Uneed DIGN X15e review
The days of the beige PC are behind us, but the X15e is something different again from the new breed of stylish cases. Pictures have circulated the PC Pro office for some months, and anticipation was high when we received one of the first units in the UK. While we’ve seen a number of all-in-one systems that incorporate PC internals into a TFT, this is the first case design to do it the other way round.
The chassis as reviewed comes with no components, aside from the 7in touchscreen-enabled TFT. It operates via a D-SUB VGA loopback cable that plugs into a standard VGA analog output. The native resolution of the panel is 800 x 480, matching its widescreen aspect ratio. This won’t be available by default under Windows display settings, but can be forced in some graphics card drivers or via the bundled PowerStrip utility. The panel will also accept a variety of higher resolutions and interpolate downwards, but this gives no genuine benefit and actually reduces image quality.
We built a system based around Windows MCE (Media Center Edition) 2005: the sheer cost and smart appearance (it’s also available in black) mean that the X15e is suited to high-visibility situations, such as a media system front end.
Although we had our doubts as to the feasibility of using the touchscreen to operate the interface, it worked surprisingly well, even using fingers. We found we could happily live without using a mouse in MCE, and for a surprising amount of functions in Windows itself. There’s even an all-in-one remote control, complete with its own mini touchscreen, which operates with the chassis’ integrated infrared receiver. A keyboard was more necessary for search and navigation functions, though.
The clarity of the TFT is a touch woolly, but it’s well lit and perfectly acceptable for navigating around MCE’s large-typeface icons. Our pre-production model had issues with pixel jitter at some resolutions, and the auto-setup feature occasionally misaligned the screen – we expect this issue to be cleared up on production units, as it compromises both the aesthetics and the feeling of quality that the unit otherwise exudes. Viewing angles are narrow too, particularly from above. As such, you’ll need to site the system close to eye level: not the usual position for a hi-fi-style unit.
Unfortunately, there’s no elegant way of using the integrated screen with a larger TV or monitor. Paired with an HDTV screen running at its native resolution of 1,280 x 768, you’ll need to use a Windows dual-monitor setup and drag any windows from the touchscreen to the larger panel. The system works far more effectively when the two screens are cloned, but it would only work at 800 x 480 in conjunction with our 50in widescreen LCD TV, hardly making the most of the massive viewable area. It’s an infuriating ‘nearly-there’ situation. On the positive side, the TFT has its own independent power switch, so it’s possible to keep it discreet, although the same can’t be said for the neon-blue power indicator.
The build process itself is relatively straightforward. The layout requires the optical drive to be the first component in, so you’ll have to remove the CPU heatsink and the PSU if you want to change it in the future. The integrated infrared receiver and touchscreen controller are plugged into spare USB headers on your motherboard, with the screen powered by a standard 12V Molex connector from the power supply. Combined with the front-panel connections, and the power for optical and hard drives, it isn’t easy to keep the internals neat, although the level of chaos will depend on your choice of motherboard.
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