RM One Media Center Edition review
RM is no stranger to making innovative PCs for the education market. Back in 1985, for example, it produced the Nimbus, which benefited from a modified version of MS-DOS 3.10 to allow extended graphics and sound. Twenty years on and RM is again pushing boundaries with the RM One.
This was originally designed as a workstation for schools; the all-in-one case – only 155mm deep – maximises space on skinny desks for exercise books and written work. After huge success with the One in schools, RM is now launching the Media Center Edition for the home. This machine comes with more powerful components than the education version: a 3GHz Pentium 4 530 processor and 1GB of PC4200 RAM are decent foundations for a machine costing around £1,000. This, combined with the Serial ATA 160GB hard disk, helped the One Media Center Edition to a respectable score of 1.58 in our benchmarks.
The integrated 17in TFT screen has plenty of space for working on applications, with its 1,280 x 1,024 native resolution. We weren’t impressed by the tight viewing angles though, particularly given the entertainment focus. Colour distortion appears too quickly when tilting the screen or turning the unit. Lag is also prevalent, despite the quoted 16ms response time. The screen’s good enough for general work, but it lacks the attractive lustre of devices such as Sony’s V2 (see p64).
Gaming, therefore, is more challenging than normal; the lag makes it difficult to immediately determine what’s what. At high resolutions and detail settings the Radeon X300 stutters in our test games too. Even Unreal Tournament 2004, becoming less of a challenge for the new breed of GPUs, ran at only 24fps. Halo predictably strained the X300, running at 13fps, while Doom 3 only broke the 30fps barrier at 640 x 480 resolution and low detail. These poor results are compounded by the unbearably noisy rear fans, which rev up when doing any high-strain activity. Bear in mind that you could save £50 by reverting to the onboard Intel GMA900 chip.
DVD viewing is also impaired due to the screen’s poor handling of high- and low-end colours, the lag and the integrated speakers. We didn’t notice many artefacts, and colours are generally vibrant, so while DVD playback isn’t brilliant, it’s bearable.
The dual-format Sony DVD writer is handy however, as recordings from the TV tuner will likely use up the 160GB disk quickly. And as it’s dual layer, you’ll be able to fit plenty onto each disc. The tuner card uses one of two PCI slots on the standard micro-ATX Intel 915 motherboard. The other is taken by a FireWire controller providing for one full-size front port (alongside two front-mounted USB ports) with two more round the back. You’ll also find a full complement of serial and parallel ports, 10/100 LAN, and an additional four USB ports.
As with the versions intended for schools, the rear ports are protected with a plastic shield and cables are clamped in place. This could prove handy for network administrators, as with this in place cables can’t be unplugged and peripherals won’t go missing. A tough plastic screen protects the TFT from damage, while anti-graffiti paint also prevents scribbles and marks damaging the PC’s case. An add-on desk bolt kit is also available for £17 (inc VAT) to prevent the units from walking. All these make for unusual and potentially useful education features, but unless you’ve got particularly destructive youngsters around, it’s of less use in the home.
We’re slightly concerned about the standard single year of on-site warranty. It’s a touch short, though the reassurance that RM will turn up the next day to fix the machine is a bonus. You can upgrade to a three-year plan for £89. While this is roughly par for the course for home consumers, it isn’t ideal for schools – which also have this option when buying the less powerful versions of the RM One.