Reviews / Meivo - PC Pro-
meivo by rock
Rock isn·t well known for its efforts in what marketing types like to call the "lifestyle space", instead sticking to its core range of notebooks. But it·s decided that the time is ripe for a foray into the world of media centre PCs, and the Meivo is its first attempt at the kind of all-in-one PC design pioneered by Sony and Apple.
The Meivo·s closest relative is the Sony VAIO VGC-VA1, Sony·s most recent media centre effort, and the Meivo looks strikingly similar. The clear plastic bezel is particularly familiar, right down to the power, wireless and hard disk access symbols seemingly suspended in the bezel.
But while the Sony had a 19in screen, Rock has managed to go one better with a 22in screen that·s far more practical for at-a-distance TV watching. And it isn·t just the size that makes the Meivo well suited as a media centre PC. The colours for TV and DVD watching are exceptionally vibrant, and the bright, 1,680 x 1,050 panel is easily visible from across a room, besides sporting exceptional viewing angles. Indeed, we only have two complaints: first, that the panel isn·t capable of natively showing 1080 HD video because of its 1,050-line vertical resolution; and second, that the over-saturated colours, while perfect for TV and DVD duties, make the Meivo a poor choice for fixing photos before sending them to the printers.
Rock was keen to point out that neither the price nor the specifications of the Meivo are finalised, and our review sample had a few niggles we·d expect to be fixed before the system hits the market. The most obvious was performance, which came courtesy of a quad-core Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor backed by 2GB of RAM, making the Meivo over-specified for a media-centre PC. The final version looks set to have a Core 2 Duo E4300 running at a more modest 1.86GHz, with 1GB of RAM, which will reduce the scores you see in the graphs below. It isn·t suitable as a high-end system anyway, as the graphics power supplied is from Intel·s GMA 950 GPU. There·s a vacant MXM slot for installing a laptop GPU, but we·d be wary of doing this, as there·s no guarantee that the system will be able to deal with the heat generated.
The other issue is the hard disk - our version had a 250GB capacity, which is the minimum we·d tolerate in a fully fledged media centre PC. The chassis does allow two SATA disks to be installed at once, though, with a spare bay complete with pre-routed cables ready for another disk. Our unit also came with a single DVB-T TV tuner, although Rock·s specification for the Meivo allows for up to four digital tuners to be installed at once, raising the possibility of watching one channel while recording three others.
But the chassis itself is the final retail version, and Rock has a winner on its hands. The processor is cooled by a large copper heatsink, and the heat generated is blown out of the top of the system. The end result is a media centre that, while not completely silent, is extremely quiet - it will definitely be drowned out by the speakers. The only time you·ll notice it will be if you leave it to record in an otherwise quiet bedroom.
The left-hand side of the system is host to a number of conveniently placed ports. A USB port, mini-FireWire, plus four 3.5mm audio jacks, one of which is an S/PDIF port for use with the integrated Realtek 7.1 audio chip. There·s also a memory card reader compatible with SD, MMC and Memory Stick cards, plus a PC Card slot. The other side is home to the slot-loading DVD-RAM drive.
The back of the system is fairly sparse. Three more USB ports plus an e-SATA port complete the Meivo·s external connectors, while S-Video and composite video-in ports make it possible to connect external video sources to the system. Otherwise, the back is bare - there·s no way, for instance, of connecting the Meivo to a high-definition TV via HDMI.
Rock·s decision to leap into the dangerous waters of the media centre PC is certainly a brave one, and the system design, although not terribly original, is daring for a first effort. The Meivo will only be practical in a certain number of places in the average house - a 22in screen might seem huge on a desktop, but it won·t be enough in a big living room. But if the price remains under £1,000 when the system goes on sale at the end of April, it will make the Meivo more than a match for similar-looking systems from the likes of Sony, and even Apple·s iMac.
There will only be a certain number of people willing to spend so much money on a system that will only be practical in a bedroom, kitchen or study. But the design works, the chassis is excellent and the Meivo will be tempting for anyone looking to lend a small room a touch of luxury.
An appealing form factor with an excellent screen. If the price doesn·t change, it·s one to watch.