Hopefully this is the right section to post this??
I know most of you regulars know Assassin from his many posts and guides, but I felt I'd write this review based on my very positive experience with his guides and the Assassin HTPC team.Assassin HTPC Review
I can't remember the time I last had a proper computer and by that I mean a desktop or something similar. I used to be an avid PC gamer then real life became a factor and so the gaming pc was sold and I started using Laptops.
I'd been an Xbox owner during this time, so when I saw that XBMC was on the PC I watched with interest. I've always liked how XBMC looked and as it started evolving I thought wouldn't it be nice to have XBMC as a frontend and all my media on one system.
Well after a long time and lots of saving I decided this year was the year to get my first HTPC. I had to decide what I wanted and whether to build it myself or get a HTPC from a well known company. I'm a very busy person and I knew kind of what I wanted in the machine but didn't relish configuring all the various programs that HTPC users know and love.
I started searching, and found a few places in the UK where I'm based, but it wasn't really what I wanted. I then came across a video on Youtube of some of the guys from Assassin HTPC at a Audio/Video/Home Theatre Show (Cebit). Some of their other video's detailed what their systems did and I thought this level of customisation is great. In fact it was the feature set that made me want to investigate further.. I then found their blog and then the store website. I checked out Assassin's Free Hardware Guide for HTPC's while on the blog. I read through the whole guide and was very impressed with the detail. I thought "This guy knows what he's talking about"
I started to think about the possibility of ordering from these guys. I had concerns about ordering from the USA and possible issues with warranties being from another country, but after a call to Assassin HTPC my mind was put at rest. Like I said I did look at other companies but they fell short compared to the options and customisation Assassin HTPC offered.
I decided on a custom build which is $75 initially for the planning of the build and to get things rolling. I fired a few emails back and forward about my requirements and then called Alexander of Assassin HTPC to discuss things further. If you are familiar with Assasin's guides, a theme that you see especially in his hardware guide, is his mentality regarding hardware that's not really suited for HTPC's if that's all that you are using it for. Why put a top of the range i7 cpu in a HTPC, there is just no point. Well in my conversation with Alexander he had my emails with the list of components that I wanted, and throughout the conversation, maybe serveral times he mentioned that what I wanted was a bit extreme for a HTPC's and suggested a less powerful option. I thought this was particularly good seeing as most companies will build the system,take your money, and thats that.
Assassin HTPC were keen to make sure I got exactly what I wanted and like I said, made suggestions whenever they thought things could be done differently. At the end of the day though you can have what you want in the system, they are only suggestions.
I ended up going with the following.
Case: Origen AE S21T (Black)
CPU: i5 3570k with HD4000
Motherboard: Fatal1ty Z77 Professional
RAM: GSkill Ares 16GB
System Drive: Crucial 128GB SSD
Storage: Western Digital Green 3TB x 7
GPU: Asus GT 520
I asked for loads of extra's to numerous to mention, but I'll mention some of the things I had installed later.
I took delivery of my system several weeks ago after it had seemed to be in Customs for an eternity. I was very impressed with the build quality. My overall thought concerning the system was "Money well spent"
Assassin HTPC have been very helpful in the setting up of my system after it was shipped. Initially there were some problems I couldn't resolve due to them having to move to a new office, but that is understandable given the situation. I've now spoken to a nice chap called Mike who was the guy who built my system. He covered all the things that I needed help with in great detail and at the end of the call I was very satisfied with the customer service I received. It's nice to call a company and have people talk to you that really know their stuff, rather than a company that has a huge work force of drones who follow a script of what has to be said and have no really in depth knowledge.
Having been very busy recently I finally got time to really look at what my system had to offer. I'd been saving my well earned cash for my dream machine so I went all out, no holds barred on the feature set. I had XBMC, Mediabrowser, and PLEX installed and configured to work in conjunction with MCM (Media Centre Manager). This is a really nice feature, in that you have your media folders set to point to all the above programs, and when you add your content MCM will get all the covers/metadata for all your frontends.
Being UK based some of the many features had to be omitted from my build such as Live Tv recording among other things. This really didn't bother me because with all the add-ons and content that is available through XBMC it's really to much for one person to handle. My system came loaded with various retail software such as Cyberlink's Power DVD for DVD/BR playback. The system is 3D enabled although at the moment I don't have a TV that can take advantage of this.
Basically, I wanted a system that could at some stage accommodate an AV receiver and 7.1 speaker set. It means that I can't make use of some of the features, but they are there for when I update my setup in the next year or so.
The PLEX server setup is one feature that I really like, from accessing your media from your mobile phone on the move to family members browsing your library at home, it's all there.
You get an Assassin HTPC folder in the box which includes the driver disks and serials of all the products installed in the system. You are greeted with a welcome letter, thanking you for using Assassin HTPC and so on. You are also given various guides from the blog of which I have a subscription to. The only thing that I would have liked to seen would have been a quick start guide or some sort of summary of the programs installed. What I mean is, a whole lot of customization went into this system, and although some things were easy to pick up, there were other areas/programs/apps that were installed that I thought, can I touch this or what does this do. I hope you understand what I'm getting at?? Although I'm no amateur with computers, it was a little daunting at first.
You can have all of the above and install and configure it yourself or for a busy person like myself it all gets done for you. The assassin blog is a very good resource and if I remember you pay $25 for a lifetime membership. The guides are updated regularly and include detailed descriptions as well as pictures. I suppose you could argue that you could find all the information online for free, but the fact that the guides here are frequently updated unlike some forum guides you might find, I'd say for the new and up and coming HTPC enthusiast this is a recommended resource.
Assassin HTPC also offer a remote in service which can be utilised by them to do upgrades or sort problems. This is particularly useful if you have little time and need the guys at Assassin HTPC to overhaul your system and bring it up to date.
I know a pre built system is not for everyone, but I'm really happy with my system. I have a wonderful setup thanks to the guys at Assassin HTPC and a number of friends who can't get enough of XBMC and the features it offers. So if you are willing to pay a bit extra for a pre built system and you want a setup done by people that really know there stuff look no further than Assassin HTPC.
If on the other hand you want to do your own build then as I mentioned before, the Assassin guides on his blog are a really good resource and well worth the one off subscription.
So in short, great people, a great company, and great after sales support. I highly recommend them.
Thanks a lot guys.....
Sorry made a mess of the pictures, hopefully I've fixed things now