This is a little less deal-of-the-day and a little more great new product at a great price.
NewEgg has recently started carrying the Acer AspireRevo AR1600-U910H for the very reasonable price of $199. This little nettop wouldn’t be all that impressive for home-theater use if it weren’t for the fact that it uses Nvidia’s new ION LE graphics chipset.
The ION part means hardware decoded 1080p video, while the LE part means no DirectX 10 support. The former is great news for folks looking for the basis of a cheap networked HTPC. The latter means it’s cheaper than similar ION products with DX10 support.
For about the price of a networked media tank or several other media streamers, you can have a full fledged HTPC with HDMI AV output capable of running great front-ends like XBMC, Boxee, SageTV, MythTV, or maybe even a future upgrade to Windows 7 if you can decide which version to buy (hint: it’s probably Home Premium Upgrade).
With 4 rear USB ports it’s easy to attach extra storage, wireless adapters, TV tuners (especially since MS has finally unleashed cable card from the OEMs), wireless keyboards/mice, or remotes. The Atom 230 CPU sips power and is 100% silent.
While the 160gb HD won’t serve an extensive DVD or BD collection, it will get you going out of the box and also allows you to keep the bulk of your media out on your network, either on a NAS or network connected PC with more horsepower for ripping/encoding. Since it’s a full-fledged PC, you’ll also have unfettered access to Netflix, Hulu, CBS, and other web video portals that are less than TV friendly… and without extra transcoding software like PlayOn and TVersity.
While there are bound to be add-ons to make this fit any given person’s requirements (at least a media-center remote), the fact that you can add only what you need and exactly what you want with such a low start-up cost means this really could be the ideal inexpensive media center PC starting point for a lot of people, and a more functional alternative to other similarly priced media players, streamers, and NMTs.
You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and make it what you want it to be, but most of the hard work (assembly, initial OS install, low noise, low power, hardware video decoding, compact form factor) are already taken care of.
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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.