Sales concept of the Gigabyte H971
Before we begin actually talking about the product, we want to let you know how the system is actually sold by Gigabyte and how you can buy it.
Gigabyte produces most of the parts which make up the H971 system minus of course CPU, memory, hard drive, DVD drive and so on. Depending on the requirements of Gigabyte's distributors around the world will depend on how you can actually buy the system in your country. Some distributors may wish just to buy a plain barebones system from Gigabyte (for example, just the case and probably the motherboard) and then you can buy the rest of the parts yourself. Others may request that Gigabyte build the complete system which comes with all the usual parts you would expect in a regular PC. Then you can just buy the H971 as a complete system as you would a system from companies like Dell or HP.
The best option for you, as the buyer, is to buy something which has been pre-assembled. Inside the system isn't exactly end-user friendly and it won't be practical to expect non-techie users to try and build a system using the H971 internals. On the other hand, if you are confident, you might be able to find the barebones unit and buy all the individual parts separately, and then build the system yourself, possibly saving a few dollars.
The Package and System Specifications
The package that we were sent from Gigabyte was designed to be a demonstration of what you might get if you buy the full system from a shop and that will be the focus of our review. For the parts outside of the system, it arrived with all the required cables and software, it was pre-installed with Windows Vista Premium Home (which includes the latest version of MCE), an infrared keyboard with trackball and Windows Media Center certified remote control.
For the parts inside the system, things get a little more interesting. Gigabyte decided to use an E6400 Core 2 Duo processor that runs at 2.13GHz, which is plenty fast enough for HTPC requirements. There was just a single stick of 1GB PC2-4300 memory installed which isn't really quite enough for Vista but the system was responsive enough but could be improved with the use of dual channel and 2GB of RAM. The motherboard inside the system is the Gigabyte 8IBGNBX-RH which is based on the Intel G965 chipset - it uses a nanoBTX form factor design which seems to keep things nice and cool inside the system. Next on the list is an ATI Theater 550 TV tuner card which is essential if you want to watch and record TV through the system using MCE or other programs.
As for the graphics, the system was installed with a completely silent Gigabyte GeForce 7600GS graphics card (GV-NX76G256HI-RH to be exact) which comes with a HDMI port and of course support for HDCP. That's a requirement when trying to playback HD-DVD or Blu-ray movies over a PC with software like CyberLink PowerDVD HD.
On the subject of next-generation movie playback, unfortunately there is only a regular DVD burner installed but with the price of these new players currently being around $1000 USD (since they are also writers), it's just too expensive to include. If you want to playback HD-DVD on the H971, you could always buy an Xbox 360 HD-DVD player (as we did) which connects up to the system via USB 2.0 and works fine under Windows XP or Vista and possibly other operating systems. The hard drive included is a basic 7,200RPM Hitachi 250GB SATA version which should provide enough storage space for plenty of movies and recorded TV using MCE.
Now that we've covered what you actually get when you buy the system, let's move on and take a closer look inside the system for all the geeks out there that want to get a closer look.