Digital Media Adapters Part 12 – HTPC Conclusion

So far, I have looked at the AMD Fusion Theater PC (FTPC) on a wide variety of content, including video,music, pictures and games. I’d like to close out the AMD FTPC section of the living room DMA series by discussing some of the other variables compared to the other DMAs.

Networking

The AMD FTPC comes standard with a 1 Gbps Ethernet port. This is 10X faster than the other DMAs and what this buys you is faster computer to computer access. So in other words, if you are pulling your HD videos off of another PC, NAS, or Windows Home Server, it will theoretically download 10X faster. Wi-Fi is optional, and priced as low as $10.

Social Media

For the AMD FTPC, this is really simple…. If it has a website, it can be accessed by the AMD FTPC, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or Bebo. I still haven’t gotten heavily into the “lean-back” 10’ social media experience but I am sure some consumers will. TweetDeck or TweetDeck for Chrome are some good bets at 10’ as they are structured into manageable columns.

Home Connectivity

The AMD FTPC is the most versatile of the DMAs given it can import and play/export content over industry standard connectors, namely 6 USB ports, 6 programmable audio ports, SPDIF optical and coax audio ports, and a PCI-E slot. Why care? Well, you can directly connect a home theater receiver, terabytes of external movie storage, wireless keyboards, wireless remotes, video cameras, digital cameras, iPhones, iPads, Android tablets, etc. Heck, you can even add a TV card if you want for PC-based DVR functionality. You get the picture…. . For the most part, this level of versatile functionality and customization is more than I found with any of the other DMAs I tested including the Apple TV, Google TV, and even the XBOX.

Simplicity

Here is where things get sticky… :) Options, openness, upgradability, and feature lists come with a penalty, and that’s the challenge of getting all of this to work, and to work reliably. As the “designer” of my AMD FTPC, I chose a feature-rich system which may be complex to some. But that’s my decision. If they don’t need to do everything I want to, an OEM, ODM or user could literally use one program, a web browser like Chrome or IE9, to accomplish 90% of what I have laid out.

Price

Pricing for the AMD FTPC goes on a pay as you go system; the more features you want, the more you will pay. Here are some components similar to my configuration:

  • MSI E350 motherboard, including The AMD Dual-Core Processor E-350 for around $145.
  • Windows 7 Home Premium, around $99.
  • 160 GB hard drive, as low as $35. Alternatively if you wanted to pack in over 1,000 Amazon VOD movies at around 2TB, and 1TB for around 500 games, you could go 3TB hard drive for as low as $189.
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM, as low as $40.
  • APEX MW-100 case, as low as $69. If you needed to save even more money, I suppose you could go even lower, as low as $35.
  • Wireless keyboard with trackpad as low as $20 and other mini-wireless keyboards that are a bit more expensive.

So, net-net, for around $399 you can own your very own robust AMD FTPC. I believe as OEMs start rolling out their configuration, you could get it for even less. Remember, these are retail prices, not distribution or OEM costs.

While it’s impossible to have an apples-to-apples comparison, here is what the DMA field looks like at $299-399. This compares to the Xbox 360 S 250GB unit at $399, the Logitech Revue with Google TV for $299 or the Sony Internet TV at $399.

AMD FTPC Conclusion

The AMD Fusion Theater PC provides the highest access to videos, music, photos, games and social media of all the DMAs I tested, with near-silent operation. It takes advantage of the inherent openness of the Windows 7 PC platform. On the flip-side, if you want all of that, the user may pay a complexity penalty of configuration and inconsistent user interfaces and input devices. You are free to make the choice of how complex or simple you want your AMD FTPC and you have the option to change your configuration later. In the end, it’s nice that we have left that in the hands of the end user and there are solid choices for those who want this.

Next, I will finalize the series on DMAs with thoughts on what the future holds for consumers and the industry.