Evesham e-box Media Center 2005 PC
All-in-one entertainment box
Review Evesham's first attempt at a Media Center PC, the eMedia, was, to be honest, far from perfect. But the UK PC maker learned from the mistakes it made, and went back to the drawing board. The result of that redesign is the machine in front of me now, the e-box, writes Riyad Emeran.
One of my major criticisms of the eMedia was that it just looked like a desktop PC, rather than a media PC - so much so that it wouldn't even fit under a TV properly. The e-box is a completely different proposition and would look far more at home in your living room. Evesham took much of what I said onboard, and has designed the e-box to look more like an AV device than a PC; in fact the form factor is pretty much identical to my Pioneer DVD player. This means that the e-box will fit snugly under your TV or on your home cinema/Hi-Fi stand.
The e-box definitely looks good from the front and it's unlikely that any visitors to your home would even realise that it was a PC if they saw it in your living room. The front fascia is constructed from a solid billet of aluminium and has a brushed finish to it. The round power button on the right is also made from aluminium and has the "Power On" symbol embossed onto it. Next to the power button is the obligatory blue LED - is it even possible to construct a consumer electronics device that doesn't have a blue light anymore? Maybe it's against the law. Below the power button is the infrared receiver for the Media Center remote. I still can't understand why Microsoft chose to go with infrared instead of RF for the Media Center remote, and when I recently asked someone at Microsoft this question, it seemed that they were just as baffled by the decision as I was. I am however, very glad to see that the infrared receiver is built into the chassis this time, rather than being external like it was with the eMedia.
On the left you'll find a slot loading optical drive which looks pretty sleek in the silver fascia. Now, although Windows reports this device as a DVD-RAM drive, when I tried to write to a DVD-RAM disc, the drive was having none of it. It told me that Windows could not recognise the disc and that I needed to format the disc before Windows could use it. Unfortunately, no amount of formatting or erasing could convince Windows to write to a DVD-RAM disc. This e-box is an early prototype so I would hope that Evesham will have this problem sorted by the time units ship to customers. Below the optical drive is a good array of connection options - there are two USB 2.0 ports, a six-pin FireWire port, a microphone socket and a headphone socket.
Other than the front fascia, the rest of the case is finished in matt black, with grilles on either side and the top to service the internal cooling fans. When you look at the rear of the e-box you can instantly see that this machine is running Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 - taking up two of the blanking plates are twin TV tuner cards. The original version of Media Center only supported a single TV tuner. The single tuner meant that you couldn't record one TV programme while you watched another, seriously limiting the versatility. With twin TV tuners, this problem is negated and Evesham has gone the whole hog and installed twin DVB tuners from Black Gold. Of course, the problem with digital tuners is that it's an all or nothing scenario - so you either get crystal clear reception or nothing at all, and in the poor reception area of Bracknell you're going to need good tuners. With this in mind, it's clear that the Black Gold tuners are excellent, since I managed to get superb reception, even in Bracknell. Of course I wasn't able to receive the full spectrum of digital channels because of the poor reception area, but when I used the e-box at home it happily found each and every Freeview channel and displayed them in all their digital glory.