Media Center Edition PCs

Since October 2004, one million MCE PCs have been shipped. In contrast, the total number of MCE PCs shipped since Windows MCE first became available is only two million units. There's a reason Microsoft and their partners are pursuing multimedia applications so heavily, as they continue to see this market as an area of rapid growth. We've got some additional information on the topic we hope you'll find interesting.

There were a couple key features that came up repeatedly in regards to media center devices. Besides performance and the user interface, the need to make them small and quiet was clearly a focal point. A presentation by NVIDIA discussed these conflicting goals and the balancing act that must be maintained. (We'd provide you some of the slides from the presentation, but apparently the slides were only finalized the night before, so we didn't get a copy on the WinHEC CD that was provided for attendees.)

One example given was the heat generated by a standard 7200 RPM hard drive. Without any form of active cooling (i.e. no case and/or PSU fans), HDD temperatures quickly scaled up to 50+ C. Even a small amount of airflow was able to reduce that to a more tolerable 40 C, but the problem was in the choice of components. A cheap $5 fan can do the trick, but often at a much higher noise level.

This leads to a topic of particular interest: the use of "smart" fans that can regulate speeds based on temperatures. Such components are often luxuries on a larger case, but the SFF segment frequently uses such designs. NVIDIA's own testing has confirmed what we already know: an intelligent and well-designed cooling system can often pack more components into a smaller area and still achieve better thermal and acoustic performance.

Index Prototype Media Devices


View All Comments

  • DerekWilson - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    heh ... not even the CPU editor has all the CPUs he needs. We've been passing our one set of dual core processors from both vendors around the globe. :-) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    The *official* plan is for Longhorn to be widely available by the holiday 2006 time frame (see day 1 coverage). However, I think XP-64 was supposed to be available over a year ago as well. Call me a skeptic....

    The point about going next year is that, from what I could tell, certain things are just repeated in slightly updated formats each year. Longhorn was discussed last WinHEC, and the information this time was simply a bit more concrete. There were still quite a few "this isn't yet finalized..." disclaimers throughout the presentations.

    I suppose since I'm local to WinHEC (I'm in Olympia, WA), at the very least I'll be going to some of the MS events in the future. We'll have to see how that pans out. Maybe next time I can make it to the Sunday AMD Gaming gig and get a free Athlon 64 4000+? (Yeah, we missed out on that. Not that we don't have lots of hardware already, but having an extra CPU never hurts. Especially when you're not the CPU editor. Heheh)
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    Fascinating. Probably the most relevent event report I've read. The IDF is interesting to see where the hardware is going, but it is the software that we use on a day to day basis, and what Microsoft are planning is likely to impact us the most in the next few years.

    "At the end of the show, while we would definitely say that WinHEC doesn't have the appeal of Computex, E3, or some of the other larger shows, there was still plenty of good information to be found. Will we go again next year?"...

    I can't believe you are even wondering whether to go again. Though if Anand is using his Mac all the time now and abandoned PCs, and those of you with PCs have switched from Windows to Linux, then I could understand your hesitation. I jest of course, but what happens with Microsoft is likely to be more important to the PC user than any hardware development, so there is no way you can neglect it.

    I thought Longhorn was due out mid-2006, rather than "two years time". Longhron has seemed to be due out in "two years time" for quite a few years now, such that I wonder if it will ever actually arrive. And when it does arrive, will it actually contain many of the improvements originally touted over Windows 2000/XP (such as the central WinFS file-system which they decided would delay Longhorn too long). So are Microsoft officially saying 2007 is Longhorn year now?

    Personally I'm in no hurry for Longhorn if it is crippled with DRM restrictions everywhere. The whole pointy of a PC is I can do what I wish with the media I have obtained, whether purchased or from other sources. I would say that being able to view perfect and complete "try before I buy" content has had the main effect with me of making me buy stuff I otherwise wouldn't have considered, rather than simply using it as an alternative to purchasing discs. Content protection that limits consumer choice (even if that choice includes free downloads) is and always has been detrimental to the industry.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    DOS is still in use as a deployment tool. You can still license DOS from MS, but that will cease to be the case as of 2006. I work as an IT guy for a huge corporation, and our PC build process goes like this:

    1) Boot from floppy.
    2) Select PC configuration.
    3) Watch Drive Image clone the XP image to the HDD.
    4) XP loads up and finishes the device enumeration, joins the appropriate domain, etc.
    5) Choose SMS pacakages and wait.... (The final stages of the build process can take as long as an hour or two, depending on the SMS packages that are selected for installation.)

    The problem is that getting DOS network drivers as well as support for newer technologies (SATA) is getting more and more difficult. The whole setup process would be more streamlined if HQ personnel didn't have to worry about DOS. I would wager that we'll still continue to use DOS and Drive Image for at least another 5 years, just because that's the way this corporation is, but it's nice to know that eventually they'll be forced to update the process to something that is hopefully faster and more robust.
  • icarus4586 - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    "R.I.P. MS-DOS, 2005"
    This part of the article doesn't make much sense. The huge majority of Windows machines are either 2000 or XP, both of which are NT. NT does not run on DOS. MS-DOS was dead with WinME, and should have been dead far before.
  • ProviaFan - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    Interesting stuff... Out of all of it, I found the (U)EFI coverage to be most intriguing, since normally the BIOS is one of the least represented PC components in computer news coverage. ;) Reply
  • stephenbrooks - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    "One giant Microsoft fest"?? That got me saying "Ewww!" before I started the article. XD Images of hordes of Barney ActiMates™ coming to play with me came to mind. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now