More Exterior and the SoftwareThe exterior features two front doors which hide the card reader (top) and also the USB/Audio/Firewire headers (bottom). The doors are quite nice in that they hide the ports, and keep them relatively dust free when not in use. The power button is HUGE, and easily pushed. There are two areas of control buttons, the top being reserved for the media functionality (start, stop, pause, volume, etc.) while the bottom buttons control the curser and mouse button controls. This combination should allow users to control their system if they have lost or temporarily misplaced the remote (or if they simply run out of batteries).
Yes, I need a tripod. This rather blury picture shows how the case looks when running and lit up. Note the 50% fan speed and 25C temp.
The two LCD screens are the most interesting part of this case. The bottom shows the fan speed, power, hard drive activity, and internal case temperature. The ability to see how fast the fan is spinning as well as the internal case temperature is really handy (since the two sorta go hand-in-hand). Case temps on a cool day typically stand between 25C and 30C, and on hot days I have never seen it go above 32C. This is with a 2 GHz Phenom 9350e (65 watts), 9800 GT (G92 based), and a motherboard using the AMD 740G chipset. The LCD is not overly bright, but it is easy to read. It is a nice addition to the case, and it does serve a nice purpose.
The second LCD is the more interesting of the two. This is the information center for the HTPC, and it can display a large variety of data for the user to consume. This displays system information, news, weather, audio graphs, user information, email information, and just about anything a user could need. For myself I have it set up to rotate with international news, domestic news, sports, and weather. When I am playing any kind of video or audio content, it switches to the equalizer. Users can also set this to be blank if they are bothered by it. When I’m sitting in front of the TV, I find myself glancing over to the K-2 and reading the headlines or checking out the weather in Taipei or Tokyo. Interesting stuff, to say the least.
Overall I give the case high marks in construction, quality, and layout. The front panel is obviously quite useful in a HTPC environment, and the little touches here and there make it really stand out.
But What About the Software?
As mentioned before, I was very unhappy about the state of the software and drivers that came with the case. Things just wouldn’t work, and programming the remote to different applications proved to be unwieldy and sometimes simply impossible. I also had trouble getting the graphic equalizer to work with audio programs. Needless to say, I was rather disappointed.
The front disk cover folds out and lets the regular drive tray see the world. The eject button is rather hard to get to once the tray is out in the open.
I kept putting off throwing up the review because it just would not have gotten high marks. I felt that it was incomplete, and what functionality was there was somewhat buggy. I liked the construction of the case, and the front panel design was also to my liking. It just didn’t work as nicely as it should have. Then something interesting happened. SoundGraph updated the software.
Not only did SoundGraph update their installation software, they also added an auto-update feature that would check in with the mothership on a weekly basis. In the past two months I have received 3 major updates from SoundGraph for the software. For a company that only pushed out one major update in 1.5 years, this was actually rather shocking. Not only did they update their software, they actually made it work with the GMC designed unit. The frustration about missing functionality? It is all gone now.
Everything seems to work, and it has native profiles for things like Windows Media Player and PowerDVD. The iMEDIAN media center is also pretty snazzy, with an easy interface to get to media files and disks. Now I can finally see my graphic equalizer when watching movies or listening to music.
The middle door hides the flash reader bay. Most flash standards are covered by this, but ones such as Fuji’s xD are not.
There are a few annoying features with the iMON software (which handles the remote control). When first installed, and when moving the curser via the remote, a particularly annoying sound is sent through the home theater speakers that informs the user know that they are moving the cursor through the remote. Luckily, these things can be turned off and nearly everything adjusted to the user’s individual liking. There is another popup in the corner that will display what action is being done by the remote, and again I found that very annoying, but was able to disable it.
With the latest updates, the K-2 is now a very useful and powerful HTPC machine. While the aesthetics of the machine may not appeal to everyone, it is a nice choice for those that do not mind the somewhat garish front exterior. For myself, I certainly do not mind it and it fits in nicely with my décor.