|Arctic MC001-BD HTPC Media Center|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC|
|Written by Emily Ladouceur|
|Tuesday, 20 March 2012|
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HTPC Testing and Results
We determined the best way to test the Arctic MC001-BD was everyday use. So, for our own convenience during testing we used a wireless HTPC keyboard/mouse combo with the MC001-BD. Although, if you've got a SmartPhone handy when using the MC001-BD, Arctic's free-for-download Remote Control Application for Apple iPhone and Google Andriod phones is avialable. Since we preferred the media center keyboard, one of the USB ports at the back of the HTPC had to be utilized for the receiver dongle to prevent physical interference with opening the Blu-Ray drive, as both front USB ports are placed close enough to the optical drive that anything plugged into them needed to be removed before you could access the tray. This can be a pretty large downside for people who don't want to use a smartphone or tablet as a remote.
For those who would rather not use a smartphone or tablet as a remote, Arctic offers their own media center remote, the MCR1 IR Media Center Remote Control, for $17.95. Or they also offer a keyboard, the K481 Wireless Keyboard with Multi-Touchpad, for $39.73.
Anyway, on to testing. First, I wanted to see how well the MC001-BD would handle video viewing online so I made sure to find some 1080p videos on YouTube. For the most part the viewing was flawless. The 1080p videos that were cartoons or computer generated were, of course, perfect. Certain other videos had a bit more difficulty. For example, a Bollywood music video with a bright white background with significant movement and audio had some slight but noticable stuttering on playback. A Planet Earth video with extremely detailed landscapes with background music played well, but exhibited occational stuttering throughout. Although, if I wasn't looking for it I might not have noticed it. For those videos with slight stuttering, it's unclear as to whether it was due to our connection speed or the users video itself. While perusing YouTube I found other 1080p videos that played perfectly. These mostly consisted of music videos or short how-to DIY guides.
I moved on to the TV station websites next. Most TV stations online decide how you will view a show depending on your connection speed. Those that offered HD viewing (ex. NBC and SyFy) stuttered through the first portion of the video then automatically switched over to a more connection-speed-compatible mode for the remainder of the show. Usually the quality of the videos suffered pretty significantly each time this happened. So, then I decided it was time to give HULU a try. I wanted to test if this would be a running theme with all TV viewing sites. I had no problems viewing 480p content with no stuttering and no quality issues. I was a bit disappointed that our MC001-BD did not come with the optional TV tuner so I was unable to record, pause and play my favorite shows while I watched them. Oh well.
Next we decided it was time to view downloaded video files to see how well the MC001-BD could handle a variety of file types. We attempted to watch a lossless 1080p MKV video file at one point. We thought it would play with no issues as MKV files are listed as one of the many compatible multimedia formats the MC001-BD is able to play, and we hadn't had any issues with other MKV files up to that point. But this wasn't the case here. The video froze multiple times within the first few minutes of viewing. It appeared to be too much for the MC001-BD to handle. We determined that its bit-rate was just too high so it continually dropped frames during playback. The audio played just fine while the video continually got stuck. We had this happen with a few other MKV files but not quite to an unviewable degree, as in this case. Other file types didn't pose an issue.
To round things out, I watched a few of my favorite movies with the Arctic MC001-BD, both on DVD and Blu-ray. The Entertainment Center comes with CyberLink PowerDVD 10 so playing my Blu-rays and DVDs was no problem at all. We just had to make sure we had the latest update for PowerDVD 10. DVD's, of course, posed no problems for the MC001-BD. As for Blu-ray's, the video quality appeared to be better then playing the Blu-Ray on our PS3 and it felt like I was watching my movie at the theater, minus the kid behind me kicking my seat. The only issue was the tray and its proximity to the USB ports as I mentioned above.