I'll be reviewing the Micca EP 600 G2, abbreviated now to the 600. I had this shipped in from Amazon no problems and the player excluding shipping is $120 USD. I'm focussing specifically on local playback via SD and USB, not on the networking or internet playback. I've tested 23 standard video files from 576p to 1080p, from 23.976 to 24 to 25FPS all in a variety of sizes. I've also included one of my early attempts at encoding that turned out horribly. No media streamer has been able to play it so far. I'll detail all this more in one of the upcoming playback section.
I have the 600 connected directly to my TV to rule out any external problems with other equipment, and besides, I don't have a receiver anyway. I have the TV (LGSL90 series) set to Expert mode, with all motion enhancements and noise reduction disabled. I only have 24p aka Real Cinema enabled. After all, a media streamer is built to play back media first and foremost. I'm not affiliated with Micca either, this is my own player and I'm writing this to exhaustively test the 600. As we'll see later, I really would recommend this player to anyone looking for a new streamer. Now onto the review, split into convenient sections!
EXTERNAL APPEARANCES: Burnished aluminium that isn't a fingerprint magnet. At least not as bad as shiny media streamers. Very nice first impressions. This is also very small and fanless. Virtually every half decent connection is able for you to connect your media - you can connect a USB BD-ROM drive, SD/SDHC card, 2 USB devices (including a keyboard/mouse) and Gigabit around the back. You can also connect SATA HDD's via the included cable. Impressive. There is support for 3TB+ drives and 64GB SD cards. I personally would like to see at least 4 USB ports on the G3 revision. Otherwise, this is great for first impressions.
INTERNAL HARDWARE: Realtek's 1186 processor provides the grunt @ 750MHz backed by 512MB of DDR3. No problems here as we'll see in the playback section. Personally I'd up the RAM to 1GB if there will be more internet services in the future just to eliminate any possible bottlenecks. Right now the specs are sufficient.
UI + REMOTE: The UI is nice and simple and most importantly responsive. Everything is laid out logically where it should be and all the options are explained clearly in them manual. By the way, the manual is very well written and nicely concise. One thing that is missing is more info on the eject button. You need to eject everything otherwise Windows will complain that something may be corrupted, not just use it for DVD/BD drives. The remote has some leeway, it doesn't have to be pointed directly at the 600 which is good to see and its buttons are nice and squishy and respond well. I didn't like that the remote was rather flimsy and hollow and didn't have much weight/heft behind it. Still there are shortcuts for Movies and Films and Photos and all sorts of nice options for media organization that works well. Compared to competing products, the remote is a vast improvement. Still impressed!
The firmware is also solid. I only encountered two glitches. First, I updated the firmware to the latest and all went well. Until the reboot. It completed successfully then rebooted. And there it remained. I waited for 6min, then turned off the 600 via remote (it wasn't frozen), waited a spell, then turned it on again. Everything was well, the firmware update had indeed updated. Gremlin anyone? The last problem I had was that removing a USB and then inserting another one resulted either in a reboot or a green screen followed by a complete lock-up. This only happened roughly 30% of the time so until this is fixed I'd just stick with one USB playback option at a time. The firmware also has some redundant options, it lists the player as the EP950 and there is an option to eject the internal HDD. This should be cleaned up in terms of polish. Still rather minor annoying problems. Forgivable once you look at the playback section. These 23 files were all tested from either a 16GB USB or 500GB 2.5 HDD. The USB port(s) supplied enough juice. All files started right away within a second or two, no buffering or anything. 24P was enabled on the 600.
- My special encode was first up. This is a mess of an .mkv, encoded to Level 5.1 with 15 reference frames, 8 subtitle tracks, and 8 audio tracks, 4 of each are included twice. Don't ask. Playback was flawless. Really. Not a single stutter or glitch, fast forwarding (in steps of up to x32), resume playback, choosing any and all subtitle or audio track options. Very very impressed. No media streamer has successfully played back this file. Until now.
- 7 .avi's were next, a mix of 1 CD and 2 CD for the XviD encodes. Flawless. Doesn't matter if it was 25 or 23.976 everything was smooth and worked perfectly. Note, none of these had any warpoints, I am uncertain if this player supports warpoints. Then again, you shouldn't use warpoints anyway as compatibility is virtually non-existent. Some had packed bitstream and this was fine. One annoyance was that stopping the film sometimes too longer than to start. You hit stop, then the 600 stopped after two or three seconds. Resume worked fine, the 600 remembered what you are up to.
- Next were 4 SD mp4's, three encoded to x264 MP L3.1 and one to 4.1. No problems here either. As with the other files everything was smooth, no stutters nothing. The stop button is still annoying. One had a 5.1 channel AAC track and this was fine too.
- Next were 5 720p mkv's encoded to x264 L4.1. Again, everything was perfect. No glitches, nothing. I am seriously impressed at this stage.
- Next were 2 x264 DVD rips, L3.1, no problems either.
- I only tested one 1080p encode with an average bitrate of 9MB/s as I'm shifting HDD's around and do not have many on hand. Again, zero problems, subtitles all work, differing audio tracks, all good. Note, if you change any audio tracks or subtitle tracks, you need to pause then resume playback for the changes to stick.
- ISO's were next. I had three on hand. All displayed menu's properly in the right AR (16:9 or 4:3) and navigating the menu's were slick and smooth. Again, no problems. I don't have any BD iso's but if this requested I'll try to test. The DVD menu side has no problems. You can also play a folder with .vob files, think an extracted .iso. Me like!
As you can see, every single one of my 23 files played completely. I encountered zero playback problems with the latest firmware - x.x.3.9. You can expect nothing more for core media playback at all resolutions and FPS's. I highly recommend this over WD's model (which has stolen the spotlight and it really is nothing special) and AC Ryan's equivalent. I personally would never go for Dune or Popcorn Hour due to price, for me a HTPC would be better value, but for a do it all streamer at a cheap price, I highly recommend the 600.
FEATURES I'D LIKE TO SEE:
- 4 USB 2.0 ports
- The info screen should stick not disappear after three or seconds (and its a nice detailed info screen too)
- Clean up the EP 950 references
- Fix the glitchy USB selection
- Fix the sluggish stopping of files.
Any questions, post them!