Fusion takes good advantage of MCE's capabilities by including a hybrid TV tuner that is capable of receiving analogue and digital broadcasts -- although not simultaneously. Users who live in areas with strong Freeview reception can take advantage of the digital tuner, but those in weak digital signal areas can use the analogue tuner as a backup. We'd have liked a second, discrete tuner to be installed in order to allow the recording of one channel while viewing another, but this can be installed at extra cost if required. Fusion has supplied a 250GB hard drive, which is capable of storing around 80 hours of video at 'best' quality.
You can use the supplied Compro Videomate remote control to access access features both within and outside of MCE. For example you can open and switch between Windows applications, and launch an on-screen keyboard for entering text into programs such as MSN Messenger. Unfortunately, this is a very poor substitute for a wireless keyboard and mouse. Fusion has supplied a wired USB mouse-and-keyboard combo, but we're not sure where you're supposed to keep these, since the PC is designed to be installed under a television.
Although Media Center PCs don't require an awful lot of processing power to run efficiently, system builders need to select components very carefully. Fusion has chosen to base the system on the Asus A1 Proactive motherboard -- a commendable choice. Whereas some motherboards use a fan to cool the Northbridge chipset (the portion of the motherboard that controls the flow of information between the processor, graphics card and memory), the A1 Proactive is fanless. It is therefore completely silent in operation.
But any advantage gained by the fanless motherboard is lost by the almost bizarre decision to include five cooling fans inside the case. One sits behind the power button at the front of the PC, another in the power supply, and two smaller, particularly noisy exhaust fans create a huge din at the rear. The final fan, used to cool the CPU, is of the standard Intel variety -- a cooler hardly renowned for its quietness. The end result is a home-entertainment PC that does its best to drown out your entertainment audio with its own hugely annoying cacophony of noise.
Media Center PCs don't need much power, so we weren't expecting this Fusion offering to pack a mean punch. Its 3GHz Intel Pentium 4 CPU is a perfectly capable CPU that will provide enough grunt to run every application you're likely to install on this type of PC. This is proven by its fairly average but competent PCMark 2005 score of 2,498. The PC doesn't come with a tremendous amount of memory -- only 512MB of DDR400 SDRAM is installed -- but you're unlikely to need more unless you plan to edit large images, databases or spreadsheets.
Graphics performance is far from spectacular. The motherboard has an integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics adaptor, which is fine for most tasks, but don't expect it to run modern games very well. It achieved a fairly pathetic 3DMark 2005 score of 674; Doom 3 chugged away at an unplayable 9 frames per second (FPS), and Far Cry at 14.57 fps. Unless you like playing games in slow motion, we'd recommend upgrading to a faster, passively cooled graphics card.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide