|MSI WindBox 6667BB-004US Barebones-PC Kit|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC|
|Written by Dan Ferguson - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 13 April 2010|
Page 12 of 15
MSI Wind Box User Experience
When I evaluated the Wind Box I was looking specifically for a Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC). Besides benchmark performance I also considered how well it performs the desired functions, how easy it is to integrate into my existing entertainment setup, and the versatility provided by the platform.
The MSI Wind Box fits best into the HTPC category. It comes outfitted with the necessary HDMI port, audio, network and a few spare USB ports; just enough to get the job done. My main habits consist of recording and watching my favorite TV shows (Chuck), watching movies, and browsing the internet. In the past I've tried using small media box to access my computer files from my TV, but I got frustrated by the lack of options and limited interface. I prefer to have lots of features that are accessible using a keyboard and mouse. For this purpose the Wind Box is great.
Despite the many applications available, I tested using Windows 7 defaults. Despite being on the lower end of Windows 7 requirements, the OS boots reasonably fast and operates without slow-downs. Internet Explorer also ran without hitches and provided fast access to Hulu and other media sites. I was able stream TV shows and other high definition content without stuttering or any noticeable degradation. Even self-recorded high definition shows played with ease. This proves that the Wind box will do great as a front end.
I also wanted to evaluate how it would perform as a back end. Since it lacks PCI slots, any recording requires a USB input device. I didn't have one to perform tests so I opted for another approach. I recorded a raw TV stream on my desktop and transcoded it on both the Wind box and Dell Vostro. The Wind box took nearly three times as long to transcode a one hour video. Since the desktop uses between 20% and 30% system resources for PCI recording I estimate that the Wind box will consume most of the system resources for USB recording. While not the best performance some NewEgg users have reported success using this method.
When integrating into my existing entertainment setup my requirements are simple. The small size of the Wind box makes space a non-issue. Heat and noise were also non-issues. Despite being cramped in a small space, the temperature on the CPU heat sink never exceeded 35°C. Even with the fan at full speed the noise was unheard. The fan operated silently except when the Wind Box turned on or off. Since I change around my hardware setup frequently it was very convenient to have both HDMI and VGA available for video output. There are sometimes when I need to use the VGA for some unintended reason. It might be nice to take on a road trip to Grandma and Grandpa's and still be able to watch movies.
The versatility of the Wind Box is refreshing. For a longtime I used XBMX on an original XBOX as my media center. I could watch movies, listen to music and play games, but web-browsing was barely functional. My DVR made recording and watching shows extremely easy, but that's all it would do and I had to pay every month. The Wind Box gives me that ability to perform all of those functions on one platform and without monthly fees. Additionally, I'm a big fan of the CF slot on the motherboard. I installed a 256MB CF card with a small distribution of Linux. This gives me a limited desktop interface for web browsing, light gaming, network administration, but most importantly system recovery. Some users may want to use the CF card to boot a media front end. Personally, I squeeze every ounce of utility out of my computers, and the MSI Wind Box shows plenty of squeezing room for rudimentary functions.