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This review is from: ASRock H61MV-ITX LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI Mini ITX Intel Motherboard
Pros: I'm going to keep this review short and sweet. For the money the value is hard to beat solid state caps for longer board life, supports relatively low power CPU's up to higher end LGA 1155 CPU's. I built this to replace an AMD E-450 build that was solid but just a bit under powered for my Virtualbox sessions to support customers on. I went with an Antec ISK 300-150 case which has 150watt PSU enough to have just enough overhead to run clean and small and tight, I almost went with their ultra SFF case but decided I wanted just a bit more space and an internal PSU. No problems using the stock Intel cooler, system performs very well even given the weak power of the integrated GPU. Paired with an SSD the system screams for regular business tasks using the Intel Celeron G1610. For HTPC purposes this has enough power to handle HD video and productivity apps with ease. Were talking 90$ for a CPU/MB that has plenty of performance for everything but gaming. The G1610 CPUScores 2543 on CPU Marks; again modest but plenty of power for the average user. Mainboard required little customization, BIOS menus were easy to navigate and I had no problems loading up Win7 home premium on an external slim drive. All in All the motherboard is fantastic, nothing too fancy at this price point, no USB 3.0 but enough features to make the small system builders like me very happy. My recommendation is for HTPC builds pair this board with an Intel CPU with integrated graphics capability and your set. Just pick the CPU and PSU/Case that fills your needs along with this board and you are set.
Cons: No USB 3.0 and could use more USB headers on back of board but at this price not a biggie.
Other Thoughts: As a sidebar; I would like to see Intel work on greater performance of their integrated GPU's however the bang for your dollar cant be beat on a ITX build like this. This motherboard is an outstanding value and should sway some AMD system builders back to the Intel camp for its price/performance ratio.READ FULL REVIEW
This review is from: Polk Audio CS1 Series II Center Channel Speaker (Black) Single
Pros: I cant say enough good about this center. Price is great right now and quality is fantastic. I know many people recommend the CS2 for a little more low end however its bulkier and this speaker sonically is a perfect match for the tower monitor 60's. Also I don't recommend going lower then 80hz on any center channel as it will make voices and audio a bit deep. Many audio enthusiasts recommend keeping your center at above 100Hz but I find that 80Hz which is the THX std works great. I keep my towers at 60hz which allows them to sound as good for music as they do for movies and it keeps the frequency curve near flat with the center as your about an octave higher then the -3db threshold of both sets of speakers. I verified in my own listening tests as well as using a sound level meter and for me this is the sweet spot with this setup. For my rears Im using the monitor 30's also at 80Hz which also blend perfectly with this center. I dont recomend running any speaker down to the lower range it can hit as the volume will slope off and the audio will not be as clean. If you want a flat response for HT you have to set your cross over at about an octave higher, it doesn't need to be perfect and will give you a bit of head room and take some strain off your equipment and speakers. Let the sub woofer do its job and hit the low frequencies. Anyways its an awesome speaker and I don't think most people need the added response of the CS2 as you traditionally set your cross over well above what the speaker can handle, yes its response may be just a hair flatter at the same cross over but its not worth the price delta in my book. Most consumers will be very pleased with this setup and its a no brainier if your using the bookshelf Polks like the R30's as they have an identical range.
Cons: None, tremendous value for the dollar spent.READ FULL REVIEW
This review is from: SONY STRDH540 5.2-Channel AV Receiver
Pros: Replaced a New Pioneer Receiver that failed in just one month. This unit for most movies only needs to be turned up to 25-30% volume to be very loud with a 5.1 speaker setup with 2 towers up front. I like that you can set a sound mode default for different audio modes which allows you get the sound you want for music and movies. Much better for music then my Pioneer was. Auto calibration does need adjustment as it sets non full range speakers to large so it will take a bit of adjustment once the calibration is run but that is pretty much standard for any HT receiver so I didn't dock any points. Sleek design and easy to use and setup despite what I have read from others plus you can adjust sound while playing content which makes it great for setting the optimal crossovers for your content and balancing the system. All in All I couldn't be more pleased for the price this unit packs punch and sounds great for any budget conscious theater system. One other plus which was a requirement for me is the banana plugs, many receivers in this price range don't have the support but this one does which makes installation a breeze. All in All excellent and Sony Quality to boot. Some of the other vendors are lacking in Quality Control these days. This will be the one that just works and lasts and that's what I need, solid HT performance that lasts.
Cons: NoneREAD FULL REVIEW