If this is such a wondrous age of convergence, why do most of us still not have one magical box in our lounge to do everything? A belt ‘n’ braces hi-def source that also doubles as a PC to let you connect to the web.
The reason is mostly because do-it-all media centre PCs generally look as drab, and cost as much, as the I.US XPS HD. But perhaps it’s time for a reassessment – can this re-designed Shuttle PC really cut it as a dedicated hi-def player, and also satisfy your computer needs?
The XPS HD is certainly loaded to the gunwales with home entertainment kit. Dual-format hi-def disc support means you can play all those HD-DVDs you rather rashly rushed out and bought, and there’s also a 500GB hard disk drive, 2GB of RAM, Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a GeForce 8500GT graphics card.
So much for the numbers – what it means is that the I.US has sufficient power to form the heart of an expensive media centre. As the chassis is so packed with PC and hi-def disc gubbins you’re limited as to the amount of expansion you can do with this PC. But it sits neatly under the TV.
Of course, the XPS HD is a bit more complex to get up and running than, say, a dedicated Blu-ray player. And it’s not exactly the king of convenience in operation. It’s essentially just a box with a sliding disc tray, so don’t expect to be able to do anything except turn it on or off without the remote control.
And if you want to watch a Blu-ray or HD-DVD disc, you have to leave Media Center, change resolution settings and start another program. But it’s fine with a bit of practice and, unlike several other media centres we could mention, the I.US stays quiet even when running at full tilt.
What’s more, it’s a cracking performer when judged purely in terms of Blu-ray performance. Picture quality is as good as any most other Blu-ray players we’ve tested (as it should be, given the price) and it’s particularly good at displaying fast-moving action. The lack of audio via HDMI is a bit of a blow, but one softened by the 7.1 channel analogue audio output.
Neat, tidy, dull to look at and a full-on performer, the I.US will conceivably do more than you need it to. Which is always better than not doing enough.