ARCTIC MC001-BD Review
Spend enough time noodling around with a media extender, a “smart” TV, a DVR, and other home-theater gadgets, and you might come to the conclusion that what you really need is an HTPC. After dealing with the limitations of consumer electronics, you might appreciate having a big hard drive, an unfettered Internet connection, and the ability to add whatever interface, codecs, and input devices you like.
Then again, you probably don’t want a full-sized PC in your living room. Hence it’s the realm of compact systems with HD power, but quiet operation.
The ARCTIC MC001-BD is the Blu-ray model of ARCTIC’s Entertainment Center line of Atom-based systems. Think of it as a slim PC that comes with Windows 7, CyberLink PowerDVD 10, and Windows Live Essentials security software preinstalled. A minimal amount of new-PC setup later, you’ve got a quiet Windows Media Center box that can disappear in your home-theater equipment.
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 graphics drives an HDMI port with 1080p power. Realtek supplies 7.1-channel surround sound. Blu-ray playback was smooth after some initial caching. So was playback of locally stored HD video files.
The MC001-BD is silver on one side and gloss black on the other, which lets you orient it to match your decor. It stands on one end, so you can slip it behind an HDTV on a stand or next to an A/V receiver in a cabinet. It does not, however, come with a VESA mount to hang it on your wall or TV.
Nor does the MC001-BD come with a remote, although ARCTIC sells one for just $17.90. The box and Web site also mention free downloads to turn your iOS or Android device into a remote; they may be available by the time you read this.
At first glance, ARCTIC’s choice of 32-bit Win7 Home Premium puzzled us. It seemed odd for the company to leave roughly 700MB of the 4GB of RAM on the table.
Then we noticed the included RAMDisk software from Dataram. It’s intended to utilize that untapped memory as a RAM disk, i.e., using DDR as hard drive space for items you’d like to speed up (not including boot files). Our test system was set up with a 700MB RAM drive with its own drive letter. The MC001-BD’s SO-DIMMs are upgradable if you’d like more capacity.
Because RAM is volatile, meaning that it loses its data as it loses power, you can set up RAMDisk to automatically load a specialized drive image file of your apps, temp file, VMware OS, or what have you when you turn on your PC. (Note that because the RAMDisk software loads after Windows boots, it precludes using its capacity for a swap file.) At shutdown, the software can save changes to the image file on the hard drive. You can also save a new drive image whenever you want, if you want to save a work in progress.
Alternatively, you can manually load sensitive information to the RAM drive and consider its volatility a security feature, Dataram says—turn off your PC, and the data goes away. Whichever coniguration you ultimately choose, it’s clear that RAMDisk is worth exploring.
Another nice surprise is the included HDMI cable. Add ARCTIC’s wireless keyboard with multi-touchpad ($45.90), and you’re ready to chill.
$714 ARCTIC www.arctic.ac
Specs: Dimensions: 10.8 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches (HxWxD); Processor: 1.8GHz Intel Atom D525; Chipset: Intel NM10; Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 512MB; RAM: 4GB DDR3-1333; Hard drive: 500GB Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 (7,200rpm); ODD: Slimtype BD E DS4E1S 4X BD-ROM; Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n, Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB 3.0, 5 USB 2.0, IR, HDMI 1.3a, VGA, optical digital audio, 7.1-channel analog audio, headphone jack, mic in, 4-in-1 card reader