Tranquil AVA Media Center review
Deliberately distancing itself from the PC look, the Tranquil’s elegant Perspex front panel will appeal to those who don’t want a computer in their living room. The Tranquil seems minuscule, yet when we lifted off the lid we were amazed to find large areas of free space between the components. They’re laid out neatly for optimal fan-free cooling – there’s a good reason behind the company name.
One entire side of the machine is a passive heatsink and there are heatpipes running to it from the major components, allowing them to operate in silence. We measured 23.7dBA when idle, which was effectively just background noise. Playing a DVD produced a noticeable noise of 36.1dBA, though, which is one area where Shuttle beats it.
If quiet operation is usually accompanied by reduced performance nobody told Tranquil, as an overall 2D score of 0.82 puts the AVA safely in the middle of the pack. The only area where quietness rules over performance is in 3D – the integrated Intel GPU wouldn’t run Far Cry at all.
All connectivity is saved for the rear panel, where you’ll find DVI and VGA outputs and an S-Video input. If you like, you can swap the DVI port for S-Video and composite video outputs. Initial setup requires a VGA monitor, but once a few settings have been changed you’ll be able to use DVI or TV outputs. The integrated 5.1-channel audio offers optical S/PDIF or mini-jack outputs.
Gigabit Ethernet is present, but for wireless you’ll have to connect the bundled 802.11b/g USB adaptor. Tranquil has also included a separate USB card reader.
For storage, you can use the slot-loading DVD-RAM drive, which also supports dual-layer burning, or stick with the 160GB Samsung hard disk. If that isn’t big enough, you can opt for a second 160GB disk for an extra £69.
The system comes with a remote control and the excellent Microsoft MCE keyboard, which features backlit Media Center controls for use in a darkened room. Two Black Gold digital TV tuners are included – they can be exchanged for twin analog cards. Only aerial and RCA cables are bundled, so you’ll need to buy more for a complete setup.
The Tranquil AVA is understated enough to grace any living room, and at less than £1,000 it offers reasonably good value. Many will buy it purely for its quiet operation, but the Elonex is better value if noise isn’t a priority. However, the fact that the Tranquil offers dual tuners and a two-year collect-and-return warranty means it’s a good choice if quietness is more important than 3D performance.