Antec Veris Multimedia Station Premier Page: 1
Introduction
 
Media Centre PC's have only really emerged in the last couple of years, and are now big business, with many companies producing a variety of media orientated products. Antec are one of the contenders in this new market, and today we will be looking at part of their Veris series; the Veris Multimedia Station Premier.
 
When building a Media PC most will buy a specific HTPC (Home Theatre Personal Computer) chassis, which will have all the bells and whistles,  and will therefore make integration with your living room simple. This is all fine, unless you already own a case which isn't quite so suitable for HTPC use.  For people in this pickle, Antec have come up with the Multimedia Station, which  offers a way of upgrading your current case to make it living room and remote control friendly. Here is a complete features list for the Multimedia Station:
 
The LCD is undoubtedly the eye catcher with this device, and should make your PC stand out from the crowd, adding a little bit of pizazz to the drive bays, which are often pretty dull. The compatibility with network media etc is welcome, as is the ability to work on XP or Vista. Looking on Antec's site it would seem the drivers also work with Windows 7, although they haven't been certified for use and as such there may be bugs present. The features don't give a lot away about the appearance of the device, so it's about time we had a look....  


Antec Veris Multimedia Station Premier Page: 2
Packaging and Front Panel
 
The Multimedia Station comes in rather attractive packaging, with white text on a background mix of purple and black. The colours work incredibly well together, and are printed on a thick glossy card, which is double walled to protect the precious components inside. The box opens by lifting a flap at the front, which reveals just the remote at first. Two slots at the sides allow you to insert your fingers and lift out a cover, revealing the remainder of the contents.
 
Antec Veris Media Station box Antec Veris Media station box
 
Included in the box you have a 24pin power cable, external to internal USB adaptor, Driver Disc, Instruction manual, 2x AAA batteries and the remote. The remote control is fairly large in the hands,  which makes it very difficult to use all of the buttons with just one hand. On the plus side, it does mean that you have all the buttons you could possibly need on the remote, rather than pushing some over onto the drive bay device.
 
Antec Multimedia Station Accesoiries Antec Multimedia Station remote
 
The drive bay itself has a satisfying, quality feel to it. The front is made out of what looks like aluminium at first, but is in fact plastic. However, the plastic is quite thick, so is still nice and sturdy. The knobs on the front give a satisfying amount of resistance, and also have a nice click as they turn- top marks here for Antec. The display takes up most of the upper half, with the buttons and dials taking up the bottom half. On the left there is a small IR receiver, with a large 'go' button just above for launching the included iMon software. 
 
Antec Multimedia Station Front
 
The buttons on the front of the display are all fairly self explanatory. The big 'go' button located to the left of the LCD launches the iMon software, taking you to the main home screen. The first row of individual buttons (music, videos etc...) all launch the iMon software under that respective category. Finally we have the bottom row of individual buttons, which give you you're standard media controls such as play, pause, next etc...
 
Antec Veris front panel buttons
 
In between the dials there is a variety of buttons, giving you basic control over your media. The top row of buttons selects the type of media, whilst the bottom row is used for navigating through media (play, stop, pause etc...). The dials are dual function; rolling them scrolls, and pushing them in selects. The dial on the left, therefore, is used for navigating the menus, with a push on the dial selecting the highlighted sub-menu. The right hand dial is used for volume control, and pushing this one in mutes the sound altogether. The screen itself seems to have a rather clever coating on it: when the device is off, the screen is almost mirror like in reflectivity, yet when the screen comes on, it's easily visible.
 
Antec Multimedia Station Close up Antec Multimedia Station reflection       
 
I'm actually quite impressed with the build quality of the Multimedia Station; the plastic gives it a solid and sturdy feel. Undoubtedly aluminium would have looked much nicer, but the cost involved with this would obviously have an effect on the price. The front of the device is well laid out, with a nice amount of space between the buttons, making them easy to use, even if you have larger fingers. The reflective coating rounds it off, making the screen an intriguing part of the Multimedia Station, even when it is off.    


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Installation
 
Installing the Multimedia Station should have been easy: 'should' being the operative word. Unfortunately the chassis which currently houses my pc has small air intakes between each 5 1/2" drive bay, making it impossible to slide in the double height Multimedia station. This is something you will need to bear in mind before you buy - check to make sure you have a case with 5 1/2" bays directly next to eachother, with no gap in-between. 
 
The first stage of installation involves installing the 24pin pass through. This cable allows the Multimedia Station to draw off the PSU's 5v stand by power rail, in turn allowing it to display the time even when the pc is turned off. You need to install the pass through between your PSU and Motherboard, then run the group of three wires to the drive bay and put the plug into the socket located on the small PCB (Left Picture).
 
 Antec Multimedia Station ATX cable Antec Multimedia Station Back
 
The next step is to wire up the USB so that the Multimedia Station can communicate with your computer. There are two ways of doing this; you can either run the USB lead out the back of your case and into a standard USB port, or use the included adaptor to connect directly with a motherboard header. The power switch will also need to be wired into the device, which will allow you to boot your computer via the included remote. To do this you wire your case's current power switch into the Multimedia Station's PCB, then take the new power switch lead from the PCB to your motherboard - Voilà, hardware installation is complete.
 
Antec Multimedia Station USB adaptor Antec Multimedia Station Power SW  
 
Once the hardware side of the installation is out of the way, you will need to boot up your pc and begin the software installation. Installation is fairly quick, and after a restart you are ready to go. Before going into the media handling side of things, you will need to setup the display. This involves selecting which remote you will be using, what you want the display to show and setting up RSS feeds and Email accounts. All of this is fairly self explanatory, but can be a bit daunting with the wealth of options. Once you get to grips with what each button does though, it doesn't take long to setup. 
 
 iMon setup  
 
Before looking further at the media side of things, I thought I would take a look at what sort of system information the display can handle. I was expecting something similar to Logitech G15, displaying ram usage, maybe a temperature or two and CPU usage. I was wrong;  instead it just scrolls through your system specs, with things like "Windows Vista Home Premium" and "Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600". Not willing to give up, I fired up Everest as this worked incredibly well with my G15, but alas, it wasn't compatible with the display. For the enthusiasts out there, I'm sure someone will find a way of doing it, but until then, looking at detailed system information is off the cards. 
 
Here are some shots of the Multimedia Display showing various bits of information.
 
 Antec Multimedia Display System Information
Time - System Information
 
Antec Multimedia Station System Info Antec Multimedia Station Itunes Information
System Information - iTunes  
 
Having looked at the device up close, it's about time we had a look at the bundled software. Head on over to the next page where I take a look at the iMon software.


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Software
 
For anyone who has used iMon software before, the screen shots that follow will look pretty familiar. The iMedian HD package is used for browsing through files and playing media. It uses a simple navigation system, which only needs the 4 directional keys on your keyboard.  You can also scroll through the menus using the controls on the Multimedia Station or with the included remote. The software has a whole host of features, and covering all of them in detail would take a great deal of time indeed. So today I will be covering the basics, such as ease of use and navigation.
 
iMon Software
 
By selecting a field you are taken to the sub folders. Selecting can be done by either pressing enter/select, or by moving right. Once you have selected the field, all the sub folders which contain files under that field are brought up. In this case, a selection of photography folders were brought forward. The sub-menus are navigated in the same way as the main menus, and you can get back to the main menu by pressing 'esc' or going left. In essence, the iMedian software is just presenting Windows Explorer in a easy to use and manageable way.
 
iMon secondary Menu
 
A feature which I rather liked was the little dial located in the top left of the screen. It tells you how many sub-folders you have scrolled through (number in the centre), while the ring around the outside fills up the further you get through the folder, kind of like a progress bar. 
 
iMon scroller
 
As with all software, there is a variety of settings you can change to customise the appearance and layout of the software to suit you. The ability to adjust the font size could be very useful for those who forget to put their glasses on, especially if their screen/tv is at a distance. The software also caters for those with colour deficient vision, with the ability to change the background and text colour to your own specifications. You can also clearly see the navigational arrows which direct you around the menus.  
 
iMon Settings Menu     
 
At first I didn't really like the software, but the more I used it the more it grew on me. Providing you tell it where all your media is, it's quick to pick it up and organise it. Unfortunately it doesn't like songs purchased on iTunes, but providing you have them in hard copy it shouldn't be too much of a problem. The ability to customise the look,  quite extensively at that, is great, and makes the software suitable for just about anyone.   


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Conclusion 
 
When I first setup the Veris Multimedia Station I wasn't terribly impressed, and was preparing myself for a fairly bad review. The initial configuration window you are greeted with, to setup the front panel screen, has a bewildering amount of options, and takes a bit of getting used to. The media software, however, took moments to find all my media and was a joy to use and  incredibly easy to navigate - even with a remote.
 
The front panel device itself is also very nice, with the build quality being very high. Although it would have been nice to see the whole front panel made from aluminium, the plastic used is incredibly sturdy and doesn't flex or creak. The aluminium knobs are a wise choice by Antec, and it makes using them a real delight. The LCD itself is also very good, and is incredibly clear and easy to read from all but the most extreme angles. 
 
If you are looking to build a media PC, but don't wish to buy a new case, then I would strongly recommend you take a look at the Veris Multimedia Station Premier. Priced at £70.49 it's much cheaper than buying a whole new HTPC case, but gives you the full remote functionality that such cases offer, as well as giving you a funky LCD with quick control buttons. I was hoping the LCD would be worth a look for enthusiasts, with the possibility of wider compatibility with applications such as Everest, but unfortunately that isn't there yet. However, that isn't the target market, and for a HTPC it doesn't get much better than this.
 
The Good
+ Control your PC remotely
+ Power on/off functionality
+ Displays the time even when the pc is off
+ Highly customisable software package
+ Solid build quality
+ Media software is incredibly easy to use
 
The Mediocre
* Not an all aluminium front panel
* LCD setup software has a scary amount of options, meaning it takes quite a while to grasp them all
 
The Bad
- Not compatible with outside applications such as Everest.   
 
  
 
Overclock3D would like to thank Antec for providing today's review sample. Discuss in our forums here.