Reviews

Jul 21 2011

Review - Hauppauge Colossus

Hauppauge Colossus

We have been providing a Q&A thread at Missing Remote to help answer questions regarding the Hauppauge Colossus. Now that the Colossus has been out for several months, we think it’s a good time to provide a review.

For those unfamiliar with the Hauppauge Colossus, it is an HD-capable video capture device that can be used to capture all types of video whether it comes from a TV provider’s set-top box, video game console or VCR. The Colossus features a plethora of inputs and outputs all in a single PCIe x1 slot to cover all of these capture scenarios. Compared to tuner-based solutions, the Hauppauge Colossus can potentially offer the ultimate choice in HDTV programming providers as well as provide the ability to record content completely free of DRM.

We’ll take a look at how well the Colossus performs as both a capture device for HDTV sources in a home theater PC (HTPC) scenario as well as when used as a general capture device for tasks such as videogame recording.

Jul 20 2011

Review - Warpia StreamHD SWP120A

In the past year several companies have avoided the “media player” conversation instead opting to focus their efforts on wirelessly streaming their HDMI signal from their laptop directly to their HD televsisions. What Veebeam and Brite-View have done well, each with their own pros and cons, is now where Warpia is attempting to compete with their StreamHD SWP120A unit. Leveraging your existing system for multi-function usage--as a personal computer and also as part time home theater PC (HTPC) duties--is the proposition the StreamHD offers, and at a cost of just under $140 it is priced directly between the lower priced Veebeam and higher Brite-View.

SPECIFICATIONS

Before getting into the tests and user experience, let’s take a peak at the system specs for the Warpia StreamHD SWP120A device.       

Jul 17 2011

Review - IOGEAR GKM581R Wireless HTPC Keyboard

Often a good wireless keyboard/mouse all-in-one separates a good home theater PC (HTPC) experience from frustration.  Unsung when functioning properly and abused otherwise, it is critical to select a device with good range and a feature set that matches the expected use--which if it includes anything more than casual typing a larger keyboard is the way to go.  With up to 33’ of wireless range in a mid-size form factor the IOGEAR GKM581R promises to deliver on each of these requirements.

Jul 12 2011

Review - First Look: Remote Potato HD for the iPad

ImageToday, the folks over at Remote Potato have released their latest application: Remote Potato HD for the iPad. Last night, I was given the chance to do an early review of the latest product. For over a year now, I have been using Remote Potato to do remote scheduling and managing of my series recordings. Prior to the release of Remote Potato HD, I have been using the and Android client on my phone and tablet. Being that I also have an iPad, I took up the opportunity to put this new application through its paces. Since I already had Remote Potato installed and my ports on my router already forwarded correctly to support the use of Remote Potato on my Android phone, there was nothing I needed to do to get connected to the server from my iPad.

Setup was simple, all I had to do was input the URL for my server (in my case, my dynamic DNS name), the port number, enabled the security, input my credentials and off I went. When the Remote Potato application first connected, it had to pull down and cache the guide data which took a few minutes. Once that was complete, I had full access to my EGP grid, was able to browse per channel, pull up my scheduled recordings and setup new recordings all from my iPad while away from my home no where near my HTPC.

The application itself is clean looking and well put together. It reminds me a lot of another application I use quite regularly, Air Video. I like the simple feel to the home screen, it gives me all the information I want in an easy to use interface. Pulling up each menu is fluid and scrolling is really smooth.

Jul 11 2011

Review - Intel DH61AG Media Series Mini-ITX Motherboard and Core i5-2390T

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Not that long ago it was a significant challenge to build a small and quiet home theater PC (HTPC).  Mini-ITX was an option, but case selection was limited and more importantly the form factor was held back by the lack of decent integrated video performance and the power/heat dissipation requirements of the processor (CPU) and graphics (GPU).  With both of those concerns addressed with Intel’s Sandy Bridge (SNB) architecture the next, natural evolution turned toward the mainboard.  Intel responded again with a thin PC standard and today we have a chance to look at the first full featured implementation – the Intel DH61AG Media Series motherboard.  In our first look several features were outlined besides the slim physique that make it especially interesting to the HTPC crowd; including a built in 19V DC power connector, mSATA support, eight channel analog line level audio and the brand new “HTPC” header which, with the right hardware can enable affordable HDMI CEC on the PC; today we couple it with a 2.7GHz 35 watt Core i5-2390T to find out if DH61AG makes good on the initial promise.

Jul 11 2011

Review - XtremeMac InCharge Home BT Wireless iPhone Audio Streaming

As the cellular phone has continued to improve its feature offerings, so too have companies attempted to find a home for that product within the connected home theater. Over the years we have seen universal remotes, video docking stations and a number of other devices which aim to capitalize on the popularity of those mobile devices. XtremeMac sure is hoping you are one of these and have the InCharge Home BT (Bluetooth) device which aims to connect your iPhone to your stereo via Bluetooth. Sounds simple enough.

A quick glance at the XtremeMac homepage and it is obvious that the company focuses on a very particular category of products: accessories for the iPhone and iPod. From cables to cases, there’s not much I could think of wanting as an iPhone user that this company doesn’t make.

InCharge Home BT

Jul 07 2011

Review - Elgato HDHomeRun HDHR3 Dual Tuner

When I initially saw the announcement from Elgato that they have released the HDHomeRun under their own brand name I was immediately curious as to what this was all about. After all, the SiliconDust HDHomeRun has been one of the most popular tuners for home theater PC (HTPC) users since 2006. What Elgato is offering is the 3rd revision to the HDHomeRun hardware, coupled with the latest version of their Mac-exclusive EyeTV 3 software. Retailing at $179.95, it’s exactly $50 more than the PC-only version (note that from Elgato’s website the EyeTV 3 software costs $80), so it is a savings of at least $30.

Jul 05 2011

Review - Fractal Designs Define R3

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When selecting the perfect chassis to serve content to the audio/video stack a different set of attributes is required than what is typically demanded from a home theater PC (HTPC) enclosure.  The ideal server must be able to scale to support multiple hard drives, keep everything cool and not sound like a shop-vac in the process.  With eight 3.5” hard drive trays, seven fan mounts, sound absorbing material included and a convenient layout Fractal Designs’ Define R3 enclosure looks good, and has the specifications to warrant consideration.

Jun 22 2011

Review - Habey EMC-600B SFF Chassis

The quest for the perfect home theater PC (HTPC) case is always a challenge even in today’s world where there is a healthy amount of chassis to choose from in all shapes and sizes. While some people prefer an HTPC chassis which stands out in their A/V stack there are plenty of people that want something quiet, subtle and most importantly--tiny. Fortunately for those fans there have been a number of small form factor (SFF) chassis which we have looked at recently which make the choice that much easier.

The Wesena ITX7, HDPlex H10.ODD and Vidabox vCase3 are all great cases with a direct focus on HTPC aesthetics and each has their pros and cons. The one con almost always present when discussing HTPC chassis is PRICE--SFF chassis with home theater A/V focused designs are frequently over the $100 price range, not including the power supply. What Habey is offering in their EMC-600B enclosure is a stylish aluminum SFF chassis for mini-ITX only that occupies a tiny footprint with a nice appearance to fit just as appropriately in your A/V stack as in your bedroom--and it includes a power supply, all for under $70.

Inside the Box

Jun 21 2011

Review - PSU Backplate

When you use a picoPSU in a case with space for a full ATX power supply unit (PSU) two questions can’t help but come up:  how to plug the giant gap in the back, and where to mount the external plug.  In the past I’ve just cut the back off a broken standard PSU and drilled a hole.  While certainly functional, it’s clearly not ideal for everyone as it requires power tools, a sacrificial unit and tolerance for a less visually appealing final product.  Fortunately there is a solution which allows a more polished look and alleviates the need for surgical skill -- sourced from Doug Kenyon, a fellow HTPC enthusiast who mentioned the plate’s existence on AVS Forum.

Jun 13 2011

Review - First look: Intel DH61AG Thin Mini-ITX Media Series Motherboard

ImageOver the last several weeks we had the pleasure of testing the new Intel Mini-ITX Media Series Motherboard, dubbed the DH61AG. This is what I consider to be the first truly HTPC-centric motherboard.  Since the first integrated graphics processing unit (iGPU) with HDMI output was introduced we have heard boards coined as the “the perfect HTPC board” or “HTPC nirvana.”  Is the DH61AG the real thing?  Before we get into that let us give you a first look through a few unique features of the DH61AG and why I am excited about it.  In typical Missing Remote fashion, we will publish a full review as soon as possible. (See Intel DH61AG Media Series Mini-ITX Motherboard and Core i5-2390T)

Jun 08 2011

Review - Elgato EyeTV Hybrid USB Tuner

When home theater computers first came to market almost 10 years ago, the television tuners that were available were few and far between, all internal, and featured a whopping single tuner. How times have changed. Now, dual tuners are a given and hybrid tuners seek to accomplish the duty of one-size-fits-all for all customers. The Elgato EyeTV Hybrid is one of those that within its tiny dongle of a body contains an NTSC, ATSC and DVB-T tuner for $129, and works with both Windows and Mac computers. With competition so steep in the tuner world however, how does it match up in a real world evaluation?

Technical Specs

First a bit about Elgato...

Elgato produces award-winning TV software together with a complete range of TV tuners and capture devices to watch, record, and edit TV and HDTV on Macs and PCs. Elgato is the home of EyeTV, the world’s leading television solution for Mac computers. Elgato also produces a variety of world-class H.264 video conversion and streaming products. Elgato is privately held with offices in Munich, Germany and San Francisco, California.


...and the EyeTV Hybrid tuner:

Our smallest hybrid TV tuner ever, EyeTV Hybrid packs a lot of features into one very small TV stick. Powerful and versatile, EyeTV Hybrid is the right choice if you get your TV signal from basic (unscrambled) cable. But that’s not all – EyeTV Hybrid can receive digital TV with an antenna, and can also capture standard definition video from analog sources such a camcorder or VCR.

The tuner used within the device is the ATI Theater HD 750 chip and offers a number of features according to the product page. Here are the technical specifications of the tuner:Analog- /ATSC-Tuner

May 10 2011

Review - Boxee Box D-Link DSM-380

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With a unique physique, revolutionary remote and innovative feature set--promising no compromise local file playback alongside Internet content aggregation--no streamer has threatened to break into the Consumer Electronics (CE) mainstream like the Boxee Box.  Based on Intel’s CE4100 system on a chip (SOC) the device is capable of hardware accelerated decode for many popular codecs, HD audio bit streaming and an x86 CPU capable of delivering a decent browsing experience.  Anyone who followed the device’s launch knows that it could have gone smoother; having given the platform a few months to mature, now is a good time to dive in and see if it can make good on its potential.

May 03 2011

Review - SecondRun.tv 2.5 Movie and TV Media Center App

Rewind two years ago to 2009--Hulu was really starting to gain momentum and attention, as well as some other fledgling TV streaming services, but all required a keyboard and mouse for use with your Windows Media Center HTPC. Then, SecondRun.tv was released and not only made it possible to control and watch Hulu.com content, but did so in a very attractive and easy to follow user interface (UI), utilizing fan art and covers along with descriptions to make things easy. Of course, Hulu soon blocked the service and eventually released their own 10' UI based application called Hulu Desktop, and then SecondRun.tv remained fairly silent with a few mild updates...until now. With version 2.5, SecondRun.tv has received a pretty significant overhaul and now is aiming its sights not just at you TV cord cutters, but also at movie watchers alike. That's a lot for one app to tackle. 

SecondRunTV

Above & Beyond

Apr 27 2011

Review - ESPN3WMC - Watch ESPN3 Broadcasts on your HDTV via Media Center Remote, Kind Of

If you have an HTPC and are a sports fan, and your cable company supports it, then you most likely have heard of ESPN3.com. This fantastic website from ESPN provides a lot of the content that is available on the cable channel to be streamed live to your system for free. Editorial shows like SportsCenter and Around the Horn are not streamed, but live sporting events like Tennis, Soccer and even Baseball and Basketball games that are on an ESPN channel are often made available both live and for replay. Those familiar will also be aware that the current interface for ESPN3.com is very keyboard and mouse demanding. Unless you use something like PlayOn, which we'll look at in the future, the normal way to get ESPN3.com on your HDTV via your HTPC is by pulling out that keyboard and mouse, opening a browser, and launching its application from there. Luckily ESPN3WMC has been developed to assist with this exact situation!

ESPN3WMC

Above and Beyond

The way ESPN3WMC works is fantastic. It loads very fast inside both Vista and Windows 7 Media Center and has pivot menus for every sport. If you're using Internet Explorer to connect to ESPN3, you'll just have to make sure your ActiveX controls are installed and working correctly.The first pivot it shows is what's On Now, which makes life a lot easier than try to figure out all the sport's time and day. As you can see from the screenshot below, this not only gives you access to the live events, but it also shows you past events that are still available to be replayed.

Apr 21 2011

Review - CyberLink PowerDVD 11

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Spring is here, so as usual it is time for CyberLink to release an updated version of PowerDVD (PDVD) making this number 11.  With PDVD 10 already a solid product we were not expecting a revolutionary shift in the Blu-ray (BD) playback software, so the rather evolutionary changes brought to the updated application including better 3D support, a richer media experience outside of its core BD and DVD playback, and updated device support were very much in line with expectations.  We did not have a long time to play with PowerDVD 11 so this is will be part review and part product guide as we explore it together.

Apr 19 2011

Review - brite-View Air SyncHD Wireless HDMI Bridge

brite-View Air SyncHD Transmission Kit

Wireless video transmission--it just sounds like asking for trouble, doesn’t it? Even under the best of circumstances, sending 1080p compressed video via 802.11n doesn’t seem like such a great idea. A number of you have probably even tried to do this with varying amounts of success. Now, imagine trying to wirelessly send uncompressed 1080p video at 59.94 hertz (Hz). If wirelessly transmitting a Blu-ray stream (which tops out around 50mbps) is questionable, transmitting uncompressed 1080p/60 video seems downright impossible. Yet, that is exactly what brite-View claims to do with their Air SyncHD transmission kit.

In a nutshell, the brite-View Air SyncHD transmission kit promises to wirelessly bridge an HDMI source device and HDMI receiving device, freeing you to place the devices anywhere within the system’s wireless range. Further, the system manages to send 1080p/60 video, audio and infrared (IR) with less than one millisecond latency up to 66 feet. It sounds great on paper, but can it deliver?

Mar 16 2011

Review - XPAND X103 Universal 3D Glasses

If you have purchased a 3D-capable display or plan to then you will undoubtedly need to acquire 3D glasses unless you are buying one of the few glasses-free displays or don't plan on watching 3D content. Most displays requiring 3D glasses sold to date utilize a technology known as active shutter (explained later). Obviously, you could choose to purchase active shutter glasses provided by the display manufacturer, but currently, those glasses will not be compatible with a different manufacturer’s display.

This wouldn’t be so bad if the glasses were inexpensive, but when they cost over $100 each, not too many consumers are going to be stockpiling for a rare group viewing. Furthermore, those 3D glasses might be worthless if a second 3D display or replacement 3D display is purchased from another manufacturer. This is where XPAND steps in and attempts to alleviate the problem with their line of universal 3D glasses. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the XPAND X103 universal 3D glasses.

The XPAND X103 glasses offer universal compatibility with all major manufacturers’ 3D displays utilizing active shutter technology. There are also a number of cinemas where the glasses are compatible. With competitive pricing and promise of upgradability, the X103 glasses could potentially deliver a greater value than the display manufacturers’ proprietary designs. Let’s find out!

Mar 01 2011

Review - My Movies 4.0

Long time readers of MissingRemote will remember a popular review we did in 2009 where some of the top Windows Media Center movie plugins are pitted against each other, and how My Movies 3.0 emerged as my personal favorite. My Movies has always been a movie management system which unlike some plugins, includes a fully user manageable server with a database backend and a very customizable frontend. My Movies 4 is a full new version number but the changes aren't as comprehensive as its predecessor. Now included is extensive TV episode and series support, as well as a slightly modified database interface which aims to bring My Movies into the forefront of two of the main types of Media Management users--TV and movies.MyMovies 4.0

What is it?

My Movies 4.0 is an all-inclusive movie manager and frontend (interface) for Windows Vista and Windows 7 Media Center users. If you are not a Media Center user you can still leverage the extensive movie database backend to manage your collection as the application will make universally recognizable files for other applications and devices such as XBMC, HDI Dune and Popcorn Hour, to name a few. The application was created by Brian Binnerup back in 2004 due to the lack of a native Windows' default Movie Library  in Media Center. Over the years My Movies has built arguably the largest database of movie information and artwork.

What's Changed

Feb 28 2011

Review - Intel Core i5-2400S and DH67GD Micro-ATX Motherboard

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Having previously examined both the 95 and 35 watt extremes in the Sandy Bridge CPU lineup, we now turn our focus to the 65 watt 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2400S and Media Series DH67GD micro-ATX motherboard with built in IEEE 1394a (FireWire) support.  With the basic capability questions already answered, let’s find out if by providing four physical cores with lower power consumption this CPU and motherboard combo can find the right balance between outright performance and efficiency in a full featured home theater PC (HTPC).

Feb 22 2011

Review - Wesena ITX7

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Historically one of the hardest parts about going DYI (do it yourself) with a small form factor (SFF) home theater PC (HTPC) has been finding a nice mini-ITX case that actually looks like it belongs in the A/V stack.  Until recently enthusiasts have had to choose between “the cube” and killing the pig for a benchmark chassis like the OrigenAE M10; fortunately Wesena is set to alter this dichotomy with their all aluminum ITX7 enclosure.  Offering a sleek look, space for a slot loading optical drive and a built in infrared receiver we have the opportunity to take a look at the first revision of an interesting new entrant in this space.

Feb 15 2011

Review - Intel Core i3-2100T and DH67CF Mini-ITX Motherboard

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In our launch coverage of Intel’s Sandy Bridge we took an in-depth tour of the platform’s capabilities.  But our previous coverage was limited to a higher end member of the CPU lineup with a 95 watt TDP, that made is less ideal for dedicated home theater PC (HTPC) use--especially considering its tantalizing siblings scheduled to arrive shortly thereafter. Fortunately we now have a 35 watt Intel Core i3-2100T and DH67CF Mini-ITX motherboard in hand and will be taking a detailed look at the lowest powered desktop CPU and smallest LGA1155 motherboard Intel has to offer.

Jan 18 2011

Review - QNAP TS-259 Pro+ NAS

QNAP TS-259 Pro+ NASIn the past we have reviewed a number of various NAS boxes from QNAP and have always been pleased with their performance and features. Today we take a closer look at their latest top of the line, the QNAP TS-259 Pro+NAS, and see how it holds up to the competition as well as taking a look at some other models.


SPECIFICATIONS
While its outside appearance is very similar to the previous generation of NAS boxes from QNAP, a closer look at the specs reveals that the system’s internals have been completely overhauled. Remember that when looking at the specs, NAS boxes have a customized OS so they are normally extremely low powered and are optimized purely for network and file I/O.

Jan 13 2011

Review - Intel D525MW Mini-ITX Motherboard

Intel D525MW MotherboardIn the past few years, Intel has really taken some steps in dominating the low power, small form factor board market. Today we have the Intel D525MW mini-ITX motherboard in our labs for review. The board is small, low powered and does not have a single fan on it. Don't confuse this for a Clarkdale or Sandy Bridge system however, the D525MW is a dual-core Atom board so it's not as much designed for playback of HD content as it is for a less visible activity - like serving that content to a HTPC or streamer. Let's see if this board can compete in a cramped (no pun intended) SFF market and be a viable solution for your home server or NAS needs.

Jan 05 2011

Review - HDPLEX H10.ODD Fanless Chassis

HDPLEX H10.ODD Fanless ChassisThe H10.ODD is a microATX fanless HTPC-centric chassis brought to use by HDPLEX Inc. If the name HDPLEX (no relation to OSX Media Center Plex) sounds familiar, it should. We helped spread the word a little over a year ago HD Plex Announces Fanless, Heatpipe-cooled All-Aluminum HTPC Enclosures. I was curious then and jumped at the opportunity to review one of the first H10.ODD made available.

In the words of HDPLEX CEO Larry Liu, “We [HDPLEX] set out to create a family of products that look good when combined with high-end A/V equipment, are silent and affordable”. High end and affordable are not words this editor has commonly seen used together and I was intrigued to see whether they succeeded.

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