One thing we weren't too pleased about was the accompanying remote control. It includes most of the buttons you'll need for day to day Media Center activities, and it has an integrated scroll wheel and selector buttons that lets you move the mouse cursor around the screen, but it's very unresponsive. Often, the cursor judders around the screen like it's in the throes of a fit, and just when you think you've got it lined up over your icon, and hit a selector button, it leaps away to another part of the screen.
Thankfully the A33 also comes with a wireless keyboard that has a built in mouse trackpad -- like you'd find on a laptop. This works a lot better, but it's not something you want to grab every time you want to change the TV channel.
Like most Media Center PCs, the A33 has some out-of-the-box issues. Users will have to make sure they set the correct screen resolution and that their TV actually supports one of the resolutions its graphcis card is capable of. Once you've done this, you might want to change the font sizes: it's hard to read on-screen text from 3 metres away, even on a big TV. Finally, you'll need to make sure you disable the screen saver or automatic standby mode so the PC doesn't fall asleep in the middle of your movie.
The A33 ran well during our test period and did not present many problems. The 4GB of memory helped it launch even huge video files quickly, and the frame rate of high definition video remained stable for the vast majority of the time. You can expect the odd stutter if you ask the PC to multitask while you watch HD video, but that's to be expected. It scored 4,076 in PCMark05, which is about what we'd expect from this particular configuration..
We didn't expect much in the way of graphics performance, and we didn't get it. The ATI card inside the A33 clocked up a very modest 2,096 in 3DMark06, meaning it'll run basic 3D games at modest resolutions, but keel over if you try to run newer titles such as BioShock. The upshot of the middle of the road processing performance is the fact there's not much noise from the PC. It's by no means silent, but the hum it emits shouldn't annoy you.
The A33 is a very good example of a Media Center PC. It's doesn't have all the bells and whistles possible in a PC of this type, and will need some tweaking to get the most out of it, but it looks great and the built-in amp gives users flexibility.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday