A PC for your living room that lets you watch TV through Windows
The Braebo Perseus is a media centre PC designed to be connected to your TV. It comes with a Freeview TV tuner built in so you can record TV shows using Windows 7 Media Center.
Given its living room role, the Perseus looks very different to other PCs. The black, brushed metal case is designed to be stored horizontally underneath your TV but it’s larger than many desktop PCs at 45x45.5x17cm. It is mercifully quiet though.
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There is lots of space for storing recorded TV on the 2TB hard disk and there’s a Blu-ray drive for watching high-definition movies too. Everything can be controlled using the included remote control and there is a small front-mounted screen for displaying information such as the name of the channel, but it can be difficult to see from a distance.
The single TV tuner means the Perseus can record only one programme at a time, but there are three PCI expansion card slots and eight USB ports in total so adding another tuner is easy. Two tuners would be handy for recording two channels at once or watching one while recording another.
An alternative would be to use internet-based TV catch-up services either through a web browser or third-party Media Centre plug-ins. Such flexibility is one of the advantages of a media centre PC, although you will also have to take care of all the usual PC maintenance tasks such as keeping drivers and antivirus software up to date. Using a browser is the most flexible way but requires use of the included wireless keyboard. Media Center plug-ins are designed for use with the remote, but these are not supported by the TV networks.
Adding an expansion card is straightforward, but adding more hard disks for more storage can be tricky. Disks are held in a removable cage – removing it, fitting disks and plugging in all the cables is not too difficult, but can be fiddly and off-putting.
It is unlikely the Perseus will be used as a household’s primary computer but it is powerful enough to do so. Oddly, the quad-core A6 3500 processor used is one of AMD’s older ‘Llano’ processors from last year but it is still fast enough for most tasks, especially since it is paired with a generous 16GB of memory.
The Braebo Perseus isn’t bad, especially if you want flexibility, but for most households a media centre PC is old fashioned. Smart TVs and personal video recorders (PVRs) are more elegant ways of recording TV and enjoying catchup services. In the case of PVRs, they’re also cheaper, use less power and smaller.
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A capable media centre PC but most people will be better off with a dedicated Personal Video Recorder, which will take up less room, need less maintenance and be more elegant
Quiet; Has Blu-ray drive; Large hard disk and lots of memory
Takes up a lot of space; Can be fiddly to upgrade
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