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Steiger Dynamics LEET Home Theater PC review: Extremely powerful; quietly elegant

Michael Brown | March 12, 2014
Microsoft and Sony boast how their latest video-game consoles can form the core of your home-entertainment system, delivering the best in games, movies, and music. But the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 look like dime-store toys compared to Steiger Dynamics' supremely powerful LEET Home Theater PC (LEET being gamer slang for "elite"). If you can swing the budget, this monster will deliver the best entertainment experience you can imagine, in an elegant enclosure that you'll want to show off.

Niggling criticisms
Turning to the exterior face of this incredibly robust, yet absolutely beautiful chassis, you'll find a 7-inch LCD panel. This display cycles through screens showing CPU, GPU, and RAM utilization; used and free space on the system's storage devices; model numbers and logos for the components inside the box; system status reports (current date, up time, IP address, ping times, and so on); and the Steiger Dynamics logo.

I found this — and the onboard 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter — to be the only minor miscues in the entire system. The display doesn't add a lot of value, and if you're spending this much money on a new PC, you can afford to run gigabit ethernet to your entertainment center.

If that's simply impossible, Steiger Dynamics should have used an 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter — something like Asus' PCE-AC68, for example. You can order your system with whichever networking component you want, but you're stuck with the display (and the cost it adds to the system). Those are my only real complaints, and I'll admit they're a bit of a stretch.

Pushing the access panel beneath the display exposes a pair of USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, and mic and headphone jacks. The LEET features an Asus Rampage IV Formula motherboard, which delivers a superior audio subsystem that includes high-end capacitors to deliver super-clean electrical power, and special shielding to prevent electromagnetic interference from creeping into the analog signal path. Asus claims an audiophile-level signal-to-noise ratio of of 110db.

The motherboard delivers a bevy of audio-processing features, too, including Creative's Sound Blaster X-Fi MB2 and EAX Advanced HD 5.0, and THX TruStudio Pro (I'll leave it up to you to decide whether those last bits are pros or cons).

A plate on the rear panel bears the signature of the technician who assembled the system — it's a nice touch, even if you'll rarely see it once you've set up the computer. Rear-panel ports include gigabit ethernet, five USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA ports, and analog surround-sound jacks. The Titan cards deliver dual-link DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort video outputs.

If you can afford a system of this caliber, the only ports you'll be likely to use are video and ethernet (and perhaps USB if you're using a CableCard tuner). If you need even more storage — 12TB is enough to store 1,000 Blu-ray movie and tens of thousands of FLAC files — you'll probably buy a separate NAS box.

Oh, and you'll need a $200 lapdesk
You'll need a mouse and keyboard (not included) to play games and surf the web from the comfort of your sofa, and Steiger Dynamics is the sole U.S. distributor of an accessory that makes that easy. The CouchMaster consists of a pair of cushions with a plank that straddles your lap. Since most gamers wouldn't rely on a latency-plagued wireless mouse and keyboard, the CouchMaster includes a four-port USB 3.0 hub and a 16-foot active USB 3.0 cable. It costs $179 plus $29 for shipping.


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