In The Box
Opening the box shows what many would expect to see with this type of device. Besides the main housing unit, you get all the power cabling to make this thing run, a USB cable, a set of A/V cables, a vertical stand, a wireless antenna, a driver disk (for use with Win98SE), a manual and a remote. Besides the wireless antenna, there isn't really anything unexpected here.
The heart of this entire setup is this main housing unit. It can be used as either an intermediary device between your network and the television, or it can be set up with any normal 3.5" IDE hard drive and store content directly on the unit. What's more, this product is set up to work with either a hard-wired home network or even a wireless network.
But how can it do these tasks? Easy, the box includes a Sigma SEM8621L processor, 64MB of local RAM, 8MB of Flash memory and a Linux operating system. This is not your normal pass-through box.
As far as compatibility goes, it will handle most common (and several uncommon) video formats, most importantly DivX, XviD, AVI, MPEG, WMV and VOB. It is also capable of streaming audio files in MP3, WMA, ACC, OGG, PCM, and AC3. And just for grins and giggles, the folks at Mvix have also made it capable of displaying BMP, JPG and PNG images.
Something not mentioned yet, but certainly one of this unit's capabilities is the ability to decode Hi-Definition content. It is compatible with formats up to 1080p, but seems to be most comfortable with the 720p output. Overall, the possibilities with this little gem seem to be nearly endless.
The front panel consists of a small LCD display, a joystick control button and some small radio buttons. It has an appearance similar to many of the small portable media players available, so if you are accustomed to using one of these you should feel right at home. If you haven't had the chance to play with this type of toy, fear not since the learning curve is very shallow.
Also located on the front control panel is a set of LED lights that indicate your network, USB and power status. Not terribly important except to make sure you have a good network connection for streaming your video files.
As a side note, some may find the LCD display of little use. While it accurately shows your selection choices, it does not scroll the text, so any of your long movie titles will not be shown fully. This could also be an issue for those who like a bit better quality video file and break a full length movie into two CD sized files and name them with something like "CD1" and "CD2" at the end of the file name. The on-screen menus, however, do scroll for ease of use, but we'll talk about that in a bit.
Alternatively, the back side of the MX-760HD has the appearance of a DVR. Of course, this view also gives us some ideas as to the methods we have available to both connect to our display source and also connect to our media content.
As far as input is concerned, you have the aforementioned internal hard drive, hard-wired network or wireless network. The wired LAN input is a standard RJ-45 jack and is compatible with any standard home network; or company network for that matter... just watch out for the boss! It is compatible with both 10Mb and 100Mb standards. The wireless controller will work with either the IEEE802.11b or 802.11g standards and the included antenna was perfectly suited for streaming video wirelessly across the entire length of my house. While I was not attempting to set any distance records while testing this device, you will find it has the same limitations as a laptop using your home wireless network.
With regards to the TCP/IP functions, the MX-760HD will work either in as a DHCP client or with a manually set IP address. This gives a bit of flexibility to those who may not be running a home network compatible with DHCP.
The final method of connection to the device is USB. This is for those who elect to install a hard drive. As with any normal external storage device, any Windows based operating system of WinME or higher will be able to simply plug 'n play with a drive letter automatically being assigned to the installed drive. Copy/paste your supported media content to the drive and this baby is ready to rock and roll. For those who are still using Win98SE, the CD disk included with this product contains the appropriate drivers to make the device work. Additionally, this little box will also work as a small USB hub with space for two USB devices. This can be a handy tool if you happen to elect not to use a hard drive but do happen to have a nice sized thumb drive handy.
Whew! And that is just the input functions of this device. Now on to the output methods.
To connect to your television and stereo sound system you have a few choices. You can use standard A/V jacks or full blown HD Component cabling (Y, Pb, Pr). If you want to make use of an LCD monitor that is sitting around taking up space, there is also a DVI-D port on the back of the main unit. Both of these methods are capable of HD output at up to 1080 standards.
For sound, this device is compatible with both analog and digital output. The analog is handled by the A/V jacks and the digital is sent using either coaxial or optical cables, but these cable sets are not included with this product.
To install a hard drive, you remove one of the two screws on the back and loosen the other. Don't worry, only one of the screws comes out so you can't get it wrong. From here, you lift the housing cover that pivots to get at the loading cradle for the drive. Your drive snaps into place and requires no mounting hardware at all. Once it is installed, you simply attach the power and ribbon cables then reassemble the housing. Below is a quick photo of the installed drive.
For testing I will be using a Western Digital 160GB IDE hard drive. I will not be filling it to capacity since our goal today is to see the display quality of the media files stored on the drive.