Ceton - CES 2012

Jan 14 2012

Ceton CorpWhen Ceton brought a four tuner CableCARD to the Windows Media Center community, they breathed new life into a product languishing from neglect. Not content to only do this, or be entirely dependent on the continued presence of Media Center in subsequent releases of Windows; they have created a "turnkey" competitor to TiVo (and hopefully an exit strategy for SageTV refugees) with a new solution called the "Q". In addition to the Q, they also announced an extender device named "Echo"; which besides [finally] providing an alternative to the Xbox 360 to those who prefer TV without fan-based accompaniment for Windows Media Center PCs also enhances the current extender experience with additional media features when used with the Q.

More details and some pictures are in the next section.It is important to note that even though the Q is based on Windows Media Center Embedded and runs mostly on off-the-shelf PC hardware, it not a Windows Media Center PC. Ceton heavily customized Media Center to offer additional features (like aggregated content discovery and additional content providers) to the platform, so it provides a more modern, complete and polished experience. These features require some compromise however, because as an embedded solution users will not have the ability to directly access the underlying environment like they can with a PC. With the exact feature set unknown it remains to be seen how much this will matter, but it is an important conceptual distinction with defines it as a solution distinct from Windows Media Center. Without a release date or concrete feature set it wouldn't be fair to call the Ceton Q/Echo the best products at CES, but, for me personally, it was the most exciting.

Ceton Q:

  • Custom theme support
  • Themes can be defined per device
  • HDMI CEC support
  • Slot loading Blu-ray drive; player software is not currently known
  • 2TB hard drive
  • Six tuners
  • Current prototype uses an Intel DH61AG; CPU SKU is undisclosed
  • Red recording status LEDs across the front
  • Very sleek design all around, one of the best designed chassis I've ever seen
  • Heat vents from the bottom
  • Back panel I/O is cut out of the back of the case, so no panel insert is used
  • E-SATA expansion
  • Built on top of Windows Embedded
  • Non-OOTB container (i.e. MKV) support is unknown
  • Aggregates local and over the top (OTT) content into a single result set
  • Companion apps for Windows 8 tablet and Windows Phone 7 with support for scheduling, DLNA style Play-to (actual implementation unknown), aggregated content browsing, and control. Support for other platforms is coming.
  • Supports existing extenders (i.e. 360) but with some loss in functionality versus an Echo
  • Plans exist for an "App Store" enabling some extensibility via Ceton's Q SDK
  • Will be available with support for MoCA (Ethernet over coax)

Ceton Echo:

  • Based on Intel CE4100, so plenty of CPU, GPU (i.e. full BD video), and support for HBR audio at the hardware level
  • Operates in two modes: standard Windows Media Extender or as a Q Extender which offers a more enhanced feature set
  • Currently planned as a passively cooled device
  • HDMI CEC support
  • Container support in Q Extender mode is unknown at this time, Media Center mode works like a [quiet] 360
  • Support for disc based media (either via an external ODD or extended from the Q) is unknown at this time
  • Will be available with support for Gigabit Ethernet or MoCA

Comments

Here's a link to the Engadget CES podcast where they talk to the Ceton developers including our own Michael Welter (Andy Van Til was also mentioned):

http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/12/t...at-11-00pm-et/

I'm pretty excited about these products as they appear to be a perfect solution for someone that wants the advantages of an HTPC and extenders without the headaches of tweaking one.  If the Echo can support extra codecs and wrappers beyond what an XBox 360 can handle as well as the ability to stream Blu-Rays from either the internal BD drive in the Q or from ripped discs on a server, this will probably end up replacing my HTPC at some point.  Ceton promises that these will be available for purchase before the end of the year so let's keep our fingers crossed.  They also indicated that the Echo will sell for less than an XBox 360, although no specific price was mentioned for either device.

Finnaly new life for the extender and a new six tuner DVR for the masses.

Now if we could just wish that the DVR could join a home group and share its recordings on the network, it would be an ideal solution.

I wonder what the extender will support in the classic Media Center version--silverlight so Netflix will work?

We'll just have to wait for more product news from Ceton.

johnw248 wrote:

Now if we could just wish that the DVR could join a home group and share its recordings on the network, it would be an ideal solution.

The Q that was previewed had Home Group capability functional.

With copy once content or just copy freely content?

richard1980 wrote:

With copy once content or just copy freely content?

 

All CCI content will be available.  The Echo is a true Windows Media Center Extender.  Though when paired with the Ceton "Q" it will offer additional services not available on legacy extenders.

Being an extender, I would expect that ability with the Echo.  However, I was actually referring to sharing without an extender.  Specifically, will a Q be able to share its copy protected content with another Q?  What about sharing the copy protected content with a PC on the network?

What would be nice is the ability to set up the Q as a "recording extender" on a home MC machine so that all recordings (0x2) made on the Q would be available to the home MC as well as all the extenders on the home MC machine.

This *might* be easier to get licensed than allowing all home group member to use 0x2 recordings on all devices.

Great video interview of the Ceton staff

I'm not to familiar with how Extenders work, but I would assume it wouldnt actually stream something like Netflix. If the extender actually has a netflix/hulu app, wouldnt the CE4100 be a little underpowered to display silverlight HD?

So, it appears the "echo" extender may work for normal media center PCs as well?

Yes.  The Echo will work as an extender for any Media Center HTPC as well as the Q.  The Q is designed with WMC embedded software so it's like an off-the-shelf HTPC in a box.

I don't think it's conceptually correct to think about the Q as a HTPC (or HTPCIB). While it is based on 7MC running on PC HW you don't have access to the platform the way you do on a PC - it is a closed/embedded system like TiVo. Normally this would be a blocking issue for me personally, but I have a lot of confidence that Ceton will provide enough of the features that only a HTPC can currently provide that for most people it won't matter.

This will not be the right solution for everyone. If you use a HTPC because it's a PC and you own the box, the Q will not be what you're looking for.

I would purchase an echo without hesitation if came with improved codec support and a sleep timer

Wish list:

USB 3 support should be added to the Q for future HDD expansion (eSata HDD may become more rare as time goes on.)

Echo needs instant on.

Ability to schedule and manage recordings remotely (remote potato type functionality).

Ability to play ripped Blurays and AVCHD folders on the Q and Echo with menu support, TRUEHD/DTS-MA pass-through support true 23.976-p support, and 3D video support.  (Basically the functionality of TMT5).  Note: 24.000p support is not equal to 23.976-p support

A user mode should be added to the Q/Echo.  Where you select your user name or icon and enter pin if desired to see your recordings and video library.  That way kids would only see recording they are interested in and are age appropriate.  The user accounts should have independent parental controls settings.

I hope WMC embedded doesn't have the 20second WMC UI freeze up when when the OCUR tuner's OCUR pair with WMC after resuming from sleep.

WhatHappend wrote:

USB 3 support should be added to the Q for future HDD expansion (eSata HDD may become more rare as time goes on.)

DH61AG has USB3.0 support (you can read our review to get a feel for the board and it's feature set).

WhatHappend wrote:

Ability to schedule and manage recordings remotely (remote potato type functionality).

This feature was in the demo. The companion apps did it and several other things.

WhatHappend wrote:

Ability to play ripped Blurays and AVCHD folders on the Q and Echo with menu support, TRUEHD/DTS-MA pass-through support true 23.976-p support, and 3D video support.  (Basically the functionality of TMT5).  Note: 24.000p support is not equal to 23.976-p support

The Echo is based on CE4100 (a Blu-ray player platform), SNB does 23.973 so it will have the limitations/features of the platform. I expect the Q to expose the full feature set of SNB when it comes to BD playback, it is not currently known if the Echo will but the HW supports it.

I know they would like to add full BD, etc support on the Echo but there might be licensing/legal issues for doing that.

WhatHappend wrote:

A user mode should be added to the Q/Echo.  Where you select your user name or icon and enter pin if desired to see your recordings and video library.  That way kids would only see recording they are interested in and are age appropriate.  The user accounts should have independent parental controls settings.

Themeing is per device. I don't know if there are plans for this level of per/user customization, but I agree that it would be awesome even if it were per device.

Andy, if Boxee can do it legally (BD folder streaming) why not Ceton???

Hardware shows USB 3.0 ports x2. They showed it at CES with Windows phone and Windows tablet companions. Seems like that would be for scheduling recordings remotely and maybe even more. I am guessing much like Media Center it will have parental controls wherein you enter a PIN number. I know this does not hide content on the box from the kids but it does prevent the kids viewing the content. Your idea is a nice one but seems to defeat or contradict your wish for  instant on.

Very interesting news!  I was wondering if Ceton would build their own extender but this goes above and beyond.  I'll be interested to see what the final feature set will look like.

If I really thought about our households actual usage of our current extender setup the only real improvement I'd like is a faster GUI experience so just modernizing the cpu/chipset would solve that problem. 

Anything else new would be an additional capability that might change our usage of our extender driven TVs.   I really like the proposal above regarding user awareness (kid profiles, etc)

 

Do both boxes use IR for remote control? Or do you use a USB port and choose your device?

Both boxes support IR, CEC and IP based control. I'd like to see an extended IR dongle (even if it's ala carte support for the eHome receiver) for those who want to hide the devices - although it would be a shame to hide the Q, the pictures don't do it justice.

One more thought and question:

Will ceton be making their ow nremote control design or will it be basically the same compromised design as the currently available MCE remotes?  Specifically, nowawadays it's hard to find an MCE remote that allows for TV power off which makes us buy logitech universal remotes or other universal remote.

CEC?

oh yeah!  very promising...

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