Reviews

Dec 31 2007

Review - Life With a Plugin, Episode 8: EmuCenter

In case you missed the first article of the series explaining, here's a little explanation. Life With a Plugin is Mike's brain child, however I will be contributing from time to time. Today I will be looking at EMUCenter. This plugin, designed as a front end for ROMS, has potential to add alot of entertainment to your HTPC setup. Especially for classic gaming fans. 

Overview

EMUCenter is designed to be a front-end for ROMS for various emulators. 

DVR-MS Toolbox is designed to be a comprehensive, one-stop solution to a multitude of tasks you could ever dream of doing with your DVR-MS files. For newcomers, DVR-MS is the file format Microsoft uses for it's recorded TV files. It's basically just a special file format for MPEG-2 files with a "wrapper" containing special program data (TV show name, actors, runtime, year, etc)...think of it like metadata for your TV shows. I must add one caveat, and that is that this program WILL NOT WORK if you are a CableCard user. It's sad, tragic, and a fact of life in a copy-protected world. However, if you use NTSC, ATSC, Clear QAM, DVB, or anything else, you should be fine!

There is a lot to cover with this plugin especially, but I'll invest the space in the most popular features: Automatic Commercial Skip & Automatic File conversion. The goal is simple, use the small application to monitor your TV files, and run the desired utility as you need it (or just have it always run its task). Feel like never having to watch a commercial again, use that profile to automatically scan shows as they record & mark where the commercial files. Note, that there's a method of this which actually doesn't touch the recording, so you don't have to worry about missing part of the show if it accidentally mis-marks it (which doesn't happen often). The beauty of this, is you can turn the feature on & off from within Media Center.

The file conversion is a bit more intense but very customizable. There's a number of file formats, from MPEG to WMV, and you can set the plugin to automatically convert your shows after they record. If you're familiar with the feature of "ShowSqueeze" from Snapstream, it's very similar in that it runs in the background & replaces the originals. This is an ideal feature if you're limited on storage space & don't mind taking the time & resources to compress your shows. 

 

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Select one of MANY Profiles
Choose a folder to monitor & process

Above & Beyond

DVR-MS Toolbox has continuously evolved, and with the assistance of other developers, have really gotten the commercial skip down to a low resource science. Previously, users had to pay for the commercial ShowAnalyzer if they wanted to have live commercial detecting (meaning you would only need to wait 15 minutes before the commercials would begin to mark), but recently the free commercial skip analyzer now can do it as well, and it's free!

In addition to continuing development (which trust me, is critical to the success long-term of any plugin), DVR-MS Toolbox has continued to listen to their users. Similar to the request of MyMovies users demanding Multi-Zone solutions, DVR-MS Toolbox now plays much nicer with remote storage locations, which is CRITICAL seeing as Media Center limits your abilities to record locally. Think of it this way, with this application, you can have multiple Media Centers around the house, but be able to have a single massive storage solution with all the converted shows that you can then stream from. Pretty neat huh :-)

Falling Short?

The only shortcoming I've ever seen with DVR-MS Toolbox, is the intimdation factor. The fact remains that this plugin is ridiculously powerful, and even I was once intimidated by its UI. There's no doubt that others have felt similarly, enough to the point where someone actually developed another plugin with just the commercial skip feature to make life easier for newbie users. If the UI could be simplified a bit, or maybe via a wizard, I think it would help the learning curve. I've often thought how great it would be to have an MCML frontend where I could tweak the simple stuff from my sofa & remote.

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Set exactly how you want to avoid commercials.
Select the profile to have run
 

Grade: Approved for Everyday Use

This is such an amazing plugin, that I actually hesitated going back from CableCard just so I could continue using it. Having to use 30 second skip is something I never used to dread, but after life with DVR-MS Toolbox, you will too. In addition to the commercial skipping, there's just so many great things you can do with your DVR-MS files to maximize space/quality, that it makes it a no brainer. And did I mention it's 100% Free?

Product Vitals

Website: Babgvant.com

Creator: Andy VT

Price: Free! 

 

Dec 20 2007

Review - Life With a Plugin, Episode 1: MyMovies

Welcome to the Life With a Plugin series! The purpose of the series will be to give quick reviews of all the numerous Vista Media Center plugins that are out there, and evaluate their usefulness. A lot of plugins are cool but rarely are needed that often, so I've decided to evaluate these for you and help in keeping your systems clean with only the necessary. In the process, you may just discover a plugin you weren't aware of that does JUST what you were looking for.

The format of the reviews will be quick & easy. I'll offer a high level information view of the plugin, explaining what it does & who's behind it. After that will be the "Above & Beyond" section, where I'll evaluate the application's performance, and see how well it does at surpassing the minimum requirements for a task. "Falling Short" will evaluate where is the application lacking. And finally, I'll give the plugin a grade:

  • Approved for Everyday Use - If an application is so fantastic & useful, that one could easily use it everyday, and helps make MCE a better all-around experience for your family
  • Once a Month is Plenty - If an application is cool & well designed, but really not something you would need to use more than once in a while
  • Once a Year - This rating is for apps that are decent, but fall short in a number of steps, but still are decent enough to recommend at least an installation to try it out.
  • Never, Ever, Ever - For applications that are just bad, clunky or all-around useless. Keep these guys off your system!!

Overview 

I'm starting the series with arguably the most used and downloaded plugin in the history of Media Center--MyMovies. In case you have been living in a shell or are new to the HTPC world, MyMovies is a free plugin designed to help you manage and showoff your movie collection, be it a DVD or High Definition disk, stored on your hard drive, or virtually any movie file format.

Movies can be displayed in a number of different ways, via title or the DVD cover-art. The best thing about MyMovies is the amazing forum of supporters behind it. Although there are backup options to download movie information, the default--and usually the most complete--method of obtaining the info is to use the User Managed database. Users actually input new or old DVDs not in the database and update it with both information as well as cover art! It's not an easy job, but the guys that love it see it as a way to give back to the developer as well as the community.

 

 mymovies1-thumb.JPG  mymovies2-thumb.JPG
   MCE Main Menu Strip    View Entire Collection via DVD Cover Art

Above & Beyond

MyMovies has always been a fantastic application which continued to evolve. In their latest version, they've answered the cries of multi-zone users, now offering MyMovies in a Server & Client version, making it even easier to configure your setup for multiple zones (other rooms with MCE PC's or Extenders). This was critical for me, as I used one machine to rip & store my movies, but my main Media Center PC is a completely different PC.

In addition to that, MyMovies includes a feature to automatically add movies to your library. So if you just ripped a movie, you don't have to manually enter that movie's data. Assuming it can find the title, it monitors the folders you specify & adds them for you.

Add to that DVD Changer & High Definition support (via a plugin with Cyberlink's PowerDVD Ultra), and you start to wonder why anyone would use MCE's built-in DVD Library anymore. And that's the key to why MyMovies is such a phenomenal plugin--it does its' job perfectly, and also manages to improve upon Microsoft designed applications as well. 

Falling Short?

If the screenshots look like you're in 2005, you're not dreaming. Although promised in a future version, at least for now, MyMovies is NOT MCML designed, making the interface just a bit clunkier than it could be. Again, the developers are pretty adament that this will be added eventually, and they have continued to innovate, so we'll be a bit lenient. The conversion to MCML should make it faster, cleaner, more attractive and reliable (current version crashes very occasionally).

Grade: Approved for Everyday Use

If you're even somewhat a movie fan...or not, and you just can't remember what that movie "Gladiator" is about, then MyMovies is for you. It's simple to use, doesn't get boring, and is an application which is able to be appriciated by geeks and housewives alike! 

 

 mymovies3-thumb.JPG  mymovies4-thumb.JPG
   Movie information    Movie database management

 

Product Vitals

Website: MyMovies.dk

Creator: Brian Binnerup

Price: Free! 

Dec 18 2007

Review - S16V Unboxing

Today is a good day for HTPC cases! Not only were we lucky enough to bring you a first look at Omaura's new case concept , we also get to bring you a little unboxing love today. OrigenAE sent me a S16V for evaluation and here are a few pictures to get you drooling. The full review including a build will be posted a later this month. Here is a studio pic to keep you drooling.

 

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This will be your typical blog unboxing; lots of pictures and very few comments. Its hard to say a lot about the case until you stuff a system in there and test it out. I am anxious to test out the VFD, its wiring management capabilities and of course the noise it creates.

 
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Top Down shot of box

Front Of Box

The box is simple and attractive. The case came packed very well and I would not expect shipping damage to occur. Spec wise, the S16V is a full-ATX case with support for one optical drive, 4 hard drives, a VFD display and a full-ATX PSU.

 
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Front of S16V

Front of S16V with lid off

The whole body of the chassis is one piece aluminum construction. I am amazed at how light this case is. The case itself is very solid and does not give the impression of being being flimsy and something prone to vibration. The lid is placed on noise dampening material

 
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Card Reader and optical drive

Slightly tilted back shot.. Too much to drink? 

The card reader and front ports are standard fare. As has been tossed around in the forums, perhaps expansion ports would be better suited on the side so cords do not have to hang out the front. The 80 mm fans provide the exhaust for this unit. If chosen wisely, two 80mm fans will move alot of air while being quiet.

 
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Interior shot

Angle shot

Hard drive is relatively easy. Simply remove the two thumb screws and install the hard drives. Having to take out hard drive cages is never a fun prospect. The last picture is an angle shot of the case showing the 92 mm intake fan that blows across the hard drives.

The tool-less approach, cable management, and aesthetics really come together on this case. This next weekend I plan on putting a few very hot parts in there to see how this case holds up. I have a hot S754 3700+ and 6800GT to test 'er out.

 

 

Nov 23 2007

Review - Omaura TF8

Omaura Logo

Omaura is a newcomer to the HTPC case market, but they have certainly started with a bang.  Today, we will be taking a look at the low-profile microATX TF8.  Curious as to how it looks on the inside?  Then read on.

Remember, you have until 12:01 PM ESTon Monday to enter our kick ass giveaway with Omaura.

Specs

Specs

  • Can accept either Micro ATX or ITX Motherboards
  • Standard 5.25" ODD compatible
  • Space for 4x 3.5" Standard Hard Disk Drive
  • Highly Expandable 4x Low Profile Expansion Cards
  • Compatible with full ATX power supplies
  • Optional Omaura OLED display kit, 100% Windows MCE compatible
  • Card reader, 2x USB, 1x Firewire/1394, Audio 3.5mm Input and Output
  • Optional Omaura IR and remote kit, 100% Windows MCE compatible
  • All aluminium outer panels
  • Premium sandblast and anodized finish
  • Slide and screw-less locking 3mm aluminum top panel
  • Included drive cage rubber vibration grommets
  • Magnetically locking ports and card reader door
  • 10mm thick extruded aluminium face plate
  • Steel base panel and drive cages with scratch resistant finish
  • Designed to look great with or without an OLED display installed
  • Included Gloves, Screwdriver and Spare screws
  • 435x401x100mm (WxDxH)

First Impressions

First Impressions

After removing the case from its well protected shipping container, the first thing that strikes you is its minimalistic front panel.  There are no gaudy manufacturer names or port labels to disfigure its otherwise clean looks.  On the left is a simple power button surrounded by a ring of acrylic that glows blue when powered on.  On the right is the spring loaded optical drive door with its eject button.

Front of the TF8
Front of the TF8

On the lower left there is a door which hides two USB ports, a firewire port, headphone and line in jacks, and a multi-card reader.  This door is held closed by an extremely strong magnet.  In fact, one gets a feeling they may damage the door hinges in the process of trying to open the door.  After a few tries, the process gets easier.  A latching door with a push-to-open mechanism would have been more user friendly.  There also is no gliding or soft-open feature on the hinges, so the door tends to drop open once it has cleared the magnets.

Hidden I/O ports
Hidden I/O ports

There are vent regions on the left and right sides of the case to promote air flow.  The right opening has two 80x15mm exhaust fans and the left has two 60x10mm incoming fans to help push the air from left to right through the case.  The openings are covered with an inserted round mesh grill rather than the efficient stamped hex pattern.  However, since the vents are on the sides, the mesh pattern is probably more in line with what other high end A/V components would use.

Side mesh grill
Side mesh grill

The back of the case is the standard fare with an opening for the motherboard I/O panel, four low-profile cards, and a standard ATX power supply.  The power supply mounting hole pattern only allows for it to be mounted in one direction.  Just above the motherboard I/O panel is a mini-jack meant for IR blasters.

Rear I/O panel and IR blaster port Rear power supply mount
Rear I/O panel and IR blaster port
Rear power supply mount

The bottom of the case has some slots routed in the steel chassis to provide cooling via convection.  The holes in the area under the power supply would probably not be enough to allow a 120mm fan to breathe properly.  One option would be to break out a dremmel and improve the situation, but not everyone is comfortable with hacking away at a new case.  Option two is to pick up a power supply that is quiet, but also does not rely on a 120mm fan for cooling.  The case is held up by four square feet of aluminum with a non-skid rubber pad on each to prevent marring the surface below.

Bottom view Bottom vent holes under power supply
Bottom view
Bottom vent holes under power supply

 

Square foot with pad
Square foot with pad

The top of the case is made of steel with two regions of vent holes.  One group is in the vicinity of the CPU heat sink and the second group is directly over the power supply.  The area over the card slots is not vented.  It is hard to know the purpose of this second set of holes as the PSU will block most of their air flow.  The holes are again round rather than hex, but in this case it is most likely due to strength issues.  Because it is difficult to know what all might be stacked on top of this case, rigidity won out over air flow.  As in other case designs, compromises have to be made.  Near the back of the top, there are two indented areas pressed into the surface.  Wonder what those are for?  Read on to find out.

Top view
Top view

Peek Inside

Peek Inside

So, how does one get inside this bad boy?  On the back there are two sliding latches on either end, and pressing in the button and sliding both down releases the top cover.  Using the two indented areas on the top for grip, the top can now slide out of the way.  Pretty slick and toolless.  Unfortunately, everything else requires that you own a screwdriver.  Fortunately, the case comes with just such a device.

Latched locked Latch open
Latch locked
Latch open

Once the top is off, the TF8 gives up its secrets on how it can cram all of these features into this small package.  First thing that is noticed are all the wires running every which way.  Usually this is an issue once all the components are installed, but it is a bad sign to see such a sight before anything has been mounted.  There are four fan cables, five cables for the various front I/O ports and multi-card reader, two cables from the IR board, and two cables linking the power button to the motherboard.  That's thirteen cables to contend with and nothing has been mounted in the case yet.  To compound the problem, most of the cables are almost twice as long as required.  Fortunately, the drive cages have been mounted on 3/4" stand-offs to give room for the various circuit boards.  This should give some room to stow any extra lengths of cable which would otherwise clutter up the case's interior.

Inside from various angles 1 Inside from various angles 2
Inside from various angles 3 Inside from various angles 4
Inside from various angles

 

IR board Multi-card reader board
IR board
Multi-card reader board

 

Front I/O board and power switch
Front I/O board and power switch

There are two hard drive cages which hold two 3.5" hard drives each.  The cages need to be removed before the drives can be mounted.  Each drive location has four rubber grommets to help dampen any noise due to vibration.  The down side of this design is the drive cannot effectively transfer its heat to the chassis.  Omaura has placed two 60x10mm fans next to the drive cages to assist in the cooling, but unfortunately the cage structure looks to block most of their air flow.

Hard drive cages Hard drive cage fans
Hard drive cages Hard drive cage fans

The optical drive cage also needs to be removed before a drive can be mounted.  It however does not benefit from noise dampening grommets.  The eject button mechanism is large enough it should work properly with most optical drives.  The drive door is also designed to help prevent mechanical hangups.

Optical drive cage
Optical drive cage

The 80x15mm fans mounted on the right side panel are positioned properly to help exhaust warm air around the CPU.  As it stands now, this case requires a motherboard with five fan headers assuming the CPU requires a fan as well.  This may be possible on some full ATX motherboards, but this certainly is not common on the microATX format.  It would be more practical to have each group of two fans combined into one common header.  True, only one fan would be reporting its RPM, but that would seem to be an acceptable compromise.

Exhaust fans
Exhaust fans

As mentioned previously, this case came with the MCE remote kit and as such includes an IR receiver and blaster.  The receiver is mounted just to the right of the I/O panel door.  It connects via a cable to the USB internal header on the motherboard.  Since it is based on a standard Philips IR chipset, driver support should be solid in MCE and Vista.

IR blaster IR board
IR blaster
IR board

 

MCE remote Lower buttons Upper buttons
MCE remote
Lower buttons
Upper buttons

Parting Words

Parting Words

Before this review is wrapped up, one last feature needs to be addressed.  Or rather, it would be addressed if the sample had arrived.  As it is, someone in customs has apparently been enjoying it a bit too much.  The topic of this discussion is Omaura's crown jewel, the OLED (organic light emitting diode) display.  Not only is the display clearer to read, but it is no longer confined to characters only.  It is essentially a 256x64 grid of pixels which can display anything from pictures to various font sizes.  Please see Omaura's website for more details.  If we ever do receive the display, we will be sure to provide a review.

Empty location for OLED display
Empty location for OLED display

Conclusion

The TF8 has a lot going for it.  A compact and clean exterior while providing for a plethora of options internally is hard to find in the HTPC case market.  Sure, there are some deficiencies such as excess cable length, an over abundance of fan connectors, and questionable air flow around the PSU, but in the end this can be remedied by careful component planning and some light mods.  Overall, this case has been a strong first showing for Omaura.  It will be exciting to see what other surprises they have planned.

Nov 06 2007

Review - Snapstream BeyondTV 4.7 Update

 

BeyondTV 4.7

Snapstream Beyond TV 4.7

On September 27, 2007 Snapstream released their latest version of Beyond TV and added a bunch of new fucntionality. Let's take a quick look at some of the fun new toys they've bundled in.

Snapstream has added some great new functionality in their latest release. Here's the official line on what's available:

Automatically Sync Recordings to iPod and iPhone (Optional Plug-In) - This is an innovative feature that uses the H.264 format to re-compress your Beyond TV recordings and sync them to your iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV. Using an iTunes podcast rss feed you can now automatically sync your television recordings to your iPod or iPhone.

Drive Pooling - If you are worried about running out of space for your recordings this feature will calm your fears. Beyond TV 4.7 lets you treat a group of hard drives as one recording folder. It will automatically manage and distribute the content you have recorded.

Firefly Mobile - Now you can use your Smartphone, iPhone, or other web device as a remote control for your Beyond TV.

Community Recordings - When enabled, this feature will automatically record the top shows each day as reported by Beyond TV Buzz.

Beyond TV Link DVD Burning (Optional Plug-In) - Just like you can burn DVDs on your Beyond TV Server you can now do the same using Beyond TV Link.

We’ve also improved some of the existing features in Beyond TV 4.7:

  • H.264 playback is included in all copies of Beyond TV 4.7
  • Extend the recording time while a job is currently being recorded by simply hitting the record button and adding the amount of time needed (up to 3 hours). So, if the football game goes into overtime, you can just lengthen the recording time and you won’t miss a thing.
  • We’ve improved the Record This Timeslot Recording option by adding Record Only on This Day as an option
  • Recover recordings that might have been interrupted due to a power outage, machine reboot, etc.
  • An Internet Explorer user? Now you can download files greater than 2GB in size without breaks.
  • We now have support for multiple USB-UIRT devices.
  • Beyond TV Link can now stream live TV for multiple days on end without stopping.

So let's take a closer look at some of these. I'll do an in depth look at the Auto-Sync, Firefly Mobile and Community Recordings on the next few pages. 

Oct 22 2007

Review - Hava Platinum HD Review: Part 1

Placeshifting is a term that has been around the Media Center enthusiast world for a while now. Although not perfected, it has certainly come along way in the past couple of years. Programs like SageTV and Orb, and hardware like Slingbox and Hava have allowed you to take your TV whereever you may roam. I am fortunate enough to take a look at the latter and will be presenting a multi-part look at the Hava HD Platinum. Roughly, the review parts will look like this: (subject to change of course)

  • First look, setup, and initial impressions with placeshifting
  • Detailed look at home network placeshifting (component input quality) and internet placeshifting
  • How the Hava integrates into MCE via two different methods
  • Small Q&A session with HAVA! Get your questions in!
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Oct 10 2007

Review - Antec A/V Cooler

 

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Antec has been known for years as being a great company to provide quality cases and power supplies, which are as great for gamers as they are quiet for Media Center users. They have come to embrace the Home Theater PC audience slowly, but have developed a product line dubbed "Veris ," which they've tied together their current HTPC offerings such as their Fusion and quiet hard drive enclosure, and now, the A/V Cooler. An odd addition, honestly, as it is the only Antec product I'm aware of which was not designed specifically for a computer. But I'm a computer guy, so you know I'm going to find some way to review this for you anyways. And at an MSRP over $100, it sure better perform as advertised!

 

Oct 05 2007

Review - Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 Soundcard

 

Front View of X-Meridian Box

Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 Soundcard

The X-Meridian has been on the market since last fall and has developed a strong following among the HTPC audiophile market. With high quality DACs and replacable Op-Amps this sound card shows a lot of potential. Let's take a look at how it performs in an average home setup and on our audiophile test bench.

Just two and a half years ago, Auzentech released their first sound card the X-Mystique to much fanfare. It was the first sound card to offer support for encoding multi-channel audio to Dolby Digital. Prior to that the only options were the old nForce 2 MCP-T motherboards. Shortly thereafter Auzentech debuted the X-Plosion, the first sound card to offer DTS Connect technology bringing yet another option to the consumer. With the X-Meridian, Auzentech hasn't taken just another baby step forward. They've taken a giant leap. Offering all of the prior DTS and Dolby tecnologies is just the start. The X-Meridian also uses some of the highest quality DACs on the market and allows for user replacement of the Operational Amplifiers offering a whole new level of user customization of the sound card previously unavailable to consumers in this price range. I'm really excited about taking a closer look at this sound card.

  

Update from Auzentech:
Limited Edition - No Longer Available

Thank you to all the audiophiles who made the X-Meridian a success. As of June 2007, this soundcard is no longer in production due to limited chipset availability. Some retailers may have inventory on hand for a limited time.

Auzentech will continue to provide driver updates, technical support, and add-on boards for owners of the X-Meridian.

Alan: This review is loooong overdue. It was a carry over from HTPCNews that did not get the proper attention for that very reason. Thank you to Auzentech for being so patient. We highly recommend you look at their sound cards as they have been innovating since the came into the market a short time ago. Though the card is discontinued, the review is stil a good read :).

Aug 24 2007

Review - Hauppauge HVR950

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Hauppauge HVR950 ATSC/NTSC Hybrid Review

You've probably heard by now that in 2009, broadcast tv will all be changing over to digital TV transition.  Because of this, any TVs, DVRs, etc. made from this point forward must also include an ATSC tuner. For the HTPC world this means that any PC TV tuner made from this point forward must have an ATSC tuner.  Today I have the HVR950 ATSC/NTSC hybrid tuner from Hauppauge for review.  Let's find out how it compares to the competition.

Jul 12 2007

Review - Vista View Saber DA-1N1-I

vv_logo1.jpgAs you may recall the FCC has mandated that in 2009 all analog TV will cease in the USA; any TVs, DVRs, etc. made from this point forward must also include an ATSC tuner. Vista View is the latest vendor to update their product line with a modern combination ATSC/NTSC tuner card. How will it stack up against the competition? Read on to find out.
Jul 10 2007

Review - Logitech Harmony 880 & 890

Harmony 890 Remote

Logitech Harmony 880 & 890 Universal Remote Review

Today I am taking a look at the Harmony 880 & 890, two of the higher end remotes from Logitech for their Universal Remote line. With a cost of $200 & $275, let's see if it's worth the additional cost when compared to other models...

Harmony remotes by Logitech. What more can I say that hasn't already been said. They have so many different choices for universal remotes, and the 880 & 890 stands above as a couple of their most expensive. So how does it stack up? Is it worth the extra money compared to other similar Harmony's? Enjoy the review and hopefully it will help make your decision easier. At around $200 for the 880 and $275 for the 890, these babies are definitely not for the casual home theater user but someone that takes their devices quite seriously.

Jun 12 2007

Review - First Look: Cyberlink Live Beta

Those of you familiar with MissingRemote.com might remember my Guide to Streaming Media article I wrote a while back, comparing Orb, Webguide and SageTV Placeshifter. Well, apparantly the folks over at Cyberlink saw it as well and decided that they could have something to offer and have named it CyberlinkLive. So let's see how their early betas can compare with the more veteran software packages from the other competitors.

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Start page of CyberlinkLive

 

Review

I'll start quite honestly...there's really not a single feature new to Cyberlink Live that you can't find in Orb or the other media streaming options, so the purpose of this first look is more to show what it has to offer. It is free after all, so assuming it doesn't break your system, it just might be worth a try if you dislike the others for some reason.

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View your music library View songs within a folder

I've attached a few screenshots of the interfaceinterface so you can get an idea of what it looks like (and also to give some constructive criticism, of course). Please take this all with a grain of salt, of course, since the software is currently in BETA form, meaning this is not the final version.

First, let's talk about the main menu screen and its utter waste of space. You have 4 large images with titles, and the images are completely irrelevant to the titles. Why? Who knows, but Cyberlink might not want to confuse their users for no reason. Why not include some tiled images of some thumbnails within a users library for each item instead? At least then its got a personal touch to it.

The features according to Cyberlink are as follows:

CyberLink Live lets users remotely access their personal media-including live TV, video, audio, and photos-by simply logging into the CyberLink Live website. If a TV tuner is installed on the home PC, users can stream live TV programs with time-shift playback directly from the CyberLink Live website.

So not that complicated, and essentially the identical features of Orb. And to be fair, it technically does everything it claims, but it just doesn't do it as well as Orb. Use the Audio/Music screenshots above as an example. There is no settings option to change the display so you're stuck with alphabetical and just having to jump page by page. I have a decent collection which amounted as 448 Pages. Yes, you read that correctly, four-hundred-forty-eight. Not exactly the quickest way to peruse through your library.

When you find an album you want to play, you are shown a player which is fine-looking. An obvious lacking is a variety play method. There's no random or shuffle option, so you're stuck with the default playback method. Again, like with most of the complaints I have with this software--it works fine, but missing some features we've now come to consider standard.

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Search is....completely worthless Streaming recorded TV show

The horrible library management organization (the alphabetical prison is the same for photos & videos) wouldn't be horrible if there was a Search feature. Unfortunately, the Search is so completely useless, that I'm literally at a loss for words. I tried searching for a music artist at home, while connected to my LAN, and then from work. Neither search gave me any results (well, I closed it after 30 minutes with 0 results). Hopefully this is just a feature that hasn't been looked at, but seriously dissapointing.

clive-22.jpg
Manage all those photos. And by photos, I mean album covers. *Sigh*

I would comment on the Photo Library, but I couldn't find any. When you setup your media, you don't specify your Audio/Video/Photo directories separately. As a result, my Photo Library was generated full of the album cover art files. While I understand the desire to keep setup simple for newbies, this type of occurrence was extremely frustrating.

You'll notice the omission from any actual TV-Streaming. I own 2 x Hauppauge PVR-500 tuners, which are not on the list of supported tuners. If you want to stream TV with this, you better have one of these cards:

  • ASUS Tiger-S
  • Asus TV-7133
  • ATI Theater 550
  • ATI Theater 650
  • ATI TV Wonder MK 3
  • AverMedia M103
  • AverMedia M104
  • AverMedia M115
  • Creatix CTX-918
  • Creatix CTX-949
  • Creatix CTX-953
  • Compro VideoMate X800 New
  • Conpro VideoMate TV Gold Plus II (M505) New
  • Hauppauge PVR-110
  • Hauppauge PVR-150 (Amity 2)
  • KWorld LiveQ (IPTV UB110)
  • LifeView 502N card bus
  • LifeView LR306
  • Pinnacle 7010i
  • YUAN Fun TV 7135 (TUN900)

I'm sure this list will grow by the time it goes live, but it's rather surprising to not see the most popular dual tuner supported (especially since it's chipset is virtually identical to the PVR-150).

Conclusion

Probably one of the easiest conclusions I've ever had to write (and most predictable): This software is just not ready for primetime. While normally I'd allow the "BETA" label to allow a certain amount of leniency since it is a work in progress, but CyberlinkLive has so many problems with it that I can't imagine it all being remedied in time for an official release.

The biggest shortcoming of Cyberlink Live is that it just doesn't offer anything unique. And that's what confounds me more than anything. With Orb basically dominating this market, Cyberlink had the opportunity to do something unique. Of course offer the standard features that the other packages do, but give people a reason to switch to your software. Maybe this is coming eventually? Maybe not. From the looks of their first few beta releases, they've got some work to do.

Cyberlink is a great software company and always release quality products, at a price. They've chosen a tight market to compete in. The FREE Media streaming/placeshifting software is really dominated by Orb. And it's going to take more than this to take a share of their market.

I love competition since I believe it's the only way to continue innovation, so I honestly do hope the folks at Cyberlink see my criticism as constructive and don't give up on this. How great would it be if Orb & Cyberlink just started being more & more innovative as to the way you view your media? The possibilities would be endless.

No rating since it's beta software, but hopefully there'll be more to come by launch.

 

May 14 2007

Review - ATSC/NTSC Combo Tuner Round Up

dtv_tuner.jpgAs part of the upcoming 2009 digital TV transition the final phase of consumer electronics compliance was put into effect last month: any TVs, DVRs, etc. made from this point forward must also include an ATSC tuner. For the HTPC world this means that any PC TV tuner made from this point forward must have an ATSC tuner in addition to the NTSC one. Today I look at two ATSC/NTSC combination TV cards from two well known names in PC TV tuners: Hauppauge and AVerMedia.

Digg IT! 

May 09 2007

Review - Logitech Harmony 670

 

 

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Logitech Harmony 670 Universal Remote Review

On the table today is the Harmony 670 Universal Remote from Logitech. Let's find out what it's capable of for an MSRP of $149.99.

 

 

So, you find yourself armed with a fancy new tv, a top notch receiver, fancy floor shaking speakers, a new HTPC to drive it all and about 1,723 different remotes. What do you do next? You buy one remote to rule them all. Enter the Harmony 670 from Logitech.

Digg It! 

Apr 30 2007

Review - Mini-Review: Monoprice High Quality Speaker Banana Plugs - Solder Type

Banana Plugs

Monoprice High Quality Speaker Banana Plugs - Solder Type

Haven't you always thought banana plugs were the coolest thing ever? I know I have....they just weren't $10/pair cool. That's where Monoprice comes in. They have some very solid banana plugs for less than $2/pair, with prices getting even cheaper if you order multiple pairs at once. Despite being solder type plugs they work just fine as rear entry screw on.

So let's take a quick look at these banana plugs. They may just be the perfect thing to tidy up that mess behind your reciever and they'll definitely make all the futzing around with wiring you do a lot easier. One of my least favorite things is being contorted into some odd sort of fetal postition wrapped around my AV rack and trying to screw down speaker wire. These little guys should make that a thing of the past.

Apr 17 2007

Review - Radioshack 15-1892: Indoor Antenna w/ RF Remote

 

Radioshack 15-1892

Radioshack 15-1892: Indoor Antenna w/ RF Remote

Today I am taking a look at the Radioshack 15-1892 Indoor Antenna. This is one of the many antennas available at Radioshack. I'm hoping it can improve my reception quality in my first floor apartment. In an urban/suburban area distance to the towers isn't always the only issue, multipath rejection can play a large role in final picture quality.

Welcome to the wonderful, ever exciting world of antennas. This is the first of potentially many articles about antennas and my experiences with them. My home is a first floor apartment in the Boston suburbs. One of the difficulties in the New England area is the prevalance of multi-path signals. Multipath is when a signal reaches an antenna by more than one route/path, so that the reciever is recieveing multiple instances of the same data. This can cause a significant amount of interference if the antenna accepts the signals and the reciever doesn't reject the additional ones. One way to deal with this is find an antenna that does a good job of multipath rejection. Directional antennas can be very good at this, since they do a poor job of reciving signals from multiple angles.

I'll start with the Radioshack 15-1892 and I'll be working my way through indoor antennas until I find one that's perfect.

Mar 29 2007

Review - Showtime Interactive in Vista MCE

 

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Showtime Interactive

Today we will take a quick peak at the latest online spotlight application in Vista Media Center, Showtime Interactive. Let's see if it's worthy of becoming a player in the online content world.

 

Showtime Interactive is yet another online content distributor made possible by the generous folks at Showtime, where you can find and download programs or other Showtime events that you either missed or want a copy of.

I'll be honest, I've never used or reviewed any other type of this application, so I'm a pretty fresh perspective on it, but won't be able to provide a great comparison between say Netflix or Vongo.

I will however, be able to show you--in strong ShadyMG fashion--lots of pictures of basically everything you'd want, and judge how Showtime Interactive stands on its own.

 

digg it here!

Mar 22 2007

Review - Seasonic M12 500W Modular Power Supply

Seasonic M12 Box and PSU

Seasonic M12 500W Modular Power Supply

Today I am taking a look at the Seasonic M12 500W power supply. The Seasonic M12 is the first modular power supply to be offered by Seasonic. Quiet, cool, stable and modular it has the potential to be a killer solution for use in a Home Theater PC. Let's find out how well it works...

Seasonic has been around since 1975 and originally entered the PC power supply market in 1980 to provide power supplies for both Apple IIs and IBM PCs. In 2003, Seasonic launched their first retail products to quite a bit of fanfare and has continued to innovate and deliver new products to market since. Their current line of full size ATX power supplies includes: the S12 (330W, 380W, 430W), the M12 (500W, 600W, 700W) and the S12 Energy+ (550W, 650W).

The M12 is the first power supply from Seasonic that supports modular cables. It is offered in 500W, 600W and 700W versions. The main cooling fan is a quiet 120mm fan. There is also an additional 60mm fan which is activated in extreme heat situations to provide additional cooling. On the next page we will take a detailed look at what comes inside the box and then later we'll see how the M12 performs in real world situation.

Mar 02 2007

Review - Webguide 4: Your Content... Anywhere

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Ever since the first MCE release, users have always requested the ability to remotely control the recordings & other facets of their Media Centers. Since the first version of MCE, Webguide has existed to provide that feature (and now much more) to users everywhere. I'll be reviewing the complete, pay-for version of Webguide. The free version is strictly limited to the Television functions, as in being able to schedule & manage your TV recordings. By unlocking the pay-for versions, you're able to stream recorded TV, view your pictures, music, videos and more. Check out the features and see if it's worth the price of admission.

Feb 13 2007

Review - nMedia MCESKB RF Keyboard

 

nmediakb_intro

nMedia MCESKB RF Keyboard

A HTPC is unique in many ways from a typical desktop PC and the keyboard requirements are no exception to this rule.  Read on to see how well this keyboard/trackball performs in this environment.

 

INTRODUCTION

nMedia has been in business since 2004 creating cases and accessories for the HTPC enthusiast.  Their philosophy and vision is to "transform the total home theater experience by intelligently converging digital entertainment AV functions, computer and networking technologies".  Obviously, their vision of convergence centers around the concept of a home media center.  This system is designed from the start to be fully controllable via a dedicated remote, but there are times that a keyboard and mouse are more appropriate.  In light of that, today we will take a closer look at nMedia's wireless keyboard/trackball solution.

Feb 04 2007

Review - Logitech diNovo Keyboard

 

logitech125x125

Logitech diNovo Keyboard

For as long as I can remember, Logitech has made their mark on the tech industry by making common computer/entertainment devices into fashion statements. Nobody needs 20" spinners on their SUV, and nobody needs a super thin keyboard...but people still WANT them. The diNovo Edge keyboard is no exception to this. Ever since I first saw it, I wanted one, it just oozed sexy, but is it really, truly worth $200?

Let's find out.

 

Jan 25 2007

Review - Windows Vista Sports Lounge Quick Review

fox_logo

 

Vista is around the corner, and the question everyone has is: Why bother? Well, I won't go in all that, but I will be covering one of the best new features I've found within this new Vista Media Center edition--Fox Sports Lounge for Vista MCE.

If you're interested in sports, this application was designed with you in mind, and it does a very seamless job of incorporating your love of whatever sport into a sexy Vista MCE experience. So throw away your memories of the original Online Spotlight applications & their clunky, ugly interface, and prepare yourself for true integration.

Digg It!

Jan 21 2007

Review - Oppo Digital DV-981HD Upscaling DVD Player

oppo_logo
Oppo is a name that has been getting quite a bit of recognition in the past two years. They make high quality DVD players with an affordable price. Their latest is rather unique, it is designed to be a digital only solution.

After the review, you may want to check out the blog post on HQV benchmarking the Nvidia's GeForce 7-series video cards.

Read on for more.

The Oppo name might be unfamiliar to some, but to A/V enthusiasts their name is getting recognition. They have been shipping high quality upscaling DVD players for a while now. Their most recent models have been DVI or HDMI equipped and come with a strong recommendation that the digital interface should be used. Oppo has designed the players for the full digital path, i.e. from the digital optical disc to the digital display. Their last few models have also been Universal DVD players. To be a Universal DVD Player means that the player can playback every known type of DVD standard, be it DVD-R/RW or DVD Audio as well as SACD.

Their newest model is the DV-981HD and takes the natural evolution of Oppo's emphasis on digital only to HDMI 1.1; the 981 drops component video totally. With HDMI a single cable of pure digital data is all that is needed for all of the mentioned formats above. HDMI has the bandwidth to pass the high resolution audio found on DVD Audio and SACD in addition to the compressed audio formats (Dolby Digital or DTS) found on DVD Video. HDMI also means the capability for 1080p output. Most upscaling DVD players (and certainly those in the Oppo's price range) top out at 1080i, meaning brand new 1080p HDTV owners still need their TV's video processor to deinterlace the 1080i signal from the DVD player. Oppo goes one better and includes the whole gamut of ED to HD resolutions -- 480p/720p/1080i/1080p.

 

Specifications

Disc Types:

  • DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, Super Audio CD (SACD), DivX®, XviD, Audio CD, HDCD, Kodak Picture CD
  • Official DivX® Certified product, certified to the Home Theater Profile
  • Plays all versions of DivX® video (including DivX® 6) with standard playback of DivX® media files with encoded video resolution up to 720x480 30fps and 720x576 25fps
  • CD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R DL (Compatibility with user-encoded contents or user-created discs is on a best effort basis with no guarantee due to the variation of media, software and techniques used.)

Output:

  • Analog Audio: Stereo, 5.1ch
  • Digital Audio: Coaxial, Optical, HDMI
  • Analog Video: Composite, S-Video (Y/C) - standard-definition output only
  • Digital Video: HDMI with HDCP (NTSC 480p/720p/1080i/1080p, PAL 576p/720p/1080i/1080p)
  • No Component Video Output. The DV-981HD is designed for use with a display device with HDMI or DVI digital video input.

Video Characteristics:

  • HDMI: HDMI Specifications 1.1, CEA-861-B
  • S-Video Amplitude: Y: 1.0Vp-p (75 Ohm), C: 0.286Vp-p (75 Ohm)
  • Composite Video Amplitude: 1.0Vp-p (75 Ohm)

Audio Characteristics (Nominal specification):

  • Frequency: 20Hz – 20kHz (+/-1dB)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >100dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.01%

General Specification:

  • Power Supply: ~ 100V – 240V, 50/60Hz AC
  • Power Consumption: 20W
  • Dimensions: 420mm x 270mm x 41mm, 16-1/2 x 10-5/8 x 1-5/8 inches
  • Mass: 2.4kg / 5.20 lbs (DVD player unit only)

Operating Temperature:

  • 5°C - 35°C
  • 41°F - 95°F

Operating Humidity:

  • 15% - 75% No condensation

Firmware Updates:

  • Upgradeable via CD-ROM

accessories
Accessories included: Power Cable, Remote and batteries, Manual, HDMI cable, Stereo audio cable, composite video cable.

Useability and I/O

Esthetics and Useability

Oppo's previous players have only been available in silver, this new player is only available in black, which I think is a smart move -- black A/V components are plentiful. The player physically is thin, much thinner then the older DVD players I've been used to (I changed to a home theater PC and haven't owned a set-top DVD player in years). The remote is useable, perhaps not the coolest looking remote, but quite functional. The CD/DVD tray is on the thin side but seems durable enough, Oppo points out that this is by design and is made to withstand someone bumping into it, etc.

front_small
Click for a larger image


The user manual does a good job of explaining the various connection options -- it even reminds the user that the S/PDIF ports can't transfer the audio from DVD-A or SACD so using the optical/coaxial port isn't the best option. It correctly tells the consumer that the best connection to use is HDMI and barring HDMI the analog 5.1 outputs are preferred. Likewise it reminds the consumer that the s-video/composite video ports are included more for troubleshooting a video connection and are not recommended for normal use because the player provides no scaling or processing from the 480i outputs.

remote_small
Click for a larger image


Because of all the functionality required to be a Universal DVD Player plus play DivX movies burned to CD/DVD the Oppo has a slight boot-up time, however it is nothing like a Blu-ray or HD DVD player. It takes about 15 seconds to get to the welcome screen. Putting in a DVD results in about a 5 second wait as the video plays. This is certainly acceptable wait time and much better then many lesser featured 480i/p DVD Video-only players I've used. The firmware is also upgradeable via CD-R. Oppo has been very good with older models, fixing various issues and tweaking values in firmware updates.

oppo_interface_small
Click for a larger image



When playing, the unit's bright readable VFD shows the status such as open/close/reading, the time index, plus various small logos that light up when Dolby Digital or DTS is active.

There is no noise to speak of when in use, as there aren't any fans that would cause noise.

Layer changes were often jarring on older DVD players, I used an old Toshiba DVD player made circa 2000 and the changes were just painful. The Oppo smartly has a larger buffer and thus buffers ahead of the layer change making it unnoticeable.

 

Input/Output Notes  

Since the Oppo is a universal DVD player it must be able to playback audio that goes well beyond the DVD Video specifications. DVD Audio and SACD have much higher birate and sample frequency audio. This means S/PDIF is out of the running. HDMI is the preferred audio transport. However most people still don't have a proper HDMI 1.1 or newer enabled surround sound receiver in their home theater as of yet. Knowing this Oppo went the extra mile and includes a full set of discrete 6-channel (5.1) analog outputs, which is the only other way DVD-A or SACD can be output. Oppo doesn't leave standard DVD users hanging either, the unit includes both Dolby Digital and DTS decoders so that the analog 5.1 output is all you need to connect to your home theater. Major Kudos go to Oppo for including not only a full featured Dolby Digital but DTS decoder as well.

ports_small
Click for a larger image

I was not able to test the 5.1 analog outputs but the S/PDIF port passed everything as expected. The 2-channel analog output worked very well. Thanks to the included DTS decoder it is possible to choose the DTS sound track from a DVD even when using only the stereo audio output. Oppo has a fairly convincing virtual surround sound mode when using a 2-channel setup. If your stereo equipment supports Dolby ProLogic it can send a compatible downmix.

As noted above the only video output of real value is the HDMI output, component video output has been removed. For those with older DVI equipment, the only requirement is that your display's DVI port have HDCP (as HDMI includes HDCP). Older TV users should be happy to know that I tested this on my personal CRT HDTV which was manufactured in 2003 it has a DVI (with HDCP) port and it worked just fine, I never had any handshaking issues.

 

Testing Results and Final Comments


Test Configuration
Zenith C27V36 4:3 CRT HDTV monitor (480p/1080i native) -- DVI-D input
Custom MCE HTPC -- Component video input

Alternate testing done with:
Viewsonic N2750 rev.1 LCD HDTV monitor (720p native) -- DVI-D input

 

Subjective Testing

I ran the Oppo through various DVDs that I am familiar with, either for a scene that is touch to playback, or just for my own reference as a comparison with DVDs I enjoy:

  • The Matrix -- The Lobby Scene: Who doesn't love this film? The lobby shooting spree is an awesome action sequence that has lots of debris flying. And as I found out, the marble makes a good spot to check for macroblock errors.
  • Star Trek Insurrection -- around 34:22 in to the film is a scene where the camera circles Picard, Data, and Anij. This motion can be pretty hard to keep smooth.
  • Swingers (Miramax collectors series) -- Great movie, great DVD transfer, a bit noisy, a bit grainy thanks to the indie film roots. Good test to see how the noise reduction works, it should reduce the digital video noise a bit but not smear out the inherent film grain.
  • Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith -- Naturally one of the best "reference DVDs" around thanks to being shot in 1080p digital video. If a DVD player manages to mangle this one, there is something wrong.

720p and 1080i notes:
These two modes looked amazing, the colors and detail from most DVDs just jumped right out. Just about any DVD I put in looked very good. The Oppo gave my HTPC a run for its' money, I actually liked the Oppo's output slightly better, aside from the macroblocking issue I explain in the sidebar below.

480p notes:
The 480p mode I found to be fairly good, but not spectacular, 480p just isn't "where it's at", which is fine by me, this is an upscaling player after all. My HTPC I feel did just a little better at 480p then the Oppo, but I find 480p to be coarse no matter the player. I recommend that EDTV plasma display owners set the Oppo for 720p and let your display scale it back down to 480p.

FYI - Macroblocking:
There is one downside to the otherwise excellent Faroudja video-processing chip the Oppo 981 uses: it tends to exagererate MPEG2's macroblocks. Macroblocking looks like patches of off-color blocks, typically seen on background walls and floors, in mist, and in scene fades. The good news is that on my calibrated HDTV I didn't see the errors much, the one time I saw it was while watching the Lobby Scene in The Matrix, the marble tile had sort odd yellowish tinge to it. Switching to my HTPC, no such issues.

Objective Testing

HQV Benchmark -- If you haven't heard of Silicon Optix or their HQV Benchmark you've been living under an A/V rock. Silicon Optix is a vendor of very advanced video processing chips, they made a demo DVD of torture tests to show off their video processing chips. The tests were refined and made into a commercial DVD for anyone to benchmark with. These tests reveal just how well a player's video chip does with things like deinterlacing, noise reduction, 3:2 pulldown, and nearly every kind of cadence under the sun, including exotic ones like 6:4 and 8:7 which are often used in Anime. The score is out of 130 possible points. I am not aware of any shipping product that can actually score a perfect 130.

Player Settings:
The player's video settings were left at the factory defaults aside from Noise Reduction being set to 'Medium' to acceptably pass the noise reduction tests.

720p/1080i:
In a proper HD resolution the Oppo is an amazing player, especially considering the price tag. It gets an excellent score of 125. The only missing points are 5/10 points for the 3:2 detection (film detail) test. This is not a failure, it just took slightly longer then ideal to lock on to the film mode. HQV's critera for ideal is very harsh, a 10 means the 3:2 mode is detected in under 1/20th of a second. The Oppo took about 1/2 a second, hardly an issue for us end users, but for the benchmark it means -5 points.

480p:
The test here were quite good, but fell just a hair short of the HD resolution testing. It has a score of 118 in 480p. The deinterlacing in the second "jaggies" test was slightly worse then in an HD resolution so it gets a 3/5 in that test under 480p. Likewise the Flag waving test seemed to be a bit worse earning a 5/10 in 480p.

For a comparison: my testing of GeForce 7-series cards with the latest PureVideo Decoder and ForceWare drivers results in a score of 123. NVIDIA claims the GeForce 8-series scores an astounding 128. For more details on my findings with the GeForce 7-series see my blog entry which has some interesting software setup notes for NVIDIA HTPC users.

Final Comments

The output of the Oppo is generally nothing short of spectacular, with a recent well mastered DVD one really can sit back and almost forget that this isn't actually high definition, just a good fakery. 1080p native upconversion is a boon to all the influx of new 1080p TV owners that are sure to come as the prices plummet during 2007. The fact that the player can play just about any optical media (short of the next gen formats) is a major plus for anyone looking to unify their various devices. The only negative is the macroblocking issue. However, this is dependant on the content and even the calibration of the display being used. Most people wouldn't even notice it.


Bottom line:
This would be an incredible value for anyone who wants a single unit to handle all their DVD collection and doesn't want to mess with multiple devices or an HTPC. I personally can see recommending this to more then a few people I know who bought an HDTV set for Christmas, have older 480i/p only players, and are wondering how to get the most out of their movie collection.

Oppo even has a very good article about why a good quality upconverting DVD player is crucial in the new HD world called "Getting the Most out of DVD on an HDTV Display."

------------------------------------------
Contact Information:
Oppo Digital
www.oppodigital.com

Appendix: HQV Test Chart

 

  Oppo 480p Oppo 1080i GeForce 7-series
Color Bar/Vertical Detail (0/5/10)  10  10  10
Jaggies 1 (0/3/5)  5  5  5
Jaggies 2 (0/1/3/5)  3  5  3
Flag (0/5/10)  5  10  5
Picture Detail (0/5/10)  10  10  10
Noise Reduction (0/5/10)  10  10  10
Motion Adaptive Noise Reduction (0/5/10)  10  10  10
3:2 Detection/Film Detail (0/5/10)  5  5  10
Film Cadences (8 different) (5 points each)  40  40  40
Mixed 3:2 with video titles horiz. (0/5/10)  10  10  10
Mixed 3:2 with video titles vert. (0/5/10)  10  10  10
Total (130)  118  125  123

 

Jan 15 2007

Review - Cyberlink MagicSports

magicpromo

Update 01-15-2007 Mike has updated this article to include a look at how well it works with a baseball game!

I recently got my hands on Cyberlink's latest in sports television analyzing software. What, you ask, is that? It's actually pretty cool software which can analyze your recorded sports (currently limited to only Soccer & Baseball) and mark highlights for you to seamlessly & quickly skim through it's entirety.

 

Pretty cool concept, but how's it actually do at this? Read on to find out!

Features

 

FEATURES

  • MagicSports lets your relive the highlights of your favorite baseball and soccer games, letting you watch and replay TV sports like never before.
  • Watch baseball and soccer games
  • Skip between highlights
  • Watch the rest of a game from any highlight
  • Operate using a remote control
  • Create a highlights video of your favorite game
  • Create a video of game highlights to watch later or share with family and friends. With both automated and manual settings you can output a file in seconds.
  • Select a duration and let MagicSports create a file of the best game highlights
  • Manually add or remove game highlights
  • Enhance audio and video quality with Noise Reduction Eagle Vision technology
  • Save files in MPEG-2 or unprotected DVR-MS formats
  • Get more from PowerCinema or Media Center Edition (MCE)
  • MagicSports expands the TV functionality of PowerCinema and MCE by adding sports analysis to your playback features. With MagicSports you'll find it easier to locate, play, and replay those classic moments from your favorite recorded games.
  • Compatible with PowerCinema 4 (and later) or Windows XP Media Center Edition
  • Ready for Windows Vista
  • Automatically analyzes soccer and baseball videos stored in your Recorded TV folder
  • Allows quick import and analysis of games stored as MPEG-2
  • Respects the protection of DVR-MS content

System Requirements


 

Jan 06 2007

Review - nMedia MCEKB RF Keyboard

 

tn_mcekb_logo.jpg

nMedia MCEKB RF Keyboard

When sitting on a couch in your living room, sometimes a keyboard and mouse just won't work comfortably on your lap.  Read on to see if this keyboard with trackball can meet your needs.

 

INTRODUCTION

Founded in 2004, nMedia has set out to "create future home entertainment PC systems that are optimal for today's consumer electronic gear" and to "transform the total home theater experience by intelligently converging digital entertainment AV functions, computer and networking technologies."  Their vision of convergence of entertainment AV functions meshes very well with HTPCs, which are intended to be controlled by a remote in day to day operation.  However, there are times when a keyboard and mouse make more sense.  Thus, today we are going to take a look at nMedia's newest wireless keyboard/trackball offering.

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