has a generous assortment of peripheral connections, including eight USB ports (only two are 2.0; the rest are 1.1), two FireWire ports and a 28-in-1 card reader. The unit supports gigabit Ethernet via the back-panel RJ-45 port, but it does not have built-in Wi-Fi. It's no surprise that the Life/ware software is included, and the unit has a nice set of control options, with two RS-232 and 12-volt trigger ports, as well as one IR input and two IR outputs. An IR remote and a wireless RF keyboard are included.
Read The High Points, the Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2
• The LMS-700 has excellent build quality and offers a lot of storage, thanks to its 3TB hard drive. Its list of peripheral connections is also solid.
• The inclusion of dual ATSC tuners means you record two over-the-air HD channels simultaneously or watch one and record another.
• Life|ware software is included, and the LMS-700 can be the foundation of an advanced whole-house control system that allows you to control lights, music, security, etc., via the Vista user interface.
• The LMS-700 does not support Blu-ray playback, nor does it have an HDMI output.
• The unit lacks built-in Wi-Fi.
• If you wish to record premium HD channels, you must step up to the LMS-750, which has CableCARD support. Neither model is compatible with satellite TV systems.
The LMS-700 has a generally good list of connections and features and a huge hard drive, but it is missing some things (Blu-ray playback, HDMI, Wi-Fi) that you can find in a less-expensive media center PC. This product is really meant for someone who plans to utilize the Life/ware home automation platform and requires a more stable PC with advanced control options.