So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Fujitsu Deskpower TX
- Brilliant screen, 600 gigabytes of storage, everything you need
- No digital tuners, non-media centre keyboard, no component input
Within their target market, Fujitsu definitely have a winner on their hands. For people still running a single CRT television, without a full lounge room setup, the Deskpower is the perfect way to take the plunge.
Price$ 5,499.00 (AUD)
The Fujitsu Deskpower TX the first kind of mainstream entertainment package that combines a regular media centre PC with a 32-inch widescreen television. The results are quite stunning. Whilst this is not a device for all users, it acts as a great entry level product for the uninitiated, offering the functionality of a DVD player, DVD recorder, PVR, television and PC all in a single, stylish device. This means you can watch movies, listen to music, surf the net and burn DVDs all from the one unit. It does however, have a few glaring omissions that stop it from being the must have setup occupying centre stage in your lounge room
The most sinful of these omissions is the lack of at least one digital tuner. The package comes with dual TV tuners, which allow you to record and watch different programs simultaneously, but both are analogue. With the move to digital apparently coming in 2008, and the massive boost in quality offered by running a digital connection, our minds boggled at this exclusion.
Still, the two tuners do an admirable job, albeit in standard definition. Recorded clips looked crisp and clear, and were as good as we could have hoped. The quality of the tuner has a huge impact on the overall result, and if they had to go analogue, we were glad Fujitsu at least invested in top of the line cards.
The other problem we had with the system was the lack of a high definition video input. The system has plenty of ports, including optical, coaxial and RCA audio, but just standard S-Video and RCA for video. Whilst this may not seem like a huge problem at the moment, when the next generation consoles launch in the coming year, they will utilise component, high definition video inputs, and so owners of this package will suffer from sub-par quality by being forced to run through an outdated medium.
This is partially to do with the Deskpower's hardware configuration, which forgoes using individual components and instead takes advantage of functions built into the motherboard. Whilst this helps keep the cost down, it also means the components are of a much lower quality than they could be. This won't be particularly noticeable when using the core media centre utilities of the system, but it will definitely have an impact on its viability as a regular PC. With only 512 megabytes of RAM, and onboard sound and video, the Deskpower won't be playing any of the latest games. It will handle word processing and Internet browsing just fine, but even with its hyperthreaded processor, it will struggle with a lot of more complicated activities. If you are looking to purchase a media centre that can double as a high-end PC, this may not be the right choice.
From the review so far you may have gleaned a somewhat negative impression of the Deskpower, but to be honest we can't help but like the product. It is the first truly convergent device of its type. You can unpack it, switch it on and in a few minutes you have literally every device you could need for a robust home entertainment system. For those who already have a large, flat panel screen or a media centre setup, then this system may be taking a step backwards, but for people looking to make their first foray into the world of digitally convergent entertainment, the Deskpower is a very attractive choice.
The screen goes a long way to making the package. We weren't expecting huge things, considering the screen is just part of a whole, as opposed to the focus of thee product, so we were pleasantly surprised by a rich, colourful, detailed television that outperforms many of the other LCDs we've looked at recently. It is exceptionally bright, looks great even from extreme angles and the level of accuracy, both in terms of colour and around edges, is very high. Our only complaint is that the backlighting is a little uneven, which creates a curtain-like effect that may be noticeable by some people, but overall we were extremely happy with the LCD display.
We did encounter another picture problem, but it had nothing to do with the screen quality itself and is common to many media centre setups. The computer and the television operate at different resolutions, and thus the image must be scaled to fit appropriately. This can cause problems with the image quality in certain scenarios, where the pictures don't interlace properly. It manifests itself typically as a small amount of shaking around the edges. It was noticeable in some clips we recorded from the television, but is really to be expected, so we can't complain about it too much. Overall, picture quality was still very good.
In other good news, Fujitsu haven't totally neglected gamers. They've implemented a pretty cool feature on this model, that allows the use of a console with Windows Media Centre Edition; something that was previously not possible. Windows MCE utilises a buffering system, whereby it stores media several seconds ahead of what is playing on the screen. Of course for games this doesn't work, as what happens in a second or two is dynamic. Fujitsu have introduced a work-around for this, that doesn't buffer external devices, such as consoles or home theatre systems. Whilst anyone with a homemade setup could simply connect their console to the television directly, bypassing the media centre all together, in this case it isn't possible, so it is nice to see Fujitsu thinking ahead.
The Deskpower offers a whopping 600 gigabytes of hard drive space, upon which you can record all kinds of media; be it your CDs, DVDs or television programs. 600 gigabytes is more than most people will use in a lifetime, at least 1000 hours of video footage at a conservative estimate. Should you manage to fill all of this, (yeah right) it also comes equipped with a DVD-RAM burner, to backup all of those beloved Seinfeld episodes.
Networking is handled by the built in Ethernet, which will allow you to connect to the internet, share files across your household, and most importantly use an Electronic Program Guide to record TV programs when you aren't at home. We would have liked to see a wireless card included, but all these extra additions incur added expense, and part of the appeal of the system is that it is a complete solution that is within price range of many families. One could fairly easily install their own wireless card into the Deskpower if they felt the need.
All of this is made possible by the use of Windows Media Centre Edition, which is a special version of Windows XP tailored to run on media centre PCs. It offers a unique interface that catalogues and navigates all your media into an easily accessible menu system. Combine it with a suitable keyboard and remote combination, and everything is available at the touch of a button.
Unfortunately the Deskpower didn't come with Microsoft's Media Centre keyboard, instead electing to go with Fujitsu brand inputs. The keyboard simply doesn't offer the same functionality as a media keyboard, lacking shortcut keys to menu options, and offering nothing to alter the volume or skip between tracks. The remote control goes some way to remedying this, with all the standard DVD player and television functions easily accessible, but it is not a full solution. You can easily purchase a suitable keyboard replacement, but it really should have been part of the original package.
We can overlook minor details like this however, because the system looks simply stunning. One of the big concerns people have with media centres is that they don't want an ugly PC tower sitting in their lounge room. The Deskpower is anything but. At first glance, the media centre is so subtle you may miss it entirely. It is built into the bottom of the TV, and balloons a little out the back, where the real meat of the system is. The case is a slick and glossy black, with a grey colour scheme around the back. The finish looks extremely smooth, and all the components synergise well together so it feels like you're playing with a lounge room setup, not a PC.
On either side of the television are two speakers, complemented by a subwoofer that is so delicately placed under the screen that we missed it at first. Sound quality was a little above what we'd expect, although it didn't blow us away as the screen did. At most volumes it was crisp and clear, with only a small amount of distortion at higher levels. We did however struggle to achieve these higher volumes at all to begin with. The remote control alters the volume of the speakers themselves, but even at maximum they weren't particularly strong. It was not until we increased the Windows volume that we could truly see what the speakers could do.
The digital audio outputs also allow for a home theatre system to be connected to the Deskpower, should you not be satisfied with the onboard speakers. This is really the one component the system is missing, but the included speakers offer more than reasonable sound until you take the leap to 5.1 or more.
The unit is priced fairly competatively. Whilst you could probably build a cheaper combination if you pieced together the PC section from individual components, then purchase a television, you would in no way make as stylish a unit as Fujitsu have; and the cost of purchasing a preassembled media centre plus a decent television would be greater than the cost of the Deskpower. This is the core of why we liked this unit so much; it offers a competatively priced unit that will easily satisfy most beginners.
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