Media player roundup: What are today's recommendations? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 05:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi All,

It's been a while since I've been purchasing home theater equipment and I'd like to be able to stream video content from my home network's attached shares and USB enabled drives. The world has changed a lot since my Popcorn Hour A-100 was state of the art. Before that, I used my old Buffalo Link Theater. As you can see, I've been away for a while.

I've been reading reviews of what is available, but am having a hard time comparing the offerings, so I could use some purchasing advice.

I'll have a wired gigabit connection to the streamer as well as a strong wire-less N signal available. Most of my computers these days are Macs if that makes any difference. My HTPC sits in a box gathering dust and I'll likely never go that route again; I'm looking for something more family friendly from a control standpoint.

I do not have a 3D TV and will likely not get one for several years; it's just not important to me. But, playing 2D blu-ray content is important. Streaming from internet sources such as Netflix, Hulu, etc. are already handled from my Roku and Apple TV 3. It's playing content on my network that I'm concerned with that this point. I have hundreds of video files and after I burn more of my DVD library, it will only grow.

I've looked at:

Popcorn Hour A-400
KDLINKS HD700
WD TV Live

All three seem like viable candidates. The people at Popcorn Hour have my respect, but is the A-400 stable yet?

-VTPete
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post #2 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 07:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VTPete View Post

Hi All,
It's been a while since I've been purchasing home theater equipment and I'd like to be able to stream video content from my home network's attached shares and USB enabled drives. The world has changed a lot since my Popcorn Hour A-100 was state of the art. Before that, I used my old Buffalo Link Theater. As you can see, I've been away for a while.
I've been reading reviews of what is available, but am having a hard time comparing the offerings, so I could use some purchasing advice.
I'll have a wired gigabit connection to the streamer as well as a strong wire-less N signal available. Most of my computers these days are Macs if that makes any difference. My HTPC sits in a box gathering dust and I'll likely never go that route again; I'm looking for something more family friendly from a control standpoint.
I do not have a 3D TV and will likely not get one for several years; it's just not important to me. But, playing 2D blu-ray content is important. Streaming from internet sources such as Netflix, Hulu, etc. are already handled from my Roku and Apple TV 3. It's playing content on my network that I'm concerned with that this point. I have hundreds of video files and after I burn more of my DVD library, it will only grow.
I've looked at:
Popcorn Hour A-400
KDLINKS HD700
WD TV Live
All three seem like viable candidates. The people at Popcorn Hour have my respect, but is the A-400 stable yet?
-VTPete

Welcome back,

A100 was never state of the art. The Dune is stil (after 4 years) the most stable, reliable and flexible device out there for local media streaming. The PCH 400 should eventually be a good device, but is still a little ways off. Are you looking for full menu support? Are you wanting to ever play the actual physical disc in this device? Do you need a display on the device? Do you want to control it through a remote tablet/phone device? Do you want it to decode the hi-def audio files or will you be passing those through to a receiver/processor? Do you have multiple audio zones? Do you want airplay support?
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post #3 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 07:34 AM
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What type of files are you looking to play ISO? MKV? ect ect......Mede8ter is another player I woulld look at as well.....Do you want need Menu support? Most current players (and all current 3D capable) players will only offer BD Lite menus......
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post #4 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 08:47 AM
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Pete, as you don't need 3D, I'd second the Dune recommendation, or for le$$, PCH A-200/210 or A-300. If you don't need BD menus, then Mede8er MED450X2 for even le$$. The only drawback with Mede8er is lack of a decent jukebox for TV shows. Otherwise, Mede8er's support in this space is second to none, better than Dune and PCH.

HD Media Keen Videosaurus
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post #5 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 12:18 PM
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I own 3 Dune Smart players. 2 Dune Smart H1 and a Dune Smart D1.

These are the most stable units I have had. If you need Full BD menus then this is the unit to get.

I have had problems with BD-lite. I don't know if it is something on my end, but I had the same problems with my Popcorn Hour and the Dune's. I'd get random skipping and audio dropouts. yet I do not have them with the full BD

My experience with Mackcam Warranties. Projector sent with HDMI issue, returned with Lens damage. Still no ETA. 6 Months waiting to date. Sporadic response from CS. Stated it was sent to Epson, but was sent to another repair shop.
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post #6 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 01:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the help! I've never even heard of Dune, so I'll look it up.
I definitely don't care about menus. Do people actually look at "bonus material" and the like? wink.gif
I wouldn't say that I have any one kind of video more than others, but if I had to pick, it would be MKV.

Also, I don't want to play physical optical disks. I also want the flexibility of plugging it into my sound system AND directly to the "upstairs" TV.
As for rooms, I only would be playing it in one room, but I'd like to be able to move it from the upstairs TV to my home theater downstairs. (Where I also have direct connections to my router.)

I don't care about Airplay, either.

Thanks!
-Pete
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post #7 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 02:22 PM
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I have a question and this thread is a good starting place.

I have a 3D Samsung plasma but really only intend to watch 2D. I also have a Mac-based household and streaming from my Macbook Pro via my PS3 is becoming problematic for me. I want a good media server. I was prepared to buy a Dune but I'd read elsewhere that Mac support from Dune is non-existent. Is that correct? PCH was recommended, but I've heard some complaints about their units.

I want to play a full range of file types and I want something that can house my files, inteface directly with my receiver via HDMI, hopefully has some decent jukebox support, and cut the laptop/PC completely out of the mix.

I also don't want the hassle of dealing with Cinavia DRM.

Can I still go Dune?
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post #8 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VTPete View Post

Thanks for the help! I've never even heard of Dune, so I'll look it up.
I definitely don't care about menus. Do people actually look at "bonus material" and the like? wink.gif
I wouldn't say that I have any one kind of video more than others, but if I had to pick, it would be MKV.
Also, I don't want to play physical optical disks. I also want the flexibility of plugging it into my sound system AND directly to the "upstairs" TV.
As for rooms, I only would be playing it in one room, but I'd like to be able to move it from the upstairs TV to my home theater downstairs. (Where I also have direct connections to my router.)
I don't care about Airplay, either.
Thanks!
-Pete

I don't look at the menus, but if I'm trying to play DTS-HD MA and such on certain films I like to have the full BR on my NAS. I've tried it with BD lite on both my Popcorn hour and my dunes and had problems. I don't know if it is the Synology NAS, the Receiver, the Dunes and popcorn hours or what. WHen I play it through a full bd I have zero issues.

My experience with Mackcam Warranties. Projector sent with HDMI issue, returned with Lens damage. Still no ETA. 6 Months waiting to date. Sporadic response from CS. Stated it was sent to Epson, but was sent to another repair shop.
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post #9 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 03:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoelcE View Post

I have a question and this thread is a good starting place.
I have a 3D Samsung plasma but really only intend to watch 2D. I also have a Mac-based household and streaming from my Macbook Pro via my PS3 is becoming problematic for me. I want a good media server. I was prepared to buy a Dune but I'd read elsewhere that Mac support from Dune is non-existent. Is that correct? PCH was recommended, but I've heard some complaints about their units.
I want to play a full range of file types and I want something that can house my files, inteface directly with my receiver via HDMI, hopefully has some decent jukebox support, and cut the laptop/PC completely out of the mix.
I also don't want the hassle of dealing with Cinavia DRM.
Can I still go Dune?



Joe,

I never tried streaming from my Macs Joe. I have a NAS that stores my media files..

If your looking at a unit like the Dune Smart H1 you can also stick a HDD into it. You can then share that HDD on your network and just transfer all your media files directly to the Dune from your Mac's.

As for Jukebox. The Dune has DuneX you can use to create a movie wall. I have all Macs but I have Parallels on them. The only reason I have Parallels to run windows 7 is for two things. I find that I like the yaDIS movie walls as it is easier, BUT the main thing is THE RENAMER is the best TV and Movie renamer program out there IMHO.

My experience with Mackcam Warranties. Projector sent with HDMI issue, returned with Lens damage. Still no ETA. 6 Months waiting to date. Sporadic response from CS. Stated it was sent to Epson, but was sent to another repair shop.
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post #10 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 05:11 PM
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I have a Logitech Revue, which provided everything I was looking for in a smart box (got it with the 1080p panning webcam which sealed the deal). Problem was, the unit couldn't process video web content because of lack of internal storage. So I have been doing some research on smart media boxes that would hopefully deliver a smooth experience at a reasonable price. I was reviewing posts on this forum to get feed back on one device in particular. Has anyone looked at or considered the "AIOS HD Media Center, Full HD 1080p, Gigabit Network, USB 3.0 data, Flash Reader, 3.5" SATA 2? I know it has been on the market for at least a year, but, at $89.00 on Amazon, it sounded to me like (after all of the refinements to date) it delivers everything that has been discussed in this forum segment and I didn't see it anywhere else on AVS? any thoughts?
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post #11 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by inajaro View Post

I have a Logitech Revue, which provided everything I was looking for in a smart box (got it with the 1080p panning webcam which sealed the deal). Problem was, the unit couldn't process video web content because of lack of internal storage. So I have been doing some research on smart media boxes that would hopefully deliver a smooth experience at a reasonable price. I was reviewing posts on this forum to get feed back on one device in particular. Has anyone looked at or considered the "AIOS HD Media Center, Full HD 1080p, Gigabit Network, USB 3.0 data, Flash Reader, 3.5" SATA 2? I know it has been on the market for at least a year, but, at $89.00 on Amazon, it sounded to me like (after all of the refinements to date) it delivers everything that has been discussed in this forum segment and I didn't see it anywhere else on AVS? any thoughts?

I don't know much about this unit at all, but the reviews are mixed on it I think, but really how bad could it be. For 90 dollars it's certainly worth a shot.

My experience with Mackcam Warranties. Projector sent with HDMI issue, returned with Lens damage. Still no ETA. 6 Months waiting to date. Sporadic response from CS. Stated it was sent to Epson, but was sent to another repair shop.
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post #12 of 56 Old 01-01-2013, 08:34 PM
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Hey Pete........I know you said you don't care about AirPlay BUT you have Macs and ATVs and you don't want/menus but BD Playback.....so why NOT rip and encode your collection to MP4 so you can play them on your ATV's? You've already hot the hardware and the ATV3 meets the core of all of your needs....you just need software such as Handbrake (free) to start building your library. I have over 400 SD DVDs and a hundred or so BDs in my library for use on any of the four ATVs in the house and it all works really well.....all the time with the slick and easy to use interface.

BTW.....I wouldn't look to stream BD content wirelessley.....you'll need power line at least with hardware being the only sure thing.
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post #13 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 05:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Actually, the AirPlay thing was what got me frustrated enough to want to have a dedicated piece of hardware. I reformatted a 1080p movie a few days back to mk4 and it took about six hours using Handbrake. Not to mention needing the additional space AND requiring you to keep your Mac up and running while you're using AirPlay. I was impressed, however, with how well it streamed! Thanks for the idea.
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post #14 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 11:48 AM
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Can a Dune H1/D1 downmix hd audio etc to stereo so that the same mkv can be used in a cinema and a bedroom?

where the heck do you buy dunes? smile.gif

I want to die in my sleep like grandpa... not kicking and screaming like the people in his car.
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post #15 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 12:24 PM
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Time is a factor here with encodes.....but 6hrs aint bad and did you check the file size?......MUCH smaller than most others as the compression scheme OS excellent. Well anything worth is usually worth the wait as the saying goes. I do encodes overnight and Handbrake has a feature for stacking files to be encoded so given an overnight and a work day, I can get as many as three full length BDs so there's no real inconvenience to the PC.....plus the i5 CPU allows me to still work on the machine while an encode is happening.
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post #16 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 12:24 PM
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Nothing ever can beat dedicated HTPC in any of the critieria except size - even control wise (family friendlines).
I have htpc which boots up in wmce and is controlled by universal logitech remote which also controls tv, amp and tv stb. My 3 year old learned how to use it a year ago so he cat find cartoons on his own. He is not a good reference point (since he is a tehnology geek) but it goes to show if things are setup nicely and there are good and simple control devices, the htpc route is pretty simple.
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post #17 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VTPete View Post

Thanks for the help! I've never even heard of Dune, so I'll look it up.
I definitely don't care about menus. Do people actually look at "bonus material" and the like? wink.gif
Not me wink.gif, which is why I rip just the main feature straight to MKV. Re: Dune, it's fine for what you're looking for, but based on your needs, why spend that much (or even PCH in the middle cost-wise), just pick up the Mede8er 450X2.

HD Media Keen Videosaurus
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post #18 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Metric View Post

Can a Dune H1/D1 downmix hd audio etc to stereo so that the same mkv can be used in a cinema and a bedroom?
where the heck do you buy dunes? smile.gif

Yes, I have three Dune's. I have one off my receiver and two others connected directly to the TV's Works perfect on everything. The Dune's are not cheap but I think they are by far the best things. And they don't have Cineva on it


http://dune-hd.com/eng/where_to_buy/resellers?country_id=123

My experience with Mackcam Warranties. Projector sent with HDMI issue, returned with Lens damage. Still no ETA. 6 Months waiting to date. Sporadic response from CS. Stated it was sent to Epson, but was sent to another repair shop.
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post #19 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 03:24 PM
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Yes, I have three Dune's. I have one off my receiver and two others connected directly to the TV's Works perfect on everything. The Dune's are not cheap but I think they are by far the best things. And they don't have Cineva on it
http://dune-hd.com/eng/where_to_buy/resellers?country_id=123

Thanks - I could get an older one and I presume a new one (not sure when out) to handle mvc mkvs?

I want to die in my sleep like grandpa... not kicking and screaming like the people in his car.
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post #20 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 03:33 PM
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are there drawbacks to the KDLINKS HD700 ? it's cheap on amazon (and good return policy)...saw it in the OP but not mentioned again....I just want to play blu ray rips without the audio drops I experience w/ my boxee, and a decent interface-
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post #21 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 05:26 PM
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Thanks - I could get an older one and I presume a new one (not sure when out) to handle mvc mkvs?

The Dune Smart series IMHO are some of the best players. I had the 101 series Dune and it had some issues with mkv audio (but I believe that was firmware and designed that way.)

If you don't care about playing Full BR rips (talking about the 20-50gb range of movies) then you should certainly look for something cheaper. I originally had the PCH in one bedroom, a Dune in another, and a WD live tv hub in another room. The reason I changed to all same brands was I wanted to create one movie wall instead of 3 different.

My experience with Mackcam Warranties. Projector sent with HDMI issue, returned with Lens damage. Still no ETA. 6 Months waiting to date. Sporadic response from CS. Stated it was sent to Epson, but was sent to another repair shop.
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post #22 of 56 Old 01-02-2013, 08:50 PM
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Quote:
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Thanks - I could get an older one and I presume a new one (not sure when out) to handle mvc mkvs?

No as of right now no player handles MVC MKV, PCH said they would look into it buts its not high priority as of yet hopefully it will move up the list, and I dont think mede8er supports them either. Both of them whoever do support full SbS
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post #23 of 56 Old 01-03-2013, 06:49 AM - Thread Starter
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are there drawbacks to the KDLINKS HD700 ? it's cheap on amazon (and good return policy)...saw it in the OP but not mentioned again....I just want to play blu ray rips without the audio drops I experience w/ my boxee, and a decent interface-

I actually just ordered the KDLINKS HD700 and it will be showing up tomorrow. I'll let people know how it goes. I too was taken aback by it's positive reviews. The user interface looks rather old-school to me, but we'll see. I bought it from Amazon principally because of their wonderful return policies.

There are a lot of choices out there, and at the very least I'll be able to provide this forum with some feedback on this new-ish unit.

-Pete
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post #24 of 56 Old 01-03-2013, 11:55 AM
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Looking forward to info on this unit, I'm really considering ordering it, knowing amazon will take it back if it has issues!
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post #25 of 56 Old 01-03-2013, 02:12 PM
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The KDLINKS HD700 player is very similar to other Chinese RTD1186 players like Micca EP600G2 or EP950, HiMedia HD900B, etc. It'll play 2D and 3D fine, but I don't think it supports any kind of a jukebox or UI customization like Mede8er, who use the same hardware, but their own custom firmware. Not sure if KDLinks uses the new Realtek SDK, which Mede8er's v.2.0-series firmware will be based on.

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post #26 of 56 Old 01-03-2013, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VTPete View Post

I've looked at:
Popcorn Hour A-400
KDLINKS HD700
WD TV Live
All three seem like viable candidates. The people at Popcorn Hour have my respect, but is the A-400 stable yet?
-VTPete

I infer that you've already ruled out the PCH A-300. If that assumption is correct, then why? Will an A-300 not do all you want?

BTW... your original post so neatly matches my situation (down to my existing A-100) that for a second I thought, "wow, I don't remember writing that... oh, wait., I didn't.

Insert here some witty quote or observation.
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post #27 of 56 Old 01-04-2013, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by graystrickland View Post

I infer that you've already ruled out the PCH A-300. If that assumption is correct, then why? Will an A-300 not do all you want?
BTW... your original post so neatly matches my situation (down to my existing A-100) that for a second I thought, "wow, I don't remember writing that... oh, wait., I didn't.

I didn't rule it out so much as thought it wasn't what I needed. With my old A-100, you had to put a hard drive in it in order for it to make use of some of the better aspects of the device. I had no idea if this was true with the A-300, and even if it wasn't, since I already had network attached storage, I didn't feel like I wanted to add yet another single hard-drive to the mix. The price of the A-300 plus a hard drive that wasn't loud, had lots of space and was fast was just three times more than other options. Thus, I'd try the other options first.

I just tried out my HD700 that I received today... I'll write up my initial thoughts right now.
-Pete
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post #28 of 56 Old 01-04-2013, 09:03 PM - Thread Starter
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So, I just received my kdlinks HD700 from Amazon today. I plugged it into the TV and went through the menus.

My initial impression is mixed. Most importantly, it immediately saw my attached network devices and let me browse them. It showed the directories and files fine and the response time for browsing the directories was acceptable. I started to play video files and have been sitting here for over an hour trying out everything from DVD ISOs to very large 1080p files in MKV containers. Not a single hiccup. The video playback is this player's strong point.

Some of my videos have multiple audio tracks and subtitles. With files that have SRT files with them, it gives some nice options for subtitle resizing, colors and placement; a nice touch.

Another nice feature is that while browsing your directories, you have three options for displaying the content. A simple file list with sorting options, a thumbnail view that shows the first image file found in that subdirectory as its thumbnail and finally a "preview" view that shows a truncated file name list and as you select it, starts to play the video in a small file. (This is my favorite.)

The downside of the browsing is that my file names are large and only the standard file list display shows the whole name. That list is limited to 8 files, and you have to "page up or down" to see the next 8. It's definitely like going back in time to my, well, Popcorn Hour A-100, but a bit worse as I think the Popcorn Hour could display 10 to 12 files on the screen.

Also, there doesn't seem to be any capability for bookmarking a favorite network location... which means you have to hit the back button through your entire directory structure if you want to pick another location. There's a favorites screen, but it seems to be for RSS feeds. (Huh?)

The machine is solidly built and I rather like the old-school LED-looking panel on the front. Wait, it IS an LED panel. Ha ha. But, it's better than the traditional blue power button.

The saddest aspect of this machine is its "Premium Apps" menu choice. Selecting it brings up a couple of pages of Chinese web sites that don't work. Seriously, none of them do anything but give you a "The system time/date is not synchronized with NTP server yet. Possible connection error might happen." Now, I happen to know what a Network Time Protocol is, but pity the person who either doesn't or would like to do something about this error. Wait, I'm that second guy! Needless to say, if you buy this machine, you're best to pretend the "Premium Apps" menu choice isn't there. Be Zen about it.

Other menu choices make sense and work fine. There is a nice selection of configurations, including what I would consider a mandatory 24hz mode for 1080P.

Funny thing about the menu: When you're playing a video, you can hit the "home" button and you get a very nice inset menu down below your screen with everything found in the master menu screen... it works great and feels like they added it later (it uses color icons instead of the goofy metallic looking ones in the main menu) throughout the product development cycle.

I haven't tried to directly plug in any of my storage devices to it (I don't want to use it that way), but it looks to be very easy to do with many input ports available.

Oh, I should mention that I have it wired through my gigabit network.

For the playback, it has some nice aspect ratio, zoom and playback speed features. They all work fine. Did I mention fast forwarding works well? I get some studders at fast rates, but I'm pretty sure that's my harddrive, not my network or the device.

One thing that I like is the remote control. It's a nice medium size. Oh, the menu button requires you to shift your hand location to hit it... but you are mostly hitting just the center button and the back button. Like lots of other system, it has four mystery buttons of various colors. Hit one and you'll see system information with lots of chinese characters. Ha ha.

So, in a nutshell, this ain't no Apple device when it comes to the polish of the user interface. But, I've been playing with it for close to 3 hours now (I'm watching The Watchmen as I type) and it has not had a single problem with playback. Not a studder, pause or video glitch. No audio pops either, but I'm just playing it back through my cheap "upstairs" TV. So, to summarize: It does what I needed quite well Unfortunately, I have no way of saying how it would compare with any of the other devices mentioned here.

Cheers,
-Pete
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post #29 of 56 Old 01-05-2013, 08:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Update to my own post about the HD700 from KDLinks.
This morning I got up and decided I needed to clean up my own video library. WIth a bit of programming, I wrote some code to scrub my directories, rename files, remove all but subtitles, movie files and thumbnails and even update the thumbnails. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would. The results are that the HD700 now shows nice thumbnails for all the movies, my file names are consistent and the user interface is nicer to use. IE, I should have done this a while ago.

I played some more with the unit and found more details that I'm really enjoying. Things like: Hitting the "menu" button does context sensitive operations. If you're playing a video, it brings up a very nice menu pertinent to movie playback, including things like video settings for contrast, brightness, hue and saturation.

I also confirmed that the 3 terrabyte drive I'm reading content from is actually only connected to my router with USB 2.0... yet even my largest full 16:9 1080p files stream flawlessly.

I decided to try out some new functionality by sharing a drive on my MacBook to see if it could find it in my network. Yes, it could, but only when I publish it as a Samba drive which requires annoying username and passwords to access. But, this to me isn't important. The reason I bought this wasn't to access content from my computers, but rather from my NAS. (I hate any reason for having to keep my laptops running all the time.)

-Pete
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post #30 of 56 Old 01-06-2013, 10:38 AM
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Thanks for posting this information. I went ahead and just pulled the trigger on an HD700 for myself.

For the past several years I've been using a Popcorn Hour A100-based device (a DragonTech ioBox, they are no longer in business) and it has been a thoroughly mediocre experience. Like you, I am only interested in NAS-streamed ISO files. I do want the menus (mainly for discs that contain multiple episodes), and I also use ISO format because it's the only way to preserve chapter skips that I've found. I recently decided to retire the ioBox across town to my office, and so I have spent the past few days looking for a replacement. I felt the same way you did -- it's difficult to compare the various devices available, and I haven't found a good resource listing the various options that are available.

So -- thanks again!
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