In The Box
Once everything is removed from the box, we see that it has a similar look to the older 760-series media center. This isn't a bad thing, the 760 received an excellent review and was a very worthy product for your consideration. Like our other reviews, however, we don't let past results stand in the way of current features and performance.
Included in the box is the main unit (a good start), a stand for the primary unit to allow it to be positioned upright, an antenna for wireless functionality, a power block, a remote control (with batteries! WOOHOO), all cabling for standard playback of your digital media, SATA adapter cabling, a user manual and a driver disk for those who want to connect this device to a non-Plug and Play system. All in all we have everything we need to get down to business.
The main unit is the heart and soul of the 780HD. Not only does this box contain the hardware to make everything run as it should, it is also where you can add either a PATA or SATA hard drive for internal storage. This gives you the ability to rip your favorite movies, copy them to the installed hard drive, then take this device with you when you head out for business or vacation time. What a great way to enjoy your movies without having to lug around a bunch of DVD disks.
Of course, you can also attach this device to your network (wired or wireless are both supported) and just play your movies via the network. For a hardwired connection, you simply need to make sure your main computer is running and the folder(s) containing your digital media is set up as a shared resource. It is as simple as that. For wireless connectivity, just go into the Networking tab of the setup menu and designate the type of wireless network you are using. It even gives you the ability to attach to a secure network (like mine) with no real issues. I will say, however, that the entry of the 128-bit WEP security key is a royal pain. Small issue, but I had hoped the entry of this would improve since the 760-series. Oh well, you only have to enter it once and it saves the key to hardware, so you won't have to do it all the time.
Oh, another nice feature of this device is that you are not limited to either a single network resource location or even a single type of media. On other words, you not only get to watch your favorite movies stored on the network or internal drive, you also get the ability to access your favorite audio files (MP3, WMA, OGG, AAC, PCM, AC3 and DTS) and image files (BMP, JPG and PNG). Additionally, the natively supported video formats include DIVX, AVI, XVID, BIVX, MPG, VCD, DVD (VOB, IFO), ISO, WMV, ASF, TP, TS and TRP. All of these formats are natively supported on the onboard Linux operating system. This OS is coded directly into the device to allow it to run on its own without the need of having it attached to a computer of any sort. This flexibility allows you to use this device in the place of a full-blown HTPC.
The front panel of the 780HD is where all of your controls are found. To give us an idea as to what we can do from here, let's take a closer look.
The top portion is where you get the information of what is going on. There are LED lights to let you know what type of connectivity you are using and also a small LCD display panel that allows you to navigate the unit and installed media without having the device hooked up to a television or display. While some have complained about the small display and the truncating of the file names, this wasn't too much an issue with me since I generally access the setup and movie screens while attached to a TV. This negates the issue since the TV is much larger, and even if you have long file names the titles scroll, giving you the ability to see what file you are playing.
The bottom portion of the front panel allows you to power the system on and off, and also lets you navigate the menus via the small joystick device. While this is all right in a pinch, I found you can do everything (including powering the device on and off) with the included remote control. At least you won't be dead in the water in the event your remote batteries die out on you.
Moving around to the back shows the plethora of connectivity options available. We know the drill by now, let's take a closer look.
This portion of the back panel would be toward the top when the device is mounted in the stand. Whether your display connects via S-Video, standard Composite cabling or the monster 5-cable digital cable harness, the 780HD is up to the task. It also allows connection by means of a coaxial cable. To the right of the connection ports you can see the RJ-45 port for a hardwired network connection and also a pair of USB 2.0 ports. Both of these are input connections and gives you a great deal of flexibility when it comes to enjoying your media files. Not pictured but located to the right of the image above is the port where the antenna will be attached. This will be for those who want to make use of the wireless capabilities of this device.
Toward the other end of the back panel is where you will find the ports for the USB connectivity to your PC, the power jack and a brand new feature of this model, an HDMI output port. For those who have enjoyed using the older 760HD device, you will see that the DVI output has been removed and replaced with HDMI. This is huge for those who have televisions capable of this connection method. Not only does it allow you to output your media in high definition, it also works like many new DVD players in that it can convert all of your regular movies to Hi-Def up to 1080i (commonly referred to as "upconversion"). This feature is a very welcome addition and adds a great deal to the overall movie experience. While not as stunning as true BluRay or HD-DVD, it comes in a close second and does a good job of improving the visual quality of the movie being viewed.
You will also see that this device has a small fan included on the back panel to provide active cooling for those fast spinning hard drives. This fan was silent to my ear and totally unnoticed when the installed drive was in use.
Now that we have taken a tour of the main features of the 780HD, let's go ahead and install a hard drive and start seeing what we can do with this little toy.