Multimedia Powerhouse IPDVD Box
IPDVD Box Pocket Sized Multimedia Powerhouse. Since the larger receiver manufacturers introduced the first PVR set top boxes to the market a few years ago, their top of the models come with features such as MP3 playback, picture viewers or video players. But every one of these receivers has one thing in common: their development focused mainly on satellite TV and radio reception as well as the use of the PVR functions. Yes, these boxes could handle MP3 playback, etc., but the integration of these extra multimedia features was not necessarily well thought out. For one thing, with many of these receivers, the content had to first be uploaded to the internal hard drive, a process that could take a long time depending on the type of connection (network or USB) and what chipset the receiver has.
This was reason enough for the Chinese firm IPDVD to develop a multimedia box to bridge this gap in the market. The requirements were quickly finalized: a digital video and audio output should provide an extremely high quality version of the media content, the data itself should be accessed directly from a network or an external storage device, TV content should be accessible via the Internet and all of this should fit into the smallest possible housing.
With these requirements finalized,the IPDVD engineers went to work. When we were told a few weeks ago about the IPDVD box and asked if we would like to test it out, we naturally agreed and the manufacturer sent us a sample unit for testing.
The IPDVD box is easy to handle and at 12x10x2.5 cm it can easily be incorporated into any living room TV setup. On the front side of this elegant black and silver box are two easy to access USB 2.0 ports for connection to external storage devices such as a USB hard drive or memory sticks. Next to them is a nicely positioned IR receiver.
The back panel of the IPDVD box is nicely equipped and comes with all the necessary types of connections. For the best possible picture quality there’s an HDMI output, a digital audio output for superb audio, a network interface, a jack for the external 12V power supply as well as a multi-pin connector for use with the included adapter cable. This adapter cable provides a set of three YUV outputs as well as one for CVBS and two audio connections.
The included remote control is logically laid out, properly labeled and sits comfortably in your hand.
The workmanship of the box and the remote control is exceptional and leaves nothing out. We were a little surprised at the internal cooling fan; it makes a somewhat loud whirring sound while the box is in operation and even when it’s in standby. But the manufacturer already reacted: the new IPDVD Mini 1.3 has a very quiet fan.
As far as its power requirements go, it uses the same amount of power in standby mode as it does during normal operation.
Once the package contain-ing the IPDVD box arrived, we did not want to waste any time getting to work testing out the features of this box. We connected the box to our plasma TV with an HDMI cable and at first saw nothing;the TV screen remained dark.
We then connected the included adapter cable to the box and used the CVBS output with the TV. A few seconds later, the main menu appeared on the screen and our first task was to search for the HDMI problem. It didn’t take long to find out what was wrong.More precisely, it wasn’t a problem at all but rather an operational mistake: when we switched the picture output in the main menu from CVBS to HDMI, the box instantly began to use the much better quality HDMI output.
For us it was no problem handling these settings. For a beginner though who might be more used to Plug&Play type boxes or might not have the proper adapter cable available, this could become a hurdle he might not be able to jump over. The manufacturer should consider shipping the IPDVD boxes from the factory with both the CVBS and HDMI outputs already activated.
At the very least the user manual should clearly explain this. The package shipped to us included an instructional pamphlet that was only in Chinese but, according to the manufacturer, a user hand book should be available in English by the time production starts. In meantime, the new model IPDVD Mini 1.3 has the HDMI output increased from 1.1 to version 1.3.
Powerhouse IPDVD Box
When the box is turned on for the first time,the Main Menu appears. It is recommended though that you first check the basic settings of the box in the Setup menu. At the moment only English and Chinese are the avail-able on-screen display (OSD) languages however other languages will become available in the near future. Other settings such as the display timer or the desired subtitle language can be accessed in the Preferences menu.
A large selection of video output formats are available including CVBS in PAL and NTSC, YUV in 480 i/p, 576 i/p, 720 i/p and 1080 i/p and this in 50 or 60 Hz. Then there’s HDMI 480p, 576p, 720p and 1080i/p also in 50 or 60 Hz and then of course VESA in 1280×768, 1360×768, 1366×768, 1440×900, 1680×1050 und 1920×1200.
Additionally, there are settings related to picture format (4:3 or 16:9 as well as selecting which format should be used for 4:3 signals on 16:9 TV’s) and last but not least a variety of digital audio output settings (Digital RAW, Digital PCM and Analog RAW).
The connection with your LAN as well as the Internet is handled in the Network settings page. The box also sup-ports DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)and can there fore automatically acquire all the necessary local router or DSL modem information. Naturally, the more experienced users can set up all of the IP data manually. A time server is already pre configured to provide the box with the current date and time.
To top it all off, the logically designed and easy-to-use Main menu also provides a variety of options for DVD and audio CD playback (such as a child lock). You can also restore the software to its factory default settings or upload new software directly from the manufacturer’s server via the Internet.
Operating this box is divided into two main operating areas:Playing Back Local Media Most of you probably recognize this problem: You’re sitting comfortably in your living room and want to listen to some music on your stereo system but the music you want to hear is on your PC in your home office.
Normally you would have to first burn it to a CD so that it can be played back in your living room. And what about when your relatives come for a visit? You want to show them pictures or videos from your last vacation but this data is also stored on your PC. What will you do now?
The IPDVD box has the perfect solution: it integrates itself into your local network thereby making all of that data available for your TV where before it could only be seen on your PC.
And the best part is that the box can do all of this without needing any special configuration or added software since a standard PC with a fairly up to date operating system (Windows XP or higher) is good enough.
In order to playback music, video and picture data through the IPDVD box, you simply connect it to your local net-work and then turn the PC on.
The PC should recognize the Multimedia Powerhouse IPDVD Box and asks the user to make the data avail-able. This availability takes place through Windows Media Player, a part of the operating system, and is taken care of in just a few mouse clicks. You merely select what data should be made available and the rest is handled for you by Windows and the IPDVD box.
Especially interesting is that Windows Media Player isn’t the only media source supported; Bonjour (for MAC users) is also supported as are the UPnP, SSDP, DLNA, NSS , SMB, NFS,HTTP protocols and the myi-Home, WizD, Swiss Center, MSP Portal, Llink and GB-PVR servers. Every user should be able to find the ir matching connection method even when they don’t want to or can’t use Windows Media Player.
As soon as the date is made available, a new entry will appear in the IPDVD Main menu with the name of your PC. Selecting this entry will provide access to all of the music, video and picture data that you previously made available. You can play back MP3 music, videos, photos, even an entire slideshow.
The list of supported video and audio formats is so long we had to put it in a separate table; it shows the many capabilities of the IPDVD box.
Throughout our tests we had absolutely no problems operating any of the box’s features; everything ran fully automatically and was so easy to use that even newbies to the world of multimedia would thoroughly enjoy using this box.
We were especially impressed with the video player that effortlessly played back every known format regardless of whether it was a video downloaded from the Internet, a digital satellite receiver recording or a video camera recording.
SD as well as HD content is also supported! Only when you use a larger TV can you really enjoy all of the HD content available via the Inter-net or recorded via a satellite receiver. The two USB jacks on the front side can be used with external storage devices that can also be accessed by the box. This is especially practical if the pictures or videos you want to see are still stored in a camera. In this case, you simply connect the camera via a USB cable to the box making those pictures you just shot also available on your TV.
IPTV via Internet
The second operating area of the Multimedia Powerhouse IPDVD Box is the process-ing and display of video and audio content from the Internet. For this purpose the box uses the Media Service Portal from Syabas Technology.
The Media Service Portal (MSP) is really nothing more than a specially prepared Internet page for set top boxes from which every possible media format can be accessed. With the help of plug-ins, all of your favorite video/audio content can be displayed.
A variety of these plugins are ready to be used; those more experienced users can create their own plugins for media content that is not yet supported.The box is shipped with several dozen plug-ins already included. Only those more important and popular ones are mentioned here:
Number one would have to be the plugin for the You-Tube video portal. It lets you use this service the way you’d be familiar with on a PC. You can search for videos in the YouTube database; the most viewed videos, the highest rated videos and your particular favorites are at your fingertips.
Despite the fact that the picture quality of YouTube video is better suited for viewing on a PC and not so much on a larger TV, we were satisfied with the video presentation. Recently, YouTube switched over to better encoding and this move certainly paid off for them.
The Flickr and Picassa plugins provide a connection with their respective online services. They give you access to pictures from other users and also let you upload your own photos for your friends and relatives to see.
Other plug-ins, for example, give you weather information for the entire globe or even local traffic information. And Podcast lovers were not left out either; content can be found in the plug-ins for every possible subject. Even individual video channels such as Cranky Geeks or Revision 3 with up-to-date Internet information can be found.
An interesting extra, especially for those users outside of the USA, is the ability to watch TV channels such as CNN, NBC and CBS with pro-grams like Larry King, Anderson Cooper, Today Show, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News and CBS News. You can even tune into a large variety of radio pro-grams such as news services from BBC, ABC or MSNBC any time you want.
Of course, the box can also work with every type of RSS feed letting the user stay up to date with current events.If you plan on using any other services, you can simply expand your Media Service Portal with additional plug-ins. At the same time, a Community page can be called up through the IPDVD box that lets you choose from specific plugins from developers sorted by category.
At the moment IPTV is working very hard to start their own video platform; it’s already online and has quite an array of content available. However, for now much of this content is geared towards Asian viewers; eventually it will be expanded to make it more interesting for other countries and continents.