Compact Fusion Reactor alternatives
With its DirectX 11 integrated graphics and UVD3 video decoding logic, AMD's Brazos platform—and, by extension, the Compact Fusion Reactor—is perfectly suited for use as a home-theater PC. We just need to add a TV tuner, some extra storage, and a nice wireless keyboard.
|TV tuner||Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250||$129.99|
|Storage||WD Scorpio Black 750GB||$69.99|
|VisionTek Candyboard Black||$78.99|
Before we get into HTPC gear, let's first throw in a recommendation for Gigabyte's GA-E350N-USB3, which has the merit of being available right now—unlike ASRock's E350M1. The Gigabyte mobo has much in common with its ASRock cousin, but it trades two USB 2.0 ports for USB 3.0 ports and lacks external Serial ATA connectivity. Considering the transfer speeds enabled by USB 3.0, that's probably a net gain. The only real downside here is the $149.99 price tag, which is a little high—and doesn't get you a passive cooler. Like we said on the previous page, small fans are the unfortunate norm on Brazos boards right now.
Hauppauge's WinTV-HVR-2250 seems to be one of the most popular tuner cards on Newegg, and it's not hard to see why. Its low-profile circuit board enables compatibility with slim enclosures like our Antec ISK 300, yet it still features dual tuners with support for the ATSC, ClearQAM, and NTSC standards. There's also MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 hardware encoding capabilities, a PCI Express x1 interface, and a Windows Media Center remote with a bundled receiver. Provided you set up everything correctly on the software end, you should be able to use this bad boy to record dual high-definition streams.
Recording video on the Compact Fusion Reactor may call for some additional storage capacity. That capacity could come in the form of any old external hard drive, which you could connect to the ASRock board's eSATA port or the Gigabyte board's USB 3.0 ports. Or, it could come in the form of WD's Scorpio Black 750GB, which recently earned a TR Recommended award for its excellent performance, relatively large capacity, and five-year warranty.
We've singled out two candidates for driving the Compact Fusion Reactor from your couch—you know, when you leave the cushy confines of Windows Media Center (or its Linux counterparts) and need to get stuff done.
The first, SIIG's JK-WR0312-S1, looks more or less like the bottom half of a laptop. There are 88 standard keys, a touchpad, a palm rest, and some media keys. The whole thing runs on a pair of AAA batteries; just plug in the USB receiver, and you're good to go.
Our second, pricier pick might appeal to smartphone users. VisionTek's Candyboard Black also has a touchpad and QWERTY keyboard, but it's considerably smaller: only 5.8" x 2.25" x 0.25", with tiny keys to match. We don't have first-hand experience with this device, so we're more hesitant to recommend it on the off-chance that its ergonomics might not be up to snuff. Still, the Newegg user reviews look decent, and if you don't want a full-sized keyboard taking room on your coffee table, this device is certainly worth considering.
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