Some of you may remember that I have a day job. Although I write tons of reviews and today's hottest toys are scattered throughout my house (on loan), I still don my Clark Kent getup and report to "work-work" each day. (Writing is "fun-work" but, sadly, it doesn't pay all of the bills.) Recently, while at work-work, I had lunch with my cubicle neighbor, Wes. He was telling me about his friend's new custom-built "Media Center" computer. "Have you played with one of those yet for the magazine?" Funny you should ask, Wes. Having just spent a few weeks with Niveus' Rainier Edition Media Center PC, I've come to one conclusion. The Media Center PC is definitely the future of computing.
Like most people, you've probably jumped on the digital bandwagon with a digital camera, a healthy collection of DVDs and maybe an iPod or some other portable MP3 player. I don't have an iPod, but I enjoy downloading the occasional MP3 file when I don't want to purchase an entire album. Not too long ago, I purchased my first serious digital camera, and now I can't remember the last time I had a roll of film developed. My friends and family will tell you that my DVD collection borders on unhealthy. (My wife prefers not to talk about it.) Having all of these files on my PC is great, but my PC is in my home office. If it's not during work hours, who wants to browse photos and listen to tunes in the office? With Niveus' Rainier Media Center PC, you can bring all of that content into the living room (or home theater) where it rightfully belongs.
If you're like most humans, you've spent a good deal of time around computers - either at home or at work. Some are tall, some are short, some are black, and some are beige. If there's one thing you can say about virtually all computers (without using four-letter words), it's that they're noisy. With processor speeds getting faster every year and high-end video cards generating massive amounts of heat, fans and proper cooling have become more important than ever. Sitting atop the list of reasons I love this Niveus Media Center PC: its fan-less, passive cooling system. Niveus refers to it as an "Anodized Niveus Heatsink Case with Proprietary Passive Cooling Technology", but what it means for you and me is a whisper-quiet machine that's respectful in your home theater, where silence can often be golden.
Whenever I get on my soapbox extolling the virtues of Microsoft's Media Center, the unacquainted usually ask about the mess of wires normally associated with using a PC. "Why would I want all of those wires in my living room?" In a word, wireless. Whereas most Media Center PCs utilize a basic wireless mouse/keyboard combination, Niveus goes one better. Included with the Rainier Edition is a standard Microsoft Media Center remote, but you also get Gyration's wireless gyroscopic mouse and keyboard. I'll have more to say about these slick peripherals in a minute.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Unpacking the Rainier was a piece of cake, but I did encounter one minor issue. While taking the chassis out of the box, I noticed it only had three feet, instead of four. The fourth apparently fell off during shipment and was loose in the box. I contacted Niveus about this, and apparently it's a known issue and they have since changed adhesives. First impressions aside, the problem is easy enough to fix, and I didn't get the sense that it was indicative of larger quality-control issues. Moving on, it was time to make my wire connections and run through Media Center's extensive setup process.