Palicomp’s Media PC is a world apart from what we’re used to seeing in this category. Its Palicomp-branded media centre chassis is a rather unimpressive steel-bodied full-size ATX case with flimsy plastic fittings. See also Group test: what's the best budget PC?

It looks very much like a standard PC and simply doesn’t come close to the level of build quality of any of the competition.

Aside from its horizontal format and dual-tuner TV card, the Alpha Media Blaze incorporates few of the key features we’d expect from a Media-centre PC.

A powerful 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Ivy Bridge processor is used, which is great of overall system performance but rather over-powered and power-hungry for a Media Centre. Arbico’s 5300-HD Media Centre uses the same chip, but Palicomp hasn’t included a 3rd-party cooler, opting instead for the standard Intel model which is noisier and less efficient.

A Blu-ray combo drive is included, together with a Peak dual TV tuner allowing playback and recording of two channels simultaneously, supporting Freeview, but not Freeview HD, and coming with a remote control and a Xenta wireless keyboard with a built in touchpad and media transport controls.

A collection of video can take up a large amount of space, so Palicomp has included a whopping 2TB of internal storage to take care of it. Many would opt to keep their files on an external device such as a NAS, but keeping everything in one box can help to cut down considerably on costs – and this is the one area where Palicomp’s Alpha Media Blaze makes a big impact.

The system comes without the SSD or graphics card of Arbico’s model, but at only £549.99 it’s considerably less expensive than any alternative in this round-up. If money is tight, it may be all you can afford, but be aware that you’ll be missing out on a significant proportion of what a Media centre PC can truly deliver.

Palicomp Alpha Media Blaze: Specs

  • Processor: 3.4GHz Intel Core i5-3570K (Quad core)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3
  • Storage: 2TB Sata III
  • Power supply: 650W Ace
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77-D3H
  • CPU cooler: Standard Intel cooler
  • USB: 6x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0
  • TV tuner: Peak dual TV tuner (dual DVB-T)
  • Graphics card: Integrated Intel HD4000
  • Media-centre software: WMC
  • Sound: onboard
  • Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet
  • Optical drive: LG Blu-ray player / DVD re-writer
  • Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • Ports: S/PDIF, HDMI, DVI-D, VGA
  • Case: Palicomp Media Centre Case
  • Keyboard and mouse: Xenta wireless media keyboard with touchpad
  • Extra features: Remote control
  • WorldBench 6 score: 169
  • Gaming performance (fps): 48 / 29.8
  • MediaEspresso time: 1min 56sec
  • Power consumption (Idle/Max): 50W / 116W
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 451x368x149mm
  • Warranty: 3-year RTB
  • Processor: 3.4GHz Intel Core i5-3570K (Quad core)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3
  • Storage: 2TB Sata III
  • Power supply: 650W Ace
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77-D3H
  • CPU cooler: Standard Intel cooler
  • USB: 6x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0
  • TV tuner: Peak dual TV tuner (dual DVB-T)
  • Graphics card: Integrated Intel HD4000
  • Media-centre software: WMC
  • Sound: onboard
  • Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet
  • Optical drive: LG Blu-ray player / DVD re-writer
  • Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • Ports: S/PDIF, HDMI, DVI-D, VGA
  • Case: Palicomp Media Centre Case
  • Keyboard and mouse: Xenta wireless media keyboard with touchpad
  • Extra features: Remote control
  • WorldBench 6 score: 169
  • Gaming performance (fps): 48 / 29.8
  • MediaEspresso time: 1min 56sec
  • Power consumption (Idle/Max): 50W / 116W
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 451x368x149mm
  • Warranty: 3-year RTB

OUR VERDICT

The Alpha Media Blaze is really a standard budget PC with some multimedia components and peripherals added to enable it to function as a Media Centre. The system case is bulky and simply not good-looking enough to sit in a living room and a low-power processor has not been used. It is however, much less expensive than any of the alternatives.

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