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Hauppauge MediaMVP with DivX Support Review

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Hauppauge MediaMVP with DivX Support Review
 
 

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Hauppauge MediaMVP with DivX Support Review

published: 02/16/05 last updated: 02/16/05

We reported about the cheapest way to stream video from a PC to a TV a couple of weeks ago. I got me the Hauppauge MediaMVP (sells for around $85) to see if it satisfies my needs watching downloaded videos on my Television. I am especially interested in watching DivX videos. Because I have a wireless infrastructure I also bought a Wireless Ethernet bridge (Linksys WET54G) to connect the MediaMVP to the network. Read my review below to find out if the MediaMVP albeit its low cost is actually working well.

The Hauppauge MediaMVP sells for around $85 in the US - Compare Prices.

 

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

Overview
More and more video and TV content is distributed over the internet. The PC is not the most comfortable place to watch video, it is still the TV. Besides the illegal sharing there seems to be indicators that TV stations will offer TV shows for download for a fee (article on BBC). Jon Stewart! Please be the first to offer The Daily Show as legal downloads on ComedyCentral.com.

Last year several media boxes appeared on the market, like the D-Link MediaLounge DSM-320, Philips Streamium SL400i, Netgear MP115 and the Linksys WMCE54AG. Hauppauge mostly known for its video capture cards got also into the game and offers the lowest priced device the MediaMVP. Only obvious drawback: it does not have wi-fi integrated. So to the about $85 I have to add about $115 for the 802.11g wireless Ethernet bridge making it in some cases more expensive than the competitor devices with integrated wi-fi. Hauppauge will introduce a new product at CeBIT 2005 in March that will address the wi-fi issue.
 

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

MediaMVP: Small box running Linux.



The MediaMVP (Measurements: 15x14x3cm) is a small flat, silver-colored box that runs Linux on an IBM PowerPC CPU. The device can decode
MPEG-2 Transport Stream, MPEG-2 MP@ML, and MPEG-1. It decodes full CCIR601 resolution NTSC and PAL encoded MPEG-2 bit streams in real time, up to and including 720x480 (NTSC) or 720x576 (PAL). Decodes MPEG data rates from 1.5 Mbits/sec to 8 Mbits/sec.
The video output option of the Hauppauge media streamer is composite, S-Video and SCART (Europe only).

In talking to Hauppauge I learned that people already "hack" the MediaMVP and install custom Linux based applications on it. To learn more about this visit this MediaMVP Hacking forum. Hauppauge is not against those activities and even helped with technical support in some cases. The MediaMVP when rebooted actually loads the firmware via the network from the server with the Hauppauge software installed, which is of course than easy to leverage to upload own code. It is also a neat solution for transparent firmware upgrades. See also the MediaMVP specifications at the end of the review.


Installation and Setup
The installation is extremely simple. I can either put the box on top of my other devices or use the bundled stand to mount it vertically. Then I just plug in the SCART (Composite of S-Video in the US) video plug in my TV, connect the power adapter and the network cable to the Linksys Wireless Ethernet Bridge. I had to first connect the WET54G to my PC to configure the network access. The Hauppauge MediaMVP requires a server software to run on the PC the media files are stored. I installed the software that came with the CD, which you can skip and go straight to Hauppauge.com where the new DivX supporting software version 2.2 is available for download and install that instead. There is also a new 2.4 beta version that has some more new features.

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

MediaMVP on top of my Schneider Digital Video Recorder with remote.


Besides DivX the 2.2 software also supports WMA and Internet Radio streaming. Installation of the software is straight forward. After installation the MediaMVP should be briefly unplugged for reboot. The device finds at boot time automatically over the network the PC with the server software installed. All folders and drives are automatically available for access from the TV. To define favorites a simple program called Search For Media is in the Hauppauge Program folder. There are no other software settings. The Hauppauge services run in the background and behave pretty well. Only when the box connects to the PC memory and CPU are utilized.

Usage
The MediaMVP is very easy to use. After switching it on the Go main screen appears showing the four supported media formats and the settings. selecting Videos with the remote shows me the folders or configured favorite folders on my PC. Selecting a file shows the full filename on the bottom of the screen. I tried to playback MPEG2 videos and DivX movies in full TV resolution. The MediaMVP decodes MPEG-2 natively on its hardware, which frees up the PC and streaming does not take much resources.

A completely different situation is with DivX movies. Hauppauge recommends a PC with at least a 1.8Ghz P4 CPU. I run the server software on a 3.4Ghz Machine I recently built (specs). When watching TV resolution DivX encoded movie (resolution 512x384pixels), you better do not do anything else on that machine, else the video playback stutters. I asked Hauppauge why watching DivX movies is so resource hungry. The reason is the transcoding of DivX encoded video to MPEG-2 video before streaming the data to the MediaMVP. To decode natively DivX in hardware would have increased the price of the Hauppauge product. Watching video works great for me and I am very pleased with the quality. I had also better results switching off the Flicker Control in the settings for the video playback.
I also tested music and photo playback. Both features work straight forward as expected. I did not play around with the Internet Radio Streaming. See TV Screen-shots below.

Conclusion
The Hauppauge MediaMVP is a great low-cost way to enable media streaming to a TV. If you have a wired network it is the most cost-effective way to do it. Hauppauge created a very simple to use product here, that will work also for consumers that have not much technical knowledge. The software and the hardware are plug and play - there is no need to configure anything. On the other hand it is also an interesting device for hardware geeks because it runs Linux and it is open to modded.

The PC resource needs for DivX video are an issue, if you have no powerful PC available. The need to buy a Wireless Ethernet Bridge drives up the cost. As mentioned above Hauppauge will address this with a new product to be announced at CeBIT. A small negative is the somewhat awkward remote control. Hauppauge actually offers a new remote to address that for purchase on their site.


 
How to Buy
The Hauppauge MediaMVP sells for around $85 in the US - Compare Prices.
The Hauppauge MediaMVP is also available for in Europe - Compare Prices.

TV Screen Shots

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

Start menu of the MediaMVP. Does not get much easier than this.


 

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

Selecting Video shows the favorites folders configured on the serving PC.

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

Some setting options. I switched of flicker control as the video playback started to choke and also with flicker control off the video looked great.


 

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

Selecting a Video plays it back or offers to resume in case I already watched a portion.

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

Of course the MediaMVP also can be used to view photos and play MP3 and WMA music files.


 

hauppauge mediaMVP review video streaming tv television video download home network media box

In the settings menu folders can be configured for each media type.


Specification

MediaMVP video decoder specification

  Dedicated hardware decode support for MPEG-2 Transport Stream, MPEG-2 MP@ML, and MPEG-1. Decodes full CCIR601 resolution NTSC and PAL encoded MPEG-2 bit streams in real time, up to and including 720x480 (NTSC) or 720x576 (PAL).
  Hardware audio decoder: MPEG-1 level 2 (MP3) or level 3 (PCM audio not supported at this time).
  Decodes MPEG datarates from 1.5 Mbits/sec to 8 Mbits/sec
 
Video output: composite, S-Video and RGB (Scart equipped models only)
  Upscales half screen resolution video to full screen. For example, MediaMVP will take 320x240 VCD video and play it full screen. It also offers a tunable Anti-Flicker Filter.
  Three level anti-flicker filter
  Outputs NTSC and PAL video, software selectable

MediaMVP audio decoder specification

  Dedicated hardware decode support for MPEG-1 level 2 or level 3 audio (MP3 audio).
  Decodes MP3 audio with datarates up to 320 Kbits/sec, variable or fixed
  Decodes mono and stereo. Mono audio sent to both left and right channels.

TV Set Requirements

  Composite or S-Video input on North America models. Scart input on European models.
  Left and right audio input jacks (or Scart on European models)

 

PC System Requirements

  Microsoft® Windows® XP Home, XP Professional or Windows2000
  128MB RAM and 20GB hard disk space (minimum recommended)
  Internet Explorer 6.0 or later
  Processor: 750MHz or faster. 1.8GHz P4 or faster to play DivX movies.
  CD-ROM drive for loading software

 

Network Requirements

  One 10/100 RJ-45 port on a Router, Hub or Switch
or
  Direct connect from MediaMVP to PC via cross over LAN cable (not supplied)

 

Included in the MediaMVP package

  MediaMVP digital media receiver device
  Stand
  Wall mounted power supply
  Remote control with batteries
  MediaMVP Installation CD-ROM
  MediaMVP QuickInstall Guide
  1.5 meter A/V cable set
  1.5 meter Ethernet cable

 

 

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr (Google) is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
Luigi can be contacted directly at ml@i4u.com.

 

 

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