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HTPC Cases With LCD Screens: Bringing Bling

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February 3, 2009 5:50:26 AM

Nice Review, I agree with your take on cost but if i had the funds i would defiantly get one of these cases for an HTPC. the Moneual looks like the one I would get. This review was nice and balanced and took into all the different factors affecting the cases. noting that the screens were very similar and that the remotes were identical was something I was very happy to see as well as using the fan less psu as another control. A note of how the VGA cables get to the out side from the touch screen would have been a nice note but the pictures demonstrated it accurately showing that they have a pass through to the back video card area.

A+ review in my book
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February 3, 2009 12:23:41 PM

... and we're supposed to put these "hub caps" on my car?

Seriously, this looks so cheap. Who is going to put it on a rack with $20k worth of audio/video equipment.
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February 3, 2009 1:17:03 PM

I like the rack mounting feature of the Silverstone. But I like the other case better. I think a rack would fit my sparse industrial theme.
I have a fairly small space. Lots of Ikea furniture.
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February 3, 2009 1:18:18 PM

The touchscreen to me seems a bit of a waste. I prefer to use a standard computer monitor and a HDTV connected to a video card setup in a way that creates a workstation in the front wall of my hometheater with a slide out shelf for keyboard mouse. That way it can be a workstation/gaming machine from chair and HTPC from armchair via remote. I use mce2005.
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February 3, 2009 1:44:41 PM

Why would you want an expensive touch screen interface on HTPC? The whole point of having a HTPC is use can operate it remotely from your sofa. I would also like to have seen what motherboards these cases can support whether it be a micro ATX or full ATX motherboards.
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February 3, 2009 1:48:51 PM

Yeah, I have to agree with you fellows and I tried to get that across in the review; any productive use for these screens is a bit of a stretch. The only thing I could come up with is using the frontview media player to access music if you didn't want to power up your screen; I have a projector with a limited bulb life and I don't want to turn it on to listen to my music library.

But thanks for reading it anyway, I hope the info was useful to you guys.

And thanks for the kind words, Hamsterabed!
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February 3, 2009 1:50:17 PM

JeanLucI would also like to have seen what motherboards these cases can support whether it be a micro ATX or full ATX motherboards.


I mentioned on the first page "All three offer full ATX compatibility", that includes MicroATX.
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Anonymous
February 3, 2009 2:27:04 PM

I have been waiting a long while for an updated HTPC review. I was hoping to see what kind of components you gurus would use, but this case review was very helpful to me too (been thinking about using an AMD GPU with the HDMI, but was interested in seeing some overall system power requirements of running an HTPC. Don't want a huge jump in electric bills). I was mostly considering building an HTPC for my dad. He's old, and likes to listen to music. He streams internet radio, but sits in the uncomfortable computer chair. With one of these cases he could easily select music AND be able to play a movie using the same box, without a learning curve that would frustrate him. Thanks for the write-up, I hope you can do another one soon!
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February 3, 2009 2:33:37 PM

nice review, I have the DH101 which is the same - the 7in touch LCD, but it does have the remote and small 2x5 in blue black lcd, that displays computer/media information, i didnt find that the case was flimsy at all, maybe a little without the cover, but once the cover is on it is like a rock. I have to agree with you on the touch LCD, another good idea on paper, but in real world it is an epic fail.
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February 3, 2009 2:49:00 PM

I've thought about this issue in the past and there are times when I might want to use the small screen and not power up the big screen-
1) to set the PC to record something, say I get up in the morning and remember I wanted to record a certain broadcast, I can do that from the small screen
2) to take a quick look at the weather maybe
Actually I've thought about this with respect to just having a large screen and a small screen beside it, sort of the next step beyond "picture in picture". So maybe the touch screen aspect isn't useful but the screen itself might be useful, and if a person didn't want to use the touchscreen in the front of the case, they could use a small monitor or tv setting with the equipment. Some people might want the HTPC to set in the furniture along with the BluRay player and TV tuner, but others might have a more extensive setup with a place to sit and work, video games, multiple screens, etc.
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February 3, 2009 3:03:33 PM

cadder) to take a quick look at the weather maybe


I probably should have stressed it more in the review, but the frontview player shows the weather, time, system properties (like CPU usage), and a news ticker.

And in retrospect, the weather feature is the one I used the most. I might add a note about that in the review, cadder.
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February 3, 2009 3:08:55 PM

The Silverstone has one additional feature that Don missed, because it has a 1080p screen it can duplex the video. This is a great feature as you can have simultaneous display at high resolution, 1080p, it is one of the few cases that has this feature.
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February 3, 2009 3:20:52 PM

Well, I'm not sure if that's much of a feature, Bill. What's the advantage of simulaltaneously displaying interpolated video on a 7" screen at the same time as it's playing on your HDTV?

If you're watching a movie on your TV, why would you want the same movie displayed on a 7" screen? Or am I missing something?
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February 3, 2009 3:50:22 PM

While I'm glad that Tom's finally turned just a little of their attention to HTPC enthusiasts, and the reveiw on the cases was adequate, I do hope that it doesn't end here. Just another case reveiw is not what we need. I beleive a lot of us here would like to see an article about someone actually using one of these cases to build a state of the art HTPC. You know, with hardware and platform and the like???

That sure would be nice for a change.
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February 3, 2009 4:03:24 PM

I'll look into it. I'm not unually involved in the HTPC case system builder marathons and I'm not sure when the last one was.
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February 3, 2009 4:21:51 PM

Thanks Cleeve. I beleive it's been nearly three years and much has changed since then. It's long overdue! I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope that the decision makers at Tom's give it a green light.
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February 3, 2009 5:52:33 PM

niknikktmThanks Cleeve. I beleive it's been nearly three years and much has changed since then. It's long overdue! I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope that the decision makers at Tom's give it a green light.


Here's some from May 2007:
http://www.tomsguide.com/us/s/marathon/
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February 3, 2009 6:48:50 PM

I stand corrected. Nearly two years (not three) since the last HTPC build. The point is still valid. A lot of new hardware has come out since then and a new build is long overdue. HD PVR recording and Blu-ray authoring are just a couple of key aspects that are now possible but weren't then. Also, the advances in graphics and video capture hardware is notable. There are many reasons to revisit an "HTPC" or "Media Center PC" marathon after two years.
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February 3, 2009 7:55:09 PM

I wasn't calling you out Nik, just linking to the last HTPC build I could find. Like I said, I'm going to try to make this happen.
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February 3, 2009 8:25:29 PM

Cleeve, it is just a scaling thing, if you have a 1080p small screen you get the same both places. Not a big feature like you said but it can be useful or fun to have. It can also be used to monitor a third football or baseball game :) 
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February 3, 2009 8:29:35 PM

For those who don't like the touch screen, use your imagination, what if you put your shortcuts on the touch screen for starting all your apps, like DVD playback, then you can start the program by just touching the screen. I have no problem doing this. It is sometime a little bit of a pain getting the programs to go where you want them but once you get it set up then it works great. My 5 year old can start her videos from the touch screen easily. She just walks up and touches the one she wants. I worry more about it wearing out than it being a problem
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February 3, 2009 8:55:04 PM

I already have the music thing covered by streaming to my PS3 via TVersity and using a PSP as a remote. The touchscreen macro idea is nice, tho my old Phillips Pronto does that pretty well. And all that together is less than the expensive case.
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February 3, 2009 10:30:47 PM

I just thought I'd chime in with my Moneual experience. I have the Moneual 832P and found the build quality to be outstanding as well. I hope Moneual can hang in there and continue to make excellent HTPC cases. The 832 doesn't have a touch screen but it does have the control buttons and volume knob. When I first built my HTPC I thought I'd never use these controls but I find myself using them regularly (usually when I can't find my remote!!!) so I can see the value of having the touchscreen controls.

Also, when I upgraded to a blu-ray drive, the adhesive tape that attaches the door cover came off with very little fuss and I was able to re-use it just fine even though I had purchased some replacement 3M tape for the drive upgrade. How often do you upgrade an optical drive anyway?

BTW, in the "Weaknesses" summary for the Moneual 972 case you've listed it having two 60mm fans but it actually has 80mm fans.
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February 4, 2009 12:38:33 AM

I'd like to back up what "cruiseoveride" said about the bling. To much bling is a bad thing and this is no exception. Like a DVD player and Amp you wnat your A/V components to exist but not dominate. Do what they're meant to do but not draw attention away from the screen and speakers. Fir this reason I bought a SilverStone LC-17 to build my new Core-i7 Gaming PC. I'm very mimited for space so it made snce to use a desktop / HTPC case that would fit in my AV component Stack. The best bit about this case is that it has a brushed aluminium cover (sorry american's that's just how it's spelt.) And no other defining features.

It simply sits in the Stack not drawing attention to itself, and fits in 3 HDD's, 2x GTX295's, 2 optical drives and the rest of my i7 setup. The only visable light from the case is the small dim on light.

I dare say anyone who buys one of these cases reviewd for the LCD will go "cool feature" -> "annoying feature" -> "how do I turn it off feature"

Cheers
Jordan.

P.S: It's a real tight squeeze in there ;) 
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Anonymous
February 4, 2009 9:09:56 AM

Looks like an old cassette deck.
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February 4, 2009 3:56:28 PM

No offense taken Cleeve. I really do appreciate your making the effort to get something moving.
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Anonymous
February 5, 2009 1:37:20 AM

I looked at building an HTPC system with these three cases about a year ago. I was all set to go with the Moneual case. However, I learned that the depth of the slot for the optical drive was limited - and I had wanted to put in a combo Blu-Ray/HD DVD drive, which was longer than the slot.

I wound up going with the DH-102 case, and the build process was pretty easy. I would love to have more room for additional hard drives - i mirrored the system drive (which has my music library), and have a third 1 TB drive for TV recordings. So no more room for internal hard drives.

In retrospect, the touch screen display has been more trouble than it is worth. I have the DH-102 hooked via HDMI to a Sony HDMI receiver - it switches between video game console, cable box, and MCE PC - and I put audio out over the HDMI cable from PC to receiver. The display is a large LCD TV and - when all is working - it works great.

The problem is that switching the video on the receiver from the PC to - say - the cable STP causes the primary display to shift from the TV to the touch screen display. Switching the receiver back to the PC then leaves the display in a strange setting (e.g., primary monitor is the small touch screen, LCD TV is disabled).

My wife and kids have been very frustrated with this behavior - and it has caused more trouble than the touch screen is worth. I have found some tools to help reset the correct system display settings, but this is not done automagicaly by the OS and video drivers.

For reference purposes, I have an AT HD 3870 video card on a Vista Ultimate 64 bit OS. I also have a Hauppauge 2250 dual combo TV tuner in the system.

Perhaps the display behavior with an HDTV and the touchscreen combo will be better addressed in Windows 7, but - given the behavior I see in the current configuration - I would skip the touch screen altogether if I had to do it over again.
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February 5, 2009 10:36:46 AM

I wonder if you can fit a 4850 in one of these? Do they fit 10.5" video cards?
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Anonymous
February 5, 2009 12:18:52 PM

A screen capable of displaying POST info would be great on an HTPC case since many projectors and LCDs can't display that video mode, but these touchscreens seem pointless.
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February 5, 2009 1:27:14 PM

Been-there-done-thatThe problem is that switching the video on the receiver from the PC to - say - the cable STP causes the primary display to shift from the TV to the touch screen display.

I mention this in the review - the way to take care of it if you use an ATI card is to disable the 'ATI Hotkey poller' service. Then it will no longer automatically detect if a display has been detached.

Not sure if Nvidia has a similar issue, haven't had a chance to test that yet.
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Anonymous
February 5, 2009 5:30:40 PM

I have an older Silverstone case for my HTPC (LC11-M). I would say that for most HTPC purposes, fans, and fan noise don't really matter, because they can all be switched off.

I've got a Core 2 Duo E6400, 3GB RAM and a passively cooled GF 7300. To get rid of the noise, I bought some silent fans, but when I tried to get the old fans out, realised it wasn't at all easy. So I just unplugged all the fans. I am using the stock CPU cooler with it's fan on minimum speed (959 RPM), and there are no other fans in the system.

For media centre purposes, it runs completely fine. For games, I need to put the CPU fan on full, but I don't really play games on the machine anyway (too held back by the 7300).
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February 6, 2009 1:56:30 AM

Please excuse me, but are those noise readings a joke? I would expect a good HTPC to have noise levels at around 20 dBA, not 46, or even 39 dBA! Especially as those readings were without a processor fan, hard disks, north bridge fan, graphics card fan, or any other noise generating components. Perhaps it was just because the measurements were taken four inches from the front panel, instead of one metre, which I believe is how the standard measurements are made. Perhaps because the measurement is in decibels (dB) instead of dBA?

Whatever the reason, a HTPC case should be using 120 and 140 mm fans, not 60 and 80 mm squealers. While those noise levels may be fine when watching a Hollywood action blockbuster, imagine listening to the quiet sections of classical music, when the noise from fans would be louder than the music!

This was a very disappointing review (The content, not the author's work). I thought HTPC case makers may have actually made progress by now, especially at those prices, and since Windows 7 is on the horizon, but I guess not.
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February 6, 2009 2:46:14 AM

3lvisI wonder if you can fit a 4850 in one of these? Do they fit 10.5" video cards?


Yes they do (silverstone model) I know they fit in the LC17 as I'm writting this message from that computer. But be mindul that it may limit use of all HDD bays.

Cheers
Jordan
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February 6, 2009 12:32:56 PM

Does anybody have recommendations for an htpc case with 5-7" lcd. No touch screens, can't afford those :) 
All I've found have tiny lcds barely readable from the couch or those expensive 7" touch screens.
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February 6, 2009 2:45:59 PM

RoderickGIPlease excuse me, but are those noise readings a joke? I would expect a good HTPC to have noise levels at around 20 dBA, not 46, or even 39 dBA!

Perhaps it was just because the measurements were taken four inches from the front panel, instead of one metre, which I believe is how the standard measurements are made.


You're right, I had to take the measurements close because they didn't register a meter away. I don't have the most sensitive meter available, but it does allow me to show the diffrence between the cases.

For what it's worth, none of the cases were noticable during movie playback.
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Anonymous
February 7, 2009 7:41:25 PM

I think a great feature would be to use the little screen as a channel preview before you change channels. That would be VERY useful.
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February 8, 2009 3:58:20 PM

This article looks awful timely. The paradigm of using a computer as a primary component in a home theater setup, I think, it needs a lot more attention.

Lately, on my own part, I've been trying to develop a solution, myself, to the problem of "computer as primary home audio/video component". It's a project that has been going for a couple weeks now. All told, it's taken about 10 hours total of driving -- going with brick and mortar in the state where I live, it's easier to return an item this way -- and $1200, and it's still not working out. Here's the setup, in its current revision:

* Polk Audio 5-speaker setup, with Polk subwoofer. Inputs: Conventional speaker wire.
* Harmon Kardon AVR-254 receiver. Inputs: Many; outputs: Many
* Toshiba Satellite X205 laptop. Outputs: HDMI, VGA, S-Video, digital audio via 3.5mm port, analog audio via 3.5mm port
* HP w2408h monitor (roughly 24"). Inputs; HDMI, VGA, 3.5mm analog audio

The laptop sports an HDMI output. The monitor sports an HDMI input.

This receiver, now, it's purported to support HDMI 1.3a. Even so, it cannot give me the full 1900x1200 resolution that is natural when the laptop is plugged directly into the monitor -- as without the receiver intervening.

That's one issue. Another issue is in that there is an outright crappy appearance of the fonts, and there is screen clipping, when I'm routing the HDMI connection through that receiver. I'd expected that a Harmon Kardon unit -- with its magical HDMI 1.3a support -- would've had what I was looking for -- namely, support for full, clear 1900x1200 resolution, with no issues. It is at least slightly disappointing that htis has not worked out. The HK receiver was a replacement for a Yamaha receiver, which did a little worse in many ways and a little better in some ways, overall.

Considering the items reviewed in this article, and how they might fit in with a home audio/video system, I don't really know what purposes those companies designed these cases (?) for.

It looks like we're still a ways off from having adequate (as in: full, by modern standards and modern hardware capabilities) so, full integration of the computer into the home audio/video setup.

Moreover, by the time it may ever get here, the manufactuers' IP-grubbing leadership will probably lock it in with proprietary DRM protocols.

I think I'll just buy a hand-crank phonograph, and play it all retro.
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February 12, 2009 1:10:06 AM

Why spend all that money?
I just got a Philips DVD player (model: 5992/37) that plays DIVX Ultra and XVID mpeg4 files from CD/DVD or USB-2.0.

With a FAT32 formatted 1 terabyte hard-disk hooked up via the USB input you can play your whole DVD collection (provided you've ripped it).

Also plays mp3 and wma.

Oh Yeah. It's only 50 bucks brand new!
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February 23, 2009 1:26:27 PM

Quote:
I've thought about this issue in the past and there are times when I might want to use the small screen and not power up the big screen-
1) to set the PC to record something, say I get up in the morning and remember I wanted to record a certain broadcast, I can do that from the small screen
2) to take a quick look at the weather maybe
Actually I've thought about this with respect to just having a large screen and a small screen beside it, sort of the next step beyond "picture in picture". So maybe the touch screen aspect isn't useful but the screen itself might be useful, and if a person didn't want to use the touchscreen in the front of the case, they could use a small monitor or tv setting with the equipment. Some people might want the HTPC to set in the furniture along with the BluRay player and TV tuner, but others might have a more extensive setup with a place to sit and work, video games, multiple screens, etc.


I don't know about "touch" screen, but it would be nice to have an auxiliary screen because my projector takes time to power cycle, and you have to turn the lights off, and its wear and tear on the bulb. You can't beat a projector for a home theater setup, but for simple administrative non-video tasks its annoying (syncing ipods, reprogramming harmony remote, set to record, run backups etc). Only caveat is I would like to turn it off during movie viewing as I do not need another light source in my theater.

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February 25, 2009 8:51:46 AM

Anonymousthan it is worth. I have the DH-102 hooked via HDMI to a Sony HDMI receiver - it switches between video game console, cable box, and MCE PC - and I put audio out over the HDMI cable from PC to receiver.


Do you get just audio out of the HDMI? I found ASUS has a new audio/video card which is really a video passthrough and has 1.3a output so you get both along with DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD. I thought this was the first solution to do this. Actually they said there is a patch for the 1.3a output comming soon.

Can we get a review on this new audio card?
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March 30, 2009 1:59:39 PM

Cases almost don't matter at all at this point but they get the most attention.

The software, remotes and TV tuner cards are the biggest draw back in the HTPC world.

They almost all use the iMON remote and IR reviever which people have been having endless problems with. (look at their forums and real user reviews accross the web).

The next major problem is that there doesn't seem to be any dual digital tuner TV cards out yet so if you want to record and watch your out of luck.

Until these two things are remedied (Mainly software and remote. TV card is acceptable for some) HTPC's are just too non user friendly to hold real value.
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March 30, 2009 2:51:49 PM

As an HTPC user, I disagree that HTPCs don't have value. I get tremendous value from my HTPC daily.


I will agree that the TV tuner limitations are inconvenient, but that doesn't affect the PC's ability to play movies or record a show while I'm away.

The biggest problem with the iMon remote is it's incompatibility with Window's Media Center's TV functionality, forcing the user to get a Microsoft Windows Media Center remote.

I'll likely do a TV-centric HTPC review in the future covering this stuff, but like I said, I am now a daily HTPC user and would really miss it if it were gone. THere's a lot of value there aside from some TV drawbacks.


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April 28, 2009 10:13:45 PM

Fascinating review. Also because it is the first time I see the touchscreen and TV screen being used at the same time... Apparently that is quite difficult to get. Using an OrigenAE X15 myself, did not get software with it that allowed me to have control and information on the Touchscreen, while playing a movie on the Big screen. Makes the touch a bit useless.

Are wondering if the software can also be used on other Hardware? Believe Frontview? and IMedia HD is used...
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Anonymous
May 13, 2009 1:23:45 PM

Having looked around a bit for HTPC cases it seems that the case manufacturers are concentrating on enclosing a 'classical' PC case in a bling bling enclosure.
What would make more sense is to split the classical setup in a front and back end, keeping the front end small and disk free , i.e. noise free.Stick all the noisy bits at the back end and combine it with a classical file server functionality.
Create nice small cases around mini itx boards, that handle the graphics and sound. May be add tv/sat tuner to it and that's it.

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September 22, 2009 11:52:35 PM

Very simple piece of journalism... give the price in the first paragraph. It's often presented far down, or not at all.
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October 20, 2009 1:57:16 PM

1920x1200 touchscreen is very usefull, you can clone whole MPC bit screen to it. Ideal for mp3 playback with full gui.
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November 23, 2009 4:55:32 AM

so what do i use this CRAP for ?? money waster!
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