Mvix MX-780HD Wireless HD Media Center

This week Mike looks at a feature-packed and streamlined alternative to a HTPC for your lounge.
@TweakTown
Published Sun, Jun 29 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Producer / Publisher: Mvix USA

Introduction






Founded in 2005, Mvix USA is a company who believes in the concept of digital entertainment. With a product line that offers different versions of this ideal, Mvix is about getting your digital content displayed where it should be, on your television. Sure, you can watch your ripped movies on the PC monitor, but why not take it to the next level and enjoy that same content on a large screen TV?

Enter one of their latest arrivals, the MX-780HD. While having many similarities with the older 760-series media center, Mvix has raised the bar and brought newer technologies to the scene. On top of this, they have also improved output as well.

So kick up your heels as we take a look at the Mvix MX-780HD. We will look at the features included, then take it for a test drive by displaying digital movies on a 37" LCD television and see if it is worthy of consideration for your media center.

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.

Installation





All right folks, now is where you get to learn from my mistakes. While there is no problem in removing the two threaded pins that allow the complete removal of the top cover for the primary unit, I discovered after I had finished the task that you only need remove one. The one to remove is the screw located at the bottom of the unit as it is standing, or the one by the fan. This allows the housing cover to rotate outward from the mounting bracket and is a lot easier than taking the entire cover off. Oh well.

The exterior cover is plastic and includes a piece of foam that is mounted to the interior side. This will be positioned over the installed hard drive to take care of any vibrations caused by the drive when it spins up. Not only does this keep the noise down, but it also helps protect the drive.

So since I have once again showed myself to be an over achiever, let's get down to business and install a hard drive.


With the cover off and out of the way we can see the mounting cradle that will hold any standard 3.5" hard drive. A quick look is all it takes to see that the default configuration is set up for a PATA device. Changing out the setup to accept a SATA drive is a piece of cake, though, so fear not.


Above is after the quick cable change. While not terribly long, the cables are set up to allow for very little extra once the drive is installed. Anyone who has done any work inside a computer enclosure will immediately appreciate this since extra cabling means something to get in the way of proper airflow.

From this angle you can also see the small rubberized tabs in the four corners of the drive cradle. They are not very thick and don't need to be since their purpose is to dampen the small amount of vibration caused by a sinning hard drive. This is just another nice feature to help protect your investment and also make the device work as soundlessly as possible.


The clip shown above is the retention device for the installed drive. There is nothing fancy here, just a cradle that has both front and back edges that keep the drive from sliding around and a plastic clip that will lock the drive in place once it is installed. This creates a totally tool-free work space that makes the installation of the drive a very simple task.


There we go, now we have a drive installed into the 780HD. Since the support of SATA hard drives is a new feature, we will go ahead and test with that type of drive. I am not using a monster drive, but this device will support hard drives of basically any size. As long as your OS can recognize the device as a USB storage drive, it will work.

Now that we have a drive installed, it is time to see what this thing can do.

Setup




Before we can fully appreciate the playback quality of the 780HD, it might be a good idea to take a look at some of the setup features of the device. This will also give us a better idea as to some of the capabilities as well.


To begin with, you will want to set up the type of television or display you will be using. Since I will be testing the media center on a HD compatible TV, I will be using the HDMI output. For those who plan on following this same scheme, make sure you have the proper HDMI cable handy, since this product does not come with one. Not a big surprise, though, since most of the new toys on the market capable of using this output method also don't include the cable.

At any rate, this screen is where you get to choose the both the video and audio output methods, the standard used in your part of the world (NTSC or PAL) and also the display ratio. Standard Hi-Def output when using HDMI is limited to a resolution of 1080i, but actual Hi-Def media files can be displayed at up to 1080p.


The next setup area is for networking. As noted earlier, the 780HD is compatible with both wired and wireless networks. The wired network setup uses an onboard 10/100 controller while the wireless connection is compatible with either the 802.11b or 820.11g LAN setups. Communication with your home computer is by means of the NDAS protocol, so most machines will require no setup before attaching the 78-HD.

To enable wireless networking, simply change the top choice on the screen above to "Wireless" and the next setting choice in the left column will become available. I have not documented this screen since it contains my own network settings, but I had no real issues when setting everything up. I used both wired and wireless networking to stream movies directly from my main system to the TV with no problems with visual quality. I noted no jumps and jerks and the audio kept up with the video stream just as it should.

One note that should be made here; if you plan on streaming your Hi-Def digital content, Mvix strongly recommends using only the wired network since most homes do not have a wireless network in place that is robust enough to handle the massive flow of data that is required for your Hi-Def movies. This does not have any effect, however, on the upconversion of standard movies to 1080i when using the HDMI connection to your TV.


The Playback setup allows you to choose the video output (original, wide screen, etc) as well as making changes to the subtitles. The bottom setup option is for viewing your pictures in a slide presentation. You can adjust the time each photo will display on screen, so you can use this device when making business presentations (yes, I have just given you an reason to get your employer to buy your new toy).


The last setup screen handles the administrative features. It allows you to set up or change an administrative password, update your firmware if a newer one becomes available, and lets you personalize some of the settings such as background imagery and such. In the event you like to play around with settings so much that you break the device, you can also reset the box to factory default settings and start over. This is akin to the CMOS Reset jumper on your motherboard.

So now that we have seen that this device has a lot going for it in the features department, how does it handle the actual job of playing our favorite movies?

Video Quality




When it comes to testing something like this, the results are entirely speculative. When I viewed movies I looked for any stuttering in either video or audio from all supported sources, and also compared the visual quality to another LCD display on the PC to see if the quality showed any signs of degradation. I also took a look at the quality from the upconverting of media content to see if there was a difference.

That said, I will say right up front that I was very impressed with the output quality. Upconversion did improve video quality giving it a crisper appearance that enhanced the viewing pleasure of the content. While I am going to include some photographs of the output, I will remind viewers that the camera will always pick up small details that the human eye will not notice. At no time during the viewing of content did I see any blocks or large pixels during playback, but the photo will often pick up these features due to the extended time that the shutter remains open. This is a fact of life, so I thought it best to bring this out at the beginning.

The movie these photos were taken from was the new release of The Andromeda Strain, a two-part miniseries that was released by A&E not too long ago. The video file is a standard definition version and the 780HD was set to display this at a resolution of 1080i with upconversion taking place due to the use of the HDMI connectivity. The movie was being played from the internal hard drive, but I did not see any differences when streaming it from both wired and wireless network setups.




Final Thoughts




When it comes to displaying your digital media content, there are several ways to get the job done. Unfortunately, unless you go out and purchase a software package that is designed for converting this content to a DVD disk, most of your choices will end up with the watching of movies on your computer. Granted, many modern displays for the PC are getting larger and have better quality, but if you are like most folks, your PC is not in the immediate vicinity of your primary television.

Enter Mvix USA with a product that not only plays your content and natively supports a vast majority of the conversion methods currently in use, it also gives you enough power and flexibility to actually take the place of an HTPC system. All this plus the ability to connect to your home network to stream media is a very nice package rolled into one convenient box.

Additionally, the 780HD has its own operating system installed and is compatible with home PC systems using Windows XP/Vista, Linux and Mac OSX. This means that even if you don't happen to be a Windows person, you're not being left out in the dark. Also of note is that the OS in question is based on the Linux kernel, which means you can be assured of a reliable medium for your media center.

Major improvements made from the older 760 series include the support of SATA drives (but still keeping support for PATA drives) and the inclusion of the HDMI output method. While the support of newer drives is a nice addition, I truly looked forward to seeing the HDMI output in action. It goes without saying that I was pleased with it. Upconverting movies worked flawlessly on the fly and without any stuttering of the video or audio streams.

As far as cost is concerned, the MSRP is listed at $349US, but the 780HD can be found at online stores for closer to the $320 mark. While not a cheap addition to your entertainment center, it is still a lot cheaper than building your own HTPC to handle the same tasks. An added HDMI cable would have been nice, but you can pick them up online for just a few bucks.

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