Pioneer Computers Australia DreamVision Media Centre.

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Pioneer Computers Australia DreamVision Media Centre.
  • Expert Rating

    3.00 / 5

Pros

  • Responsive, customisable, unique design

Cons

  • Poor attention to detail, confusing rear panel

Bottom Line

Pioneer's DreamVision machine is unique and looks striking, but a lack of polish makes it better suited to tech-savvy users than mainstream consumers.

Would you buy this?

Pioneer's take on an entertainment system for handling media playback, gaming and office tasks is a striking piece of kit. The silver plastic tube resembles a barrel with a handle cut into one side for transportation. At 8.7kg, and measuring 36cm long by 23cm in diameter, it's portable but sufficiently bulky to deter anyone from carrying it over long distances.

The DreamVision is essentially a full-blown PC in a snazzy case, so it can be used for more than just driving a home-theatre setup. The review machine is built around a 3.40GHz Pentium 4 Processor, matched to 1GB of RAM, a 300GB hard disk and ATI Radeon X600 PRO display adapter. These specs provide ample power for running modern software, and prove sufficient to keep up with the current crop of games. Pioneer is offering the system in a range of configurations, starting at (at the time of writing) $1173 for the base model. A buyer can add in more or less storage, DVD writers, TV tuners and different hardware and software bundles to spec up a machine to fit their exact needs.

The barrel-shaped box features a black front face with a blue LED display to show the time (even when the machine is powered off), and a subwoofer at the bottom of the machine and two speakers at the front offer surprisingly punchy audio. A DVD burner sits in the front panel, beneath volume and system temperature indicators, and a sliding door on the left face hides two USB, two FireWire, headphone, microphone and S/PDIF optical audio connectors. While the general layout of ports and connectors is straightforward, the rear panel is unnecessarily confusing. Three VGA ports (along with three S-Video connectors and a DVI output) on the back make it difficult to choose which one to connect the monitor to. Keyboard, mouse, S/PDIF optical audio, four USB ports, Ethernet and an array of 3.5mm audio jacks fill the rear panel, and the box ships with a range of cables to allow for extra connections, including TV connectors to allow it to sit in a lounge room.

The kit also ships with a black remote control to drive the machine from across a room (though a wireless keyboard and mouse kit would also be a worthwhile addition).

The system runs Microsoft Windows XP Professional, with a meagre selection of software, including WordPerfect Office 11 and Ahead Nero Burning ROM. The ATI video card also includes a Catalyst Control Center application that enables the user to tweak graphics and display settings. Unfortunately, the machine shipped with an incompatible driver installed, so launching the Catalyst Control Center generated an error message. While anyone with knowledge of how Windows works would be able to manually correct the issue, this level of troubleshooting is way beyond the capabilities of the average consumer and represents poor attention to detail from Pioneer. Thankfully, there's an Instant On feature that provides quick access to playing DVDs or CDs without booting that machine into Windows.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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