Prestigio Emporio ION 330 nettop review

You may remember that we went to visit Prestigio a while back (you have been paying attention, haven’t you?) and saw some of their range of brand “lifestyle” goods, targeting men aged 30-50. Although some of this range was simply leather USB keys and mice emblazoned with Ferrari logos (I’m under 30 so am blind to the charms of these items) other more interesting products included a wireless HDMI bridge and the Emporio ION 330 – an HTPC/net top.

Emporio ION 330

Like all net top PCs the Emporio ION 330 is small, but unlike most net tops, the Emporio has a really slick looking design – it looking design – it’s unobtrusive on the average home theatre shelf and looks great. And if you really don’t like the look of it you can hide it behind your flatscreen using the included mounting bracket.

The curved design is pretty slim, but you can beef it out with an optical media drive if you so desire. There is a optional USB-connected DVD drive (which in 2010 you probably don’t need all that much) or a Blu Ray player, so you can have a fairly modern home theatre set up in a diminutive package (it doesn’t have 3D blu ray support but unless you are really keen on cloudy with a chance of Meatballs then this is not really an issue).

The onboard NVIDIA® ION™ with Intel® Atom™ processor means you can coax the unit into stutter free 1080p playback and 2—4Gb memory onboard makes most tasks that one would do from the sofa chug along nicely.

The unit ships with Windows 7 Home Premium or Prestigio Suite 2010 on Kubuntu Linux. The skinned Prestigio Linux distro is customised for couch surfing (adjust your TV for overscan to ensure the screen stays on the edges) and Prestigio score multiple bonus points for including XBMC preinstalled. XBMC or XBox Media Centre is a open source project that represents the best of what the open source community can do when it puts its mind to it. Originally a hack for the original XBox to playback music and video file, it quickly became the defining media organising experience – something that none of the professional companies with DLNA-capable devices such as Sony, Samsung or LG have come close to touching. XBMC is possibly the best thing I’ve ever touched. Still. So that was amazing inclusion.

However I did come across some audio issues with HDMI audio. If you are used to Linux, then you will be no strainer to the subsequent Googling, forum posts, and Terminal commands that are need to fix this. If the thought of using the command line in this day and age horrifies you, then you are probably better off installing Win 7. Or you could try wiping the whole thing and installing an XBMC live CD.

The Prestigio Emporio ION 330 is out now.

Apple TV review roundup

The new Apple TV was revealed on September 2nd by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and reaction to the set-top box has been generally positive across the board. On first impressions, it is hard to argue with these reactions.

Apple-TV-

The first thing one notices with this second generation model is the size. It’s 75 percent smaller than its predecessor, measuring a mindboggling 0.9 x 3.9 inches. Connections are kept to minimum, and it comes with a remote, at a compact 0.25×1.2×4.7 that PC MAG says feels better in your hand than previous white Apple remotes and has the familiar click wheel (it presses in four directions, but has no touch-sensitive scrolling), plus Menu and Play/Pause buttons. They do bemoan the lack of volume control which means so you’ll have to use your normal TV remote for that, unless you are an iPad, iPhone or iTouch owner (which you probably are). These lucky folk only need to download the recently updated, free Remote app, and they will be able to control everything from their device of choice on the onscreen interface. Engadget have the final word on this when they say: the way the ATV was meant to be controlled, as far as we’re concerned.

The bods at Apple have managed to achieve such miniscule dimensions by removing almost all internal storage for the Apple TV. As a result, everything you watch or listen to is a stream. About film and TV, pocket-lint says this:

The menu breaks down into Movies, TV Shows, Internet, Computers and Settings. The Movies and TV Shows essentially pulls content from the iTunes Store. Of course this is where Apple will be able to make some money, because you’ll be paying for your content, renting movies and TV shows. HD films will start at £3.49 and SD films will be from £2.49, with prices varying – new releases will be more.

You can also watch YouTube on the device, though one area where they do fall down slightly (something which all the reviews agree on) is the limited partnerships Apple currently have with TV networks- currently only ABC, Disney, Fox and BBC (half of which are irrelevant for us Brits), and they don’t necessarily have access to the best content. On this, Engadget is a little cynical :

Apple doesn’t have a complete handle on its partners, and for the most desirable (or lucrative) content, the studios are most definitely still pulling the strings.

Of course, there is an element of supposition in this, but it is worth bearing in mind.

Content from your other Apple devices can also be shared through yet another ingenious Apple gimmick called Airplay. Although not quite ready for launch (it’s coming in November). In a nutshell, this means you can start watching a video on your iPhone, then sync it up to your TV and finish it on there. With this the possibilities would appear endless. Indeed, this (admittedly American) reviewer for FOX said:

Apple told me the company has opened this feature to third-party developers, and that’s where my imagination runs wild. Think of the possibilities! Imagine the apps you could be flicking back and forth across all of your iDevices: NPR, Netflix, YouTube, MLB, Hulu, Internet Radio, Pandora, the list goes on. AirPlay could be the most important Apple announcement in years.

Screen quality is sound, with most films in HD 720p. About this, pocket-lint enthuse that they saw Apple TV streaming live video content in 720p HD and it seemed to be fast enough to get going, while sound-wise Engadget said sound quality was also superb — standard stereo was rich and wide, while 5.1 was as crisp and encompassing as you’d expect.

All in all reviews seemed to be positive about Apple TV, with the only general scepticism being about the content available via the streaming service. This, unfortunately, is the one thing that can only be properly reviewed in time. Other than that, it seems like a worthwhile addition to any digital household.