InstantON Part II - Features
From a feature perspective, we found InstantON to offer a complete, stable experience. The OS consisted of the following components; TV, Radio, Music, MP3, DVD, VCD and Photo. By simply pressing the Power on the remote or touching the InstantON power on the front of the S-presso, we were up and running in 10-15 seconds. From here, we simply touched the Mode option to cycle through each of the functions. Additionally, channels and volume could be adjusted by simply touching the appropriate area on the display.
By default, the TV tuner component loads when the system launches. The Tuner component worked beautifully, automatically scanning for channels the first time the system was launched. We also like the amount of configurability built into the OS, allowing for a significant amount of control over picture quality, audio settings, channel programming and more. The image quality was pretty good overall for an analog tuner and as you can see below, the touch screen displayed the current channel status at all times.
The FM Radio tuner was simple to use, with a large, easy to read display. The software allowed for the saving of station presets and also provided a decent amount of control over the software's behavior. The touch panel reported the station as well, so a video screen is not necessary at all times.
The Music and MP3 modules were separate choices on the menu but appeared to be the same interface. This was one of the strong points of the S-presso Deluxe, allowing for simple playback of standard audio CDs and well as accessing an MP3 library on any of the system's drives. The only thing missing was that artist and song information did not appear on the display, which we thought would be a nice touch.
DVD playback was also excellent, with all the features we would expect from a typical software DVD player. Image quality was very good and, like the TV component, was quite configurable. The menu choices rivaled that of WinDVD, allowing for complete control over the DVD playback options, probably more so than a stand-alone DVD player. Rounding out the InstantON was the ability to access Photos and VCDs as well, although we couldn't get the Photo module to work.
Overall, we found the InstantON software quite complete with a broad range of features and options. The user interface was very intuitive, leaving us with few instances where we needed to access the user's manual to clarify a feature. Another major strong point of InstantON is the system can be powered on and controlled completely with the Remote Control included in the package. Conversely, while the features and function of the InstantON software was impressive, it only works with the integrated video. This is a severe limitation in our opinion, since the lack of a TV-out option would require an AGP card be installed. Again, for a product being peddled as the centerpiece of your home entertainment, it severely limits the user's ability to tap the unit's fullest potential.
On the upside, if an AGP card is installed and you want to output to a TV, ASUS included their own flavor of InterVideo's Home Theater 2 software which functions within Windows. Next, we'll do an overview of Home Theater's feature set.