Velocity Micro CineMagix Grand Theater Media Center PC Reviewed

Velocity Micro CineMagix Grand Theater Media Center PC Reviewed

Home Theater PCs offer powerful capabilities as video servers, as well as the options for good amounts customization. Velocity Micro's Cinemagix Grand Theater Media Center PC has a seemingly endless list of features for users to explore and use to enhance their home theater.

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Velocity Micro specializes in high-end, high-performance PCs, including several media center models. The CineMagix Grand Theater falls in the middle of the company's media PC lineup, with a baseline price of $1,799 and numerous upgrade options that give you a lot of flexibility to design the exact model you want. We have not performed a hands-on review of the CineMagix, but here is an overview of its features. The basic package comes with the following specs: Windows Vista Home Premium OS, a 320GB hard drive, a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4600 processor, 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, the ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card, and an integrated Intel 7.1 HD Audio sound card. You have the option to upgrade to Vista Ultimate, choose a different video card (like the Nvidia GeForce 9400GT or 9800GTX), and increase storage capacity to up to 2TB, with RAID 1 or RAID5 backup.

Additional Resources
• Learn more about media servers from HomeTheaterReview.com's Vast Archive of Reviews.

The base package comes with a DVD/CD burner, and there are two possible Blu-ray upgrades: You can add Lite-On's Blu-ray/DVD-ROM drive for $155 (this drive does not support DVD/CD burning), or you can go with the Lite-On Blu-ray burner ($315) and Cyberlink Play Movie 1.5 software ($99). TV and DVR functionality are supported, and the unit contains a single ATI TV Wonder 650 Pro tuner, which includes over-the-air ATSC, NTSC, QAM, and FM tuners. For $165, you can upgrade to a single ATI TV Wonder digital cable tuner (with CableCARD support) to watch and record premium cable channels. The Grand Theater actually supports up to four tuners, but only two of them can be the ATI TV Wonder digital cable model. And, of course, you have to pay extra for each additional tuner. Still, there aren't many models in this general price range that support four tuners. The Grand Theater's connection options depend on which configuration you choose, including video card and tuner options. The ATI Radeon video card supports HDMI, DVI, and VGA output. On the audio side, you get an optical digital audio output but no multichannel analog audio output. The unit sports a generous six USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports, and a 52-in-one card reader. There's an integrated 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet network adapter, and you can add an optional 802.11g network adapter for $25.

Velocity Micro supplies a basic media center edition IR remote and keyboard, with the ability to upgrade to a Razer Lycosa gaming keyboard ($65) or Microsoft wireless keyboard ($150). The Grand Theater has a sturdy aluminum chassis, available in black or silver with a basic LCD screen. Artic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro heatsinks help cut down on fan noise.

Read The High Points, The Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2

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High Points
- Velocity Micro offers numerous customization options.
- The Grand Theater is well built, and even the basic configuration offers good power and memory.
- Depending on the configuration you choose, the unit can support Blu-ray playback, including 1080p output and Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD decoding. 
- The CineMagix can accommodate up to four TV tuners. If you order the ATI TV Wonder digital cable tuner, it is integrated into the chassis, not external.
- Gigabit Ethernet is onboard.

Low Points
- The base package's 320GB hard drive is a little small for the price.
- Blu-ray and digital cable support will cost you extra.
- The basic configuration only contains a single over-the-air TV tuner. You must pay extra for dual-tuner functionality. 
- Wi-Fi support is not part of the basic package.

Conclusion
The CineMagix Grand Theater is a well-rounded unit offered at a reasonable baseline price. Some of the most worthwhile features, like Blu-ray playback and CableCARD support, will add to the bottom line, but even a fully loaded Grand Theater is less expensive than some similarly equipped high-end media center PCs. Velocity Micro's customization flexibility is one of its greatest strengths, allowing you to add or subtract features as desired to create the exact media center PC you want.

Additional Resources
• Learn more about media servers from HomeTheaterReview.com's Vast Archive of Reviews.

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