Elonex Pro Sentia 1070Media Center Edition review
All-in-one systems are becoming ever more common (we’ve got three in this month), and it’s easy to see why. One unit, barely bigger than a standalone TFT monitor, providing all the power of a normal PC is a clear advantage. However, they’re now so common that new systems need something extra to make them stand out from the crowd.
Not content with supplying the base machine (£830) with the option of the almost idiot-proof Media Center Edition 2005 and remote (£932), our sample of the 1070 also came with a 17in touchscreen (£974). Put one of these in your kitchen and you’ll not only have access to all your music and videos while you’re cooking but, if you hook it up to a the web, recipes and goodness knows what other handy information. The screen will even wipe clean easily.
Although the touchscreen certainly adds an interesting twist, its practical use is limited. With Media Center Edition installed, the introductory menu, for example, still has no scroll bar, so you’ll have to revert to the remote if you want to select options not shown. Using the Desktop and other apps can be fiddly too, although we found upping the DPI settings helped. Nonetheless, the calibration tool isn’t quite accurate enough, and you’ll occasionally find yourself selecting options above the one you actually wanted.
Unusually for a touchscreen, the screen itself looks great. It handles colours well, with little to no banding on colour and greyscale ramps. Bright and dark shades are well-defined and there’s also little lag-leading to enjoyable DVD playback quality. If we had to moan about something, it’s the lack of any OSD controls, but the automatic settings work well.
Elsewhere, the rest of the system is pretty standard fare for an all-in-one. The mini-ATX motherboard from AOpen holds a total of 512MB of PC3200 RAM across its two sockets, so you’ll have to retire the current RAM when upgrading. Or you could get Elonex to swap it for you. A single 1GB stick will cost you an extra £80 (although it won’t take advantage of the dual-memory channels), while to fit two will cost a whopping £220.
The motherboard will allow for another single half-height PCI upgrade, to complement the analog TV tuner and ATi Radeon 9200. This ageing graphics card is only present to provide a D-SUB output for the screen rather than for playing games. The 12fps score in Unreal Tournament 2004 (1,280 x 1,024) is woeful for a modern graphics processor. Even dropping to an 800 x 600 resolution, UT2004 only ran at 26fps – barely playable.
The 1070 is a good workhorse however, ploughing through our real-world benchmarks to score 1.49. The 3GHz Pentium 4 530 did well in the word-processing and spreadsheet tasks, making the Pro Sentia 1070 a viable choice for a home office.
The 120GB hard disk doesn’t leave a lot of room for TV recordings and large files though. And while there are two Serial ATA connectors on the motherboard, the Seagate Barracuda is Ultra ATA, the ribbon cable adding to the clutter inside the cramped case. The drive also blocks the fourth PCI slot.
Elonex has largely made a good job of clearing the cable clutter out of the way though, with RAM and CPU being easily accessible. The DVD writer is slightly harder to get at, as it shares the base with the PSU and the integrated speakers. This MSI DR8-A drive is a touch slow at 8x for +R and 4x for -R though. With no dual-layer or DVD-RAM writing capabilities it’s not the drive we’ve come to expect from a system in this price range.