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Review of the Tranquil PC T7-MP2 Media Center

Here we review the brand new media center pc from Tranquil PC – the T7-MP2.

Media Center pcs are great – they enable you to record and watch tv, listen to music, view photos and do so much more all from the confort of your sofa in your living room or bedroom, or any other room in the house for that matter.

Tranquil have released a new media center pc, called the T7-MP2, and here is how they describe it:

  • Powered by the ION chipset from Nvidia, you can now enjoy HD movies etc with ease
  • Intel dual core Atom CPU ensures low energy consumption with excellent performance
  • Near silent operation – there are no fans to be heard, or suck in dust
  • Integrated Media Centre Receiver and Media Centre remote control
  • Tiny foot print – the size of a hard back book
  • Connect to almost any screen, HDMI (1.3) – DVI or VGA
    and almost any audio player HDMI – SPDIF (Coax or Optical) – Analog
  • Expand storage with 6x rear USB2 ports and 1x eSATA port
  • Built in WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) and GigaLAN interface
  • Desirable quality – made from all extruded aluminium parts
  • Ideal for Media Centre Playback of your media files, web browsing etc
    or Live TV / Recorded TV playback, or CD/DVD/BluRay playback – via optional USB devices
  • Runs Windows 7 Home Premium with Media Centre + IP TV services
  • Optional VESA TV bracket, to mount the T7-MP2 on the back of your large screen TV
    (75×75, 100×100 or 200×100mm VESA mount points)
  • Enjoy new IP services from :
    SKY Player – BBC iPlayer – ITV Player – Channel 4 Watch Online – FIVE Demand – etc

We have been talking to Tranquil about the T7 for a while now, and have been sworn to secrecy, and so were very happy when our T7 arrived earlier than expected.

SPECIFICATIONS:

 

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Unit dimensions : 387 (w) x 356 (d) x 66 (h) mm

Unit construction  : Aluminium and steel (typically >70% recycled materials)

System heat sink : Aluminium with custom heat pipe cooling system (TranCool3)

CPU : 64 bit ready Dual Core Intel Atom D510 (2 x 1.6GHz)

Chipset : Nvidia ION

Graphics : Nvidia GeForce 9xxx (up to 1920 x 1440)

Memory  : 2x DDR2 667/800MHz (up to 4GB)

HDDs : 1x or 2x 2.5″ SATA

Colour options : Satin Black

Front panel : Power switch and Power / HDD activity LEDs / IR RX (suitable for All MCE remotes, not MCE keyboard)

Rear panel : 12V DC power in / 6x USB2.0 / 10.100.1000 LAN / Audio In / Audio Out / Mic In / COAX SPDIF / TOSLINK SPDIF / PS2 / HDMI / DVI / VGA / eSATA / WiFi / Power in

Weight  : Base unit (nett) 4Kg

Power supply : External AC/DC with country specific power cord

Working temp : Maximum 48’C ambient

Mounting options : Desk or Wall

Power consumption : from 21W (base unit)

Acoustics : 17dBA (incl 1x HDD) or 0dBA with SSHDD

Software :

Windows 7 Home Premium
IP TV Add Ins
Video Decoder pack (incl MKV HD video)

WHATS IN THE BOX?

Apart from the T7, the box also contains a power supply, a full copy of Windows 7 Home Premium, a wireless aerial and a Philips Media Center remote control (complete with a Green Button).

Tranquil T7-MP2 Tranquil T7-MP2 Tranquil T7-MP2

Taking a closer look at the back of the T7 reveals a whole host of connectivity options, including VGA, DVI and of course HDMI for the best viewing experience possible. There are also 4 USB ports and an eSATA port for additional expansion possibilities.

T7-MP2_rear

GETTING STARTED WITH THE T7

The T7 is quite small – as you can see below with it next to my iPhone for comparison. So it should easily fit into your current home entertainment setup.

Tranquil T7-MP2

There is also an optional Vesta TV Bracket you can buy so that you can fit the T7 to the back of your TV to keep it out of the way, however doing so would make it impossible to use the remote control and so you would need to look at buying a separate IR blaster and put it somewhere in line of the TV, but that isn’t difficult. Although I would say that the T7 is a little heavy and so you may want to check that your TV could handle the weight. The bracket can also be purchased from Tranquil for £26.00 plus VAT.

Connecting the T7 to power, the TV and screwing in the wireless aerial took only a few seconds, then pressing the power button on the front started it up.

The first thing I noticed was just how quiet it actually was. I often read “near silent” or “very quiet” on different websites and am often disappointed that they are not actually that quiet, but that certainly isn’t the case here. And for the purposes of testing the noise output I sat right next to the T7 and it was quiet – now imagine sitting the other side of the room and having sound coming from the TV – you will not hear it. In fact, as an aside, I forgot to switch it off the other night and only realised it was still running when I noticed the blue light on the front the following morning – certainly not the case with my existing Sony Media Center!

When Windows finished loading, which was pretty quick, I was very happy to see that all the configuring has been done by Tranquil, including all the Windows updates up to a few days before it was sent – this was a nice touch as it meant I didn’t have to spend ages downloading updates and patches before being able to use the computer. Also, the initial configuration of Media Center had been taken care of. All I had to do was join my wireless network which only took a few seconds.

The only thing missing from the whole setup and pre-configuration from Tranquil was anti-virus software. If this had been there then a user wouldn’t have any worries at all. All I did was download and install Microsoft Security Essentials, which didn’t take very long.

I have also discussed this point with Tranquil and I believe for future shipments they will be looking at including SE with it – obviously you are free to remove it and use whatever you want, but it’s one less thing to have to do.

USING THE T7

So with all that done I thought I would run a few tests on the T7.

The first thing I did was to check out the Windows Experience Index – I got a score of 3.3 – the lowest figure being that of the processor.

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I also wanted to see more about the hardware:

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And I ran some tests using PassMark.

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So all in all, not bad!

So then it was time to launch Media Center (which Tranquil had already set to auto run – thank you). It’s the usual Media Center menu, including the latest MSN Video Player update, and a Tranquil IPTV menu option, that includes lots of UK tv channels, provided via TunerFreeMCE.

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I had a number of sample files I wanted to test the playback on as Tranquil said that it contained a Video Decoder Pack.

So normal playback occurred on all of the test files except for a H264 MKV file – Windows Media Center just would not play it back.

I did some digging and noticed that the decoder pack that Tranquil had installed was the Standard edition of K-Lite (which I use on my media center and other computers), only the version they installed was 4.1.7. which is well over a year old, and I was already running 6.0.0. on my media center. So a quick download and reinstall updated that (and in fact I spoke with Tranquil on it and they will look at using a much more recent version in future).

Whoever this didn’t fix the issue – but I could play that file in Media Player on the T7, just not in MC! I then tested the file on my Sony MC and it played fine.

That’s when I remembered that the 64 bit version of Windows 7 needs some additional files to play back certain MKV files, so I downloaded them and it then played back perfectly, so everyone was happy.

The remote control is quite large, but actually feels quite comfortable to use, in fact more so that the Sony one I have!

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a very simple to setup and use media center and best of it all it VERY quiet. I have used media centers in the past that even watching or listening to someone you could still hear the computer whirring away, which can be off putting, especially during a tense or dramatic scene.

After solving the MKV file problem, that was nothing to do with Tranquil or the T7 and more to do with how Windows now plays back MKV files, I could play back all my content without issues, and the playback was great and smooth.

One thing you might notice with this media center, compared to a lot of other media center pcs, is that the T7 doesn’t come with any tuners or a DVD or Blu-Ray drive. Some might say that this sort of defeats the purpose of having a media center if you cant do those things, but you can easily buy USB tuners or media playback devices, although I can see some people not being happy that the £479 plus VAT price tag doesn’t include any, although those things are not expensive, and actually some people may not even want them.

For example, I rarely record live TV onto my media center these days, I use SKY+ HD and various other devices, so my media center is more of a playback device, which the T7 is perfect for.

And as for tuners, if I wanted to, I could use something like the SiliconDust HDHomeRun.

So, all in all I really liked the T7 and it did everything I needed a media center to do for me.

One thing I really was impressed with though was how Tranquil actually listen to issues and suggestions, such as the date of the codec pack and the last of anti-virus. Could you imagine Sony or HP doing that?

For more information on the T7, including various options and to order one, click here: http://www.tranquilpc-shop.co.uk/

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