The beta is over and the boxes are shipped as promised, just in time for the holiday season. Ceton's newest product, the Echo, is now available from retailers around the internet.
If you've been waiting for a new Media Center extender then you're in luck. The Echo is small, power conservative and works with any TV tuner, not just Ceton's InfiniTV4. Like other Media Center extenders such as the Xbox 360 and Linksys extender, you can now use an Echo to extend your Media Center experience to other TVs in your home.
All of the features you'd expect from an Xbox 360 are there including access to live and recorded TV as well as access to music, pictures and videos you have stored on your home theater PC (HTPC) or other PCs on your network. No matter what you're trying to access, you'll get the same experience on the Echo that you get on your HTPC.
Out of the Box
When you receive your Echo you'll also get everything you need to get it up and running. The Echo ships with the device itself, a remote control, USB power cable and adapter, an Ethernet cable and an HDMI cable for connecting the device to your HDTV. The Echo's back panel has connections for HDMI, network, power and an extra USB port. It's unclear as to what the extra USB port will be used for.
The Echo literally fits in the palm of your hand and has no fans to create noise while using the device. It's a truly silent Media Center extender, something we haven't seen before. The original Xbox 360 sounded as though you'd powered up a jet fighter in your living room and even the 360s would start getting loud after awhile. That simply can't and won't happen with the Echo.
Is This the Box for You?
So do you need an Echo? Well, if you're a Media Center user then yes, you probably do. While the current price point puts the diminutive box just below the cost of an Xbox 360, if you're not in the market for a game console then the $20 savings over the lowest priced 360 is money well saved.
If you're looking for access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBOGo or other online services, you'll want to stick with an Xbox 360 as of this writing. The Echo doesn't provide access to any of these (or other online) services, currently…
In some of the review comments I've found on sites like Newegg, users are stating that Ceton is working on getting Android running on the Echo by Christmas. While I've yet to hear anything about this through the grapevine, if it happens, the Echo will become the "must have" Media Center extender. With no monthly subscription fee like Xbox Live but full access to media streaming apps such as Netflix and HBOGo, the Echo would become and Media Center and Roku all in one.
While the Android functionality isn't there yet (and who knows if it's actually on the way; these are review comments) that doesn't mean that the Echo isn't worth a look. At $179 (as of this writing) you'll be paying an "early adopter tax" but if you're in need of a Media Center extender, it's well worth a look. You can expect a full review soon so stay tuned!