capsule review

WinBook JiV Mini

At a Glance
  • WinBook Jiv Mini

    PCWorld Rating

The surprisingly small and elegant WinBook JiV Mini is a Microsoft Windows Media Center system geared to fit into your existing entertainment center. The system did a reasonable job at recording and playing back digital content, but it lacks the performance oomph you'll find in some comparably priced systems.

The vertical system looks like a notebook standing on its side: It's just over 1.6 inches wide, stands 7.8 inches tall, and stretches 9 inches deep. And our $1450 test system (as of July 14, 2006) shared more than a passing resemblance to a laptop. Its processor is a 1.66-GHz Core Duo processor, a CPU typically found in notebooks.

The processor, along with 1GB of RAM, handled digital media capably. In our tests, it recorded television and played back digital video and DVDs without breaking a sweat.

But the system was rather slow at other tasks. It achieved a lackluster WorldBench 5 score of 84--12 percent below the average score of 95 for current value systems.

The JiV Mini's extremely compact size has other drawbacks as well. You can't upgrade the chassis, and that's a problem in view of the small 100GB hard drive--which could fill up quickly if your digital media collection includes TV recordings and music. If you want to add more storage capacity, you'll have to use an external USB 2.0 or FireWire drive, or a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device.

The JiV Mini offers limited connectivity options, too. It comes with 802.11a/b/g wireless and gigabit ethernet, but it includes only two rear USB 2.0 ports (plus one in the front)--and the infrared receiver for the wireless keyboard and remote fills one of those ports. A FireWire port on the front lets you connect a digital camcorder and a four-in-one media-card reader for reading Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital, and Multimedia Card formats.

The system includes a single analog television tuner, with one coaxial input for attaching an antenna or cable feed. In the absence of composite or S-Video input ports, you'll have to use the inferior-quality RF signal to record from external devices. To add a digital TV tuner, a second analog tuner, or composite video inputs, you must buy a USB device.

Our test system came with a Media Center remote control. Another bundled peripheral is Microsoft's Remote Keyboard for Windows XP Media Center Edition; however, the keyboard is sold separately from the system on Micro Center's site. A large eraserhead mouse pointer built in to the right-hand side of the keyboard, proved awkward to use for general computing tasks. The pointer is passable for navigating the Media Center interface, but it's a pain to use in Windows because you have to press it down to move the mouse. The mouse buttons are located on the left-hand side, adding to the awkward handling.

The JiV Mini provides all of the basic functions of a Windows Media Center system in a compact, convenient form. But it's capabilities are limited due to its poor performance, small hard drive, single TV tuner, and single RF video input. If you can live with these limitations, though, you'll find that this graceful device fulfills its function without fuss.

Richard Baguley

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Super-compact Media Center fits well in tight spaces and works well with digital media. But it can't be expanded.

    Pros

    • Easy to record TV
    • Super-compact chassis

    Cons

    • Small hard drive
    • No way to expand the system internally
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