When you think of multimedia add-on products, Mvix isn't a name that probably jumps to the front of your mind. A relatively new company (founded in 2005), these folks are aiming at bringing you new concepts in the realm of video compatibility. While multimedia devices are not a new concept, Mvix feels they have something that offers something fresh and is banking on the fact that you will agree.
Our article today will cover the MX-760HD Multimedia Center. Offering more than just a box to serve as a middleman between the PC and the display, we will take you through the device and its features and help you decide if it has what it takes to make it onto the shelf next to either your PC or your home entertainment system.
So kick up your heels as we delve into a newcomer company who thinks they have what it takes to earn your coveted upgrading dollars. Can they pull this off? Read on to find out for yourself.
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.
Now that we have taken a quick look at the main unit and gone over what it is capable of, let's set this beast up and see what it can do for real.
The first thing we need to do is to tell the device just how we want it to communicate with our television. To make changes, you use the included remote control, or you can use the joystick on the front of the main unit. I found that the remote is much easier to use and pretty much idiot-proof. Just make the appropriate adjustments to the settings and you're off. For those who need a PAL output signal, fear not; the MX-760HD is fully compatible with either the PAL or NTSC standards.
The "Network" tab has nothing unexpected so we'll move on to the next one in line. While there isn't anything out of the ordinary here, I wanted to point out this product is fully capable of connecting to your home network even if encrypted with a WEP key. I'll be the first to admit that it was a bit of a pain to manually enter this key into the device, but it was to be expected given that I was using the remote. After entering the key, I was able to connect with no problems at all. Just make sure that you have the directory you want access to set as a shared resource so this device can get to your video files.
The Playback tab allows you to make adjustments to how your content will be displayed on screen. It also lets you enhance the manner in which subtitles are displayed.
The Misc tab gives you some general administrative type functions and also gives you a place to update the firmware if this becomes necessary.
After we get the unit set up to work with our audio and display components, we are ready to kick this thing into high gear. Above shows your initial screen where you choose the source of where you want to get your content from. The "HDD1" choice is the hard drive I installed into the unit and the "Movies" choice is a wireless connection to my primary computer. Select the appropriate location and hit the OK button on the remote and you will be presented with a listing of all supported files. As noted a little earlier, this list will scroll the entire file name, unlike the front LCD panel, so you can make sure that you are selecting the movie that you really want to see.
So how does the MX-760HD handle video files?
After checking out all the features of this device, I am looking forward to seeing what it is actually capable of. A device like this is great for those with a home entertainment system looking for a means to show those downloaded movies without having to either build a HTPC or going through all the hassle of burning those media files to a DVD that is compatible with your DVD player... and usually suffering greatly from a loss of quality. It will also come in handy for those (like myself) who like to back up their DVD movies to file so I can watch them on the road on my laptop. This little toy will now allow you to copy your movies to the drive and take them to a friend's to watch them. The number of uses for this device is limitless!
Below are some sample images of the output from the movie Ghost Rider. The images were taken from a media file that was saved to the hard drive, but audio and video quality were the same when viewing this same file by means of both networking types. Output was to a 37" LG LCD Hi-Def television, so in the larger images you may note some square blocks in the pictures. Keep in mind that the camera will always pick up more than the human eye and there was no distortion while watching. Quality was exceptional and was the same quality as when viewed straight from the media file on a PC with LCD display.
After playing with this little toy for a while, I am impressed. While I have had the opportunity to use similar devices, I've yet to see one that has such a full line of features. The onboard Linux operating system makes sure that you have something more than just a pass-through box. Add to this the huge number of supported files and you have the makings of a very fine multimedia device in your hands. While testing I used AVI, MPG, WMV and VOB files that used WMV9, DivX and XviD encoding and this thing played them all without a hitch. At no time did I ever have issues with quality or audio synchronization. It simply played the way it was meant to be played.
I also liked the idea of being able to connect to your home network. While I did try the wired connection, I preferred the wireless since I do not have a network port in my main living area; where the big screen TV happens to be located. This network is based on a Linksys WRT54GS wireless router/switch using the IEEE802.11g standard. I have WEP encryption activated and still had no problems with getting everything to play. Even when playing files that are 1.4GB for a full length movie, I had no issues with quality or audio sync.
So, are there any downsides to this little gem that is being so highly vaunted?
I made mention earlier of the limited use of the front LCD display. Just my own opinion, but this probably could have been omitted from the final design. It serves little purpose since it has a very small display path and the information being displayed shows up on screen anyway. Some folks may discover a good use for it, but it is just to limited for me.
Price may also scare some folks off. At the time of this writing, this device has a MSRP of $349USD and can be found online for around the $300US. While this price point is generally higher than many similar products, I would remind you that other items in this category do not come with nearly the number of features as this one does, nor do they include an onboard operating system that decodes such a wide variety of media types. From this perspective, I don't think the pricing is terribly out of line at all.
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