Carrera SSC C-Media Pro 3.6 review
Carrera SSC uses a Cooler Master Cavalier case as the basis for its Media Center PC. It isn’t a bad choice either; it might be big, but it’s roomy enough to allow for two optical drives, two 3.5in drives and various ports to be mounted in the front panel. These are hidden thanks to a metal door, which has a quality feel to it. Like the CFL, there’s also room for full-height PCI cards, making it simpler to upgrade in the future, should you need to.
A quick look at the feature table on p98 shows that you probably won’t need to upgrade for some time since there’s a 3.6GHz Pentium 4 and 512MB of PC4200 RAM installed on a feature-packed Asus P5AD2 motherboard. It uses the latest Intel 925X chipset, so has PCI Express slots and the new Socket 775. Of course, all this is irrelevant since – unless you’re planning to use this as your main PC – the specification is overkill for Media Center.
What is relevant is the massive 400GB hard disk and Sony DVD writer, which supports dual-layer discs. It’s partnered with a Sony DVD-ROM drive, which could prove useful for disc-to-disc copies. And if you’re really into your movies, the 7.1 integrated audio also offers good future-proofing. Both composite and optical S/PDIF outputs, along with dedicated analog mini-jacks, mean you won’t have any problems connecting your audio equipment.
The only limitation is with the video outputs – the graphics card has DVI, VGA and S-Video, but unlike the Hi-Grade, there are no scart sockets. The graphics card, though, is a GeForce 6600, so the C-Media Pro will happily let you play the latest games. It was the fastest here, scoring 60fps in Unreal Tournament and 33fps in Halo.
Within Media Center, the dual-tuner Hauppauge PCI card means you can record two different channels at once; Carrera SSC can provide a digital tuner. Connection to your home network can be either via gigabit Ethernet or 802.11b/g, thanks to the integrated Wi-Fi.
Carrera SSC completes the system with a decent set of Microsoft peripherals and a three-year, on-site warranty. It all sounds great, but we still wouldn’t recommend you buy the C-Media Pro for one reason: noise.
At idle, this is the noisiest machine we heard at 42dB(A) from the side. When searching the hard disk, this went up to 43dB(A) from the front. In the quiet of a living room, this is too much.
Overall, this is a decent PC, but the noise and the fact you’re paying for components more powerful than they need to be means there are better-value alternatives.