Our Verdict 
Probably the finest media centre PC we’ve seen
For 
Formidable performance with both picture and sound
streams HD audio over HDMI
rapid start-up and terrific ease-of-use
quiet
well-made
Against 
It’s hardly cheap – but you get what you pay for
Reviewed on

Isn't it nice when stuff just works?

We've tried several media centre PCs over the years, and we've always been attracted by the premise: who wouldn't want to be able to surf through a digitised library of their favourite music, TV shows and films, all conveniently stored in one discreet hub?

However, to date most media centres have been compromised by one key problem: they're also PCs. So they can take an age to fire up, they can be unnecessarily complex to use and, most crucially, they can be prone to the odd crash.

That's fine if you know what you're about with computers, and we know many happy media centre users who are more than prepared to tolerate the odd operational foible simply because the rest of the package is so appealing.

But HAV Solutions feels differently. The company's three-strong Aurora range is intended to bring the delights of media centre ownership to a less specialist audience.

More after the break

So it's been specifically designed to run cool, to look like a more conventional AV component, and most importantly, to feature the most user-friendly and accessible operating system we've seen.

So the Auroras fire up at the touch of a button, are ready to use in no more than a minute (less than many a Blu-ray player), run very quietly and, most importantly, operate with all the seamless speed of a standard piece of consumer electronics.

The Aurora Elite model tested here is the flagship, and comes with everything you'd expect, including an HDMI-capable soundcard able to stream Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD and more into a suitable surround amp.

It has 2TB of storage space as standard, but as it's capable of storing both DVDs and Blu-ray movies (plus your CDs, of course) that'll swiftly fill up. Happily, any suitable NAS box – say, a Buffalo TeraStation, around £400 – can be added in, with capacity expanded over time to meet your needs.

And performance? Superb: ripped Blu-ray discs look almost indistinguishable from discs played in a conventional player, and the lossless audio on Quantum Of Solace thunders out with ample venom.

Of course, £3900 is a lot of money. But this is a media centre than works: it'll store all your music and films, fire up when you want it and play everything to a very high standard.

It's a class act.