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Asus N20A Ultraportable NotebookASUS is new to the notebook and desktop PC market.  They have long been known for making quality motherboards, video cards, and other PC components, but the company has just recently entered the field of custom desktop and notebook computers.  The ASUS N20A notebook is ultra-portable, sleek, and stylish, yet it also offers top of the line security and high-end specifications to meet the needs of business users. The system’s display is a 12.1" WXGA, glare resistant color shine screen.  It features the ASUS Express Gate, which provides an 8-second boot time to a Linux-based environment with web browsing and basic tools.  Other features of the ASUS N20A include facial recognition technology, a fingerprint reader, and eSATA connectivity.

ASUS used state-of-the-art technology in the production of the N20A notebook. ASUS’s Unique Infusion Technology provides a scratch resistant exterior and helps maintain the system’s "brand new" sheen, even after prolonged use. Its additional operating system known as Express Gate enables a rapid boot up for quick access to everyday features, such as your web browser, instant messenger, music player, and more. The facial recognition system, otherwise known as SmartLogon, recognizes the users face and can logon without having to press a key. It also looks for changes in the users facial features and no matter the lighting, it can normally detect the user. Using the AuthenTec fingerprint sensor with Trueprint Technology, the ASUS N20A can accurately read anyone’s fingerprint as well.

As for the system’s actual specifications, it boasts an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Intel GMA X4500HD integrated graphics, up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM, up to 320GB hard drive, 1280×800 resolution display, 1.3 megapixel webcam, HDMI and VGA output ports, DVD burner, Wi-Fi connectivity, ExpressCard expansion slot, 8-in-1 memory card reader, and optional Bluetooth and 3.5G connectivity support.  The ASUS N20A ships with Windows Vista pre-installed, with prices starting from $999, and increasing depending on your configuration.

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Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe Video CardThe new Palit Revolution 700 stakes claim to being the world’s fastest graphics card. It’s the first custom designed HD 4870 X2 in the world, and its features are quite impressive. The Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe presents dual GPUs pre-overclocked to 750MHz core speed, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and 3800 MHz memory speed.  It provides 2.4 teraflops of pure graphics power and 1600 stream processors which combine to create the strongest graphics card on the market. The Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe provides X2 performance and continues the trend of Palit’s Sonic Edition graphics cards, which offer enhanced memory and core speed.

The Palit Revolution 700 also offers a great cooling system. For Palit to create an effective cooling system for the Revolution 700 Deluxe, they custom designed an innovative cooling solution with dual fans, one for each GPU. Arriving with two PWM fans and four heat-pipes, the Revolution 700 Deluxe comes fully equipped to fight off heat while providing the same quality high performance. Created for two GPUs, the PWM fans provide enough airflow to not only cool the two GPUs on the Revolution Deluxe, but to cool them quietly. The temperature of the GPU controls the PWMs fan speed which varies depending on how warm the processor is, which enables silent operation much of the time.

Supporting DiplayPort, HDMI, Dual-Link DVI, and D-Sub, the Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe is the first HD 4870 X2 to support 4-in-1 display outputs. One could easily make the claim that the Revolution 700 Deluxe is a giant leap forward in the graphics industry and may be the graphics solution of the future with home entertainment and gaming.
 

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Western Digital has released the new WD TV external HD media player that works in conjunction with one or two external hard drives to playback video, audio, and view photos at up to full high definition quality (1080p).  The device automatically sorts video, audio, and image files into corresponding categories for convenient navigation.  The player’s interface presents the option of thumbnail or filename browsing.  Thumbnails are extracted from movie cover art, album covers, and photos.  The media library functionality can also view all media files by type in a single menu, no matter the physical location of the files.  Multimedia content can be arranged into categories such as album, artist, genre, and date.  Similarly, search is provided by title, artist, genre, filename, and partial filename.  For photo viewing, the WD TV supports custom slideshows with transition effects and background music, as well as zooming and panning.  Video and music playback supports all the common commands you would expect, such as fast forward, rewind, pause, etc.

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The WD TV offers HDMI and composite video connections. ArcSoft MediaConverter 2.5 is included with the packaging for photo, video, and audio file conversion in case file compatibility is an issue at any point.  However, the WD TV player provides comprehensive format support. 

Video formats supported include AVI (MPEG-4, XviD, AVC), MPEG-1/2, WMV9, MOV (MPEG-4 and H.264), MKV, and H.264.  MP3, WMA, OGG, PCM WAV, AAC, FLAC, AIF/AIFF, and MKA are supported for audio.  JPG, GIF, PNG, TIF/TIFF, and BMP image formats can be viewed.  PLS, M3U, and WPL playlist formats are also recognized.

Aside for the player itself and the conversion software already mentioned, the packaging also includes a stand for WD My Passport hard drives (although any type of USB drive can be used), a remote control, composite AV cables, AC power adapter, and installation guide. The WD TV provides a simple, affordable solution for playback of PC video formats.  Note that the WD TV does not currently offer network support/streaming functionality.

Pricing for the WD TV is expected to be around USD $125.00, and will be available through all major retailers.

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We have reviewed numerous options in network media players, ranging back to the now defunct GoVideo D2730 Network DVD Player.  While every option has a shortcoming here and there, the DViCo TViX M-6500A Network Media Player is overall the best option we have thus far reviewed.  In addition to the network playback support from a PC or NAS, it also offers internal hard drive support for playback without any external source being powered on.  The new M-6500A features a black aluminum enclosure, Sigma’s latest SMP8635 processor, HDMI output, increased main memory, and more.

Formats supported for playback include WMV9, WMV-HD, DIVX, XVid, HDV, MKV, H.264, VOB (DVD layouts), ISO, MP3, WMA, FLAC, WavPack, PCM, DTS, and more.  Unfortunately, the player does not support WMV8.

DViCo M-6500A Network Media PlayerAnother beneficial feature of the TViX player is the bi-directional USB support.  That is, the unit can be connected to the PC to transfer files to and from the internal drive and external drives (USB slave) and USB flash drives can be connected as an additional source for video playback.  The latter is particularly useful for single-use content since users can simply copy a desired file onto a USB flash drive, connect it, and immediately play the video.  Both NTFS and FAT32 are supported for media file systems.

In addition to video, the player also offers music playback and image display.  All multimedia formats can be streamed via a LAN connection, played from the internal HDD, or accessed from an external USB device.

As for shortcomings, while the DViCo TViX M-6500A Network Media Player provides excellent overall format support, we have experienced playback trouble with some AVI videos.  The fact that high-definition formats and video content as fully supported (HD 1080i/720p/1080p Video output) is indeed a plus.  However, due to the player’s UI being specifically designed for hi-def display, if you have an older TV that does not support HD or does not support it well, the UI will be difficult to read.  Remember that having a LCD TV does not automatically mean that it is HD-ready.  In fact, we had to replace one of the test LCD TVs for this very reason.

The TViX M-6500A sells for about $399.  Note:  The TViX M-7000A model also exists.  However, it is not readily available in the US.  Also, feature-wise, it is almost idential to the M-6500A, while costing more and possessing a shape that does not fit well with most home theater systems.

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