ECS HDC-I ReviewIndybird -
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Media center computers and set-top boxes are two of the biggest current trends in home electronics. This is partly due to the increase in popularity of Internet video streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. A media center set-top box needs to be capable of not only streaming video, but must also access the user's home library of music, pictures, and video. Though there are many big contenders such as the Xbox 360 and Apple TV, there is still a market for custom built media center boxes. Building a media center computer is easier than ever thanks to the industry shift toward small, low-power, HD-capable motherboards. Because of the low power requirements of these boards, and very little need for expansion cards such as sound cards or TV tuners, users can build compact, low-power media center computers that rival big-brand boxes in price and functionality.
ECS, long time provider of quality motherboards, is on the front line of this trend with its AMD Fusion-based offering, the HDC-I. There are a lot of AMD Fusion motherboards on the market right now and each offers a different array of features. The HDC-I comes equipped with a very practical and desirable offering of features: integrated Bluetooth, integrated Wi-Fi-N, USB 3.0, four SATA 3.0 ports, and two DDR3 DIMM slots. With a feature list like that, it is obvious that ECS is not messing around in this market. Let's see how it compares to the ION-based and fellow Fusion-based boards.
The ECS HDC-I comes in a small, shiny, green box. On the front you're presented with a basic feature list; AMD Radeon HD 6310 Graphics, Bluetooth, Blu-ray 1080p playback, USB 3.0 support, and an included wireless card. Around the back you get a view of the board along with a much more detailed list of HDC-I and general AMD Fusion features. The sides of the box are pretty plain; just the sticker with basic specifications and barcodes.
Upon opening the box you are presented with a direct view of the board wrapped in an anti-static bag. After removing that, you are presented with a wide array of accessories. You have your basic manual and quick start guides, the driver disk, four SATA cables, I/O cover, and the Wi-Fi parts. The Wi-Fi consists of the Mini PCI-E card, the antenna mount, the antenna, a PCI bracket, and a low-profile PCI bracket. The inclusion of four SATA cables and the Wi-Fi with two different-sized brackets makes for a very comprehensive accessory package.
Now onto the board itself.