04/26/05 last updated: 04/26/05
Reviewer: Clement Noe
This is a first hand user review by Clement Noe from Belgium, who decided to write a review in the spirit of power to the people and the chance of geek fame. He wants to make sure the world knows that the NHJ MPM-201 Portable Video Player he owns is actually holding up against the Archos AV400 series. The review is pretty in-depth and hands-on, so we decided to publish it (Note, it is not perfectly edited).
In front of me stands the MPM-201 from NHJ, a 30GB PVP/PMP which was bought approx. 1.5 week ago at tightsystems.com. It resembles very closely the AV420 from Archos.
The same: 3.5” screen, USB 2.0, removable battery, built-in microphone, plays back Divx.
The good: 10GB more then AV420, records and playbacks in higher resolution, CF type II
and built in SD slot, stereo speakers, built in AV-out, TV-tuner (docking station), higher resolution screen, mike records in Wav, the 30GB and 60GB version have same dimensions so possibility to upgrade HD size (while keeping the removable battery!), at least 50$ cheaper
The bad: battery life is worse, and the PMP-201 is thicker then the AV420.
What’s in the box
• MPM-201 (+ battery)
• Pouch with pockets on outside for SD and CF card, not very strong.
• Cradle with Remote Control (infrared)
• CD-Rom with Music Match, Dr. Divx, and drivers (windows and mac)
• S-Video Cable
• AC-adapter (V100-V240)
• Manual, 139p in English only, very comprehensive and full
The software package is really nice, with music match tagging/ripping/converting all off your songs and Dr. Divx taking care of the video part.
If you’re new to the video encoding stuff, they refer in the manual to tutorials and help files.
(After installing Dr. Divx download the newer 1.0.6, it will immediately upgrade for free)
The professional Divx codec is included with Dr.Divx so you’re ready to go.
(I would also download DVD decrypter (remove marcovision), Pocket Divx Encoder (.vob->.avi, Xvid->Divx,…) and virtualdub (correcting video errors))
The unit feels sturdy. You can hold it with one or 2 hands without a problem,
and when you hold it with two hands, you can easily control the volume scroll wheel (which is also used for fast going through lots of file, works well) with your right thumb and the four way pad + ok button with your left thumb (various functions according to place used, clearly explained in manual or on screen and most of the time intuitive).
There are four more buttons, 2 on each side of the screen, all in “thumb” reach, whose names (menu, back, stop, play) almost speak for themselves, and who operate well although you’ll have to push hard enough. (The play button they might better have called pause but ok)
The speakers are strategically placed high next to the screen on both sides, so you can’t accidentally cover them with your hand.
There are 2 slider switches on the top, one to open the hatch on top of the SD/CF combo, one to turn the unit on power/hold. They slide open smooth.
On the bottom of the unit there are 2 more things: a small latch you’ve to shove down to put the MPM in the docking station, and a switch you’ll have to push forward to open the battery “dock” and insert/switch/remove a battery.
On the left side there are 3 ports: earphones-AV-out, USB2.0, DC IN (5V 2.0A)
On the back finally there is a kick stand you can click open by pushing your thumbnail under it on the side. It looks quite fragile (thin, see-trough plastic) but it’s able to hold to unit without problems. Sometimes there’s a small “plastic” noise when you clap it open.
The cradle has on the front a led to show if it’s on/recording, and a rec. button to start recording. On the back it has DC IN, S-Video, AV-out, AV-in, and coax connections.
The MPM itself is put in a plastic “holder” which you can move to adjust the view on the screen. The docking station needs to be connected to the power (even if the MPM is full battery) to allow recording.
When you turn on the unit you’ll notice after the 5sec boot time that there are 6 big square icons spread evenly over the screen and one small square icon in the right down corner.
You can switch in between by using arrows or volume scroll wheel. The big ones are labeled (my movie, my picture, my music, my voice, file manager and tv mode-> which is inactive), the small one (wrench) only shows it’s name when you move over it (Set up). On the bottom side
of the screen there is a status-bar containing date, time and battery remaining.
Here you find the following settings that you can change.
I only missed adjust brightness but the screen is nice calibrated.
Key beep sound
Auto power off: off, 10, 30, 60, 90, 120min)
Auto LCD off: off, 5, 10, 20, 30, 90min)
Audio 3D: off, normal, fine
Format disk: option for CF, SD, HD
TV standard: PAL, NTSC; World-proof
Reset all settings
Language: English, German, French, … even Dutch 11 in total)
System info: total, used and free HD space
Divx Vod: here you find a serial which enables you to create an account to buy/rent movies for playback on your device (and pc). Most content is mature and non-Hollywood.
All settings are FULLY explained in the user manual with screenshots and instructions for every button you’ll have to push. Best/fullest manual I’ve ever seen: newbie proof.
How to get stuff on the MPM
Since the MPM comes with 3 types of storage, and can function as an external reader I checked out some transfer speeds between the different types. For the moment I don’t have an SD or CF type II so CF type I will have to do. When you connect the MPM to the pc the HD, SD and CF reader will automatically be recognized (if you’ve the good OS, otherwise you’ll have to install drivers first). The HD contains 4 folders (my movie, my music, my photo, my voice) in which you’ve to put the right type of files to see them on the player.
PC -> MPM HD: USB2.0:
91 Video files (movies,…) for a total of 5.82Gb in 38min to the MPM.
169 Audio files (mp3’s) for a total of 827mb in 5m27s to the MPM.
42 Image files (.jpg, 3Mpix) in less than 4m
This makes an average of 2.55mb/sec = 153mb/min = 9180mb/h,
so in a little more than 3h your jukebox is full (I took HD as perfect 30GB for easy math)
PC -> MPM CF type I card (128mb, unknown brand)
1 Video file from 114mb in 3min26sec to the MPM
CF type I card -> MPM HD (same file)
From HD -> CF
17,3mb in 21s
The fact that the MPM has SD and CF(I+II) build in is very nice for digital photographers who need a storage tank and don’t want to spend a fortune on Flash cards.
After transferring the pictures you can also quickly watch them on the unit itself or output them to TV using the build in av-out (no need to take the docking station with you).
The card reading doesn’t seem to drain the battery as much as I’ve heard the Ipod photo connector does.
If you’ve a flash player (with SD-slot) you could also consider storing all your music on the “big” MPM and just transfer the songs you like to take with you trough the copy function on a SD card.
So now that we have the disk full of media let’s go check it out!
You first select source (HDD/SD/CF, if no card in slot they don’t show) then press the right arrow and select a video. If a video is not in the right codec (other extensions then .avi don’t show up, but .avi has many different codecs: Divx, Xvid,…) you won’t see a thumbnail on the left.
If there are to much incompatible files in a folder it might cause a hang up, in which case you’ll just have to power off, power on. Playback is smooth, no shaking/to fast image, almost no artifacts and pixilation. I watched both cellular, an episode of 24 series 3, and a cool “Bean”-movie on it and both looked really good, when I was playing back cellular I listened trough the built-in speakers and they are really decent (and loud!), very little distortion on the highest volume.
You can fast fwd and rewind at a max speed of 8x, to resume you just have to press play. During normal playback you can use the play button to pause/continue the movie. To play the movie on the TV you just have to connect the Av-out cable to the MPM and the TV and go to the video channel. When you play video on TV there is some pixilation as with all PVP’s but not a lot and not really annoying (assuming that you’re watching to a high resolution video, with high bit rate for example a recorded VGA fine or a converted DVD). Like I said before the MPM doesn’t need the docking station to output to tv (all the wires and mess, …) but the advantage of the docking station is the fact that you can use the (slick) remote which has enough buttons on it so you don’t have to stand up… your choice.
The only 2 small annoyances with the video playback: no bookmark function (luckily you can ffwd 8x) and a small resize issue when you watch 560X240 movies. (they don’t fill the entire screen, but luckily this format isn’t really common)
Since I’m talking about watching movies on the MPM, let’s take a look at how you’re going to get all the content on the MPM and make it work. Since the MPM has Divx Certified Portable Profile you know that it’s able to play: “DivX 4 and 5 video: 720X480 @ 30fps, 720X576 @ 25fps DivX 3 video: 352X240 @ 30fps, 352X288 @ 25fps”. (so you can make Divx5 files with the same resolution as a DVD!) The fact that this device has gone trough the whole certification process and the AV400 (and PMA430) haven’t, should also say something. (The AV400 only plays back up to 704X480) I’ve tried various movies that I once downloaded from Kazaa (mostly 352X288 Divx 3, which was pop -> small files) and some “home-made” DVD back-ups in 720x480 (like the cellular I mentioned), and they all play smooth.
No lagging or anything. You can use both Dr. Divx or Pocket Divx Encoder to convert your Xvid files to Divx.
Since not all people have lot’s of experience/lot’s of time/lot’s of video’s there luckily is the TV-tuner (quickly grab an episode of the Simpsons, joey’s, Seinfeld, … there’s even scheduled recording) S-video (DVD, video, …) or RCA (if you don’t have S-video)
When you enter TV mode you’ll get 4 options:
Video input: TV in, AV in, S video
Auto scan: CATV, Antenna
Program REC: Year, Date, Time, Start,…
Recording Quality: QVGA, VGA, VGA Fine
If you want to record a DVD you just have to connect the S-video and RCA cables to the DVD player start and set-up the DVD with your DVD-remote and then take the MPM remote and hit the record button. In the top left corner you see flashing REC, the time it’s been recording for, and the quality setting. After recording 1h a new file will be started to record to. (During play back you’ll only notice a small load-time since it will jump to the next file.)
The greatest thing about the MPM is the fact that it TOTALLY ignores macrovision, whereas other PMP’s don’t record, or limit playback options when recording protected content, the MPM allows you to record it up to it’s max resolution (640x480). Video looks really smooth in VGA fine, even on my tv, audio is not superb but no big problem.
QVGA is perfect for the small screen, and depending on how full you’re HDD is you should choose VGA or VGA fine for playback on TV. (The only difference is the video bit rate.)
In QVGA approx. 1m4s of video equals 10mb ->3000m + 12000s = 50h + 200m= 53h 20m
In VGA approx 44s of video equals 10mb -> 132000s = 2200m= 36h36m
In VGA fine approx 23s of video equals 10mb -> 69000s = 1150m = 19h09m
You can also use the MPM as a TV, simply plug in the Coax cable, auto scan for channels (CATV or Antenna) and select as video input TV IN. You know have your mini tv, with a very complete remote control to zap around. You can use all the functions of the MPM without standing up.
By going to “program REC” you’re able to program a recording (you’ve to enter the nr of the channel that’s been assigned by the Auto scan), you can even choose to start the recording daily/weekly/once. Quality is quite good although perhaps a bit worse then the S-video/DVD combo but no one will notice when they “accidentally” see or hear you watching to
All recordings are stored in 3 sub maps labeled by source in the my movie folder. (100TV_IN,100VIDEO,...) and named numerically (TV_IN100.avi, TV_IN101.avi,…)
To make it short: video recording is really good (resolution + bit rate = great) although it would have been nice if the recorded audio had been a bit better.
Here you can see the pictures that are on your CF/SD card or that you have already transferred to the HDD. (Here to you can choose source). When you select an image it loads up in the blink of an eye, in a bottom bar (transparent black with white letters) you see what you have to press to do certain actions: Image info: OK, rotate Vol. Both work perfectly, with a transparent black coating with white letters going over the image in the info scenario, and the image doing a 90° spin with every scroll. By pushing the play button you see slide show and the option for 3, 5, 10, 30, 60 seconds. I try 3 seconds, and the processor seems to be doing just fine, with only a small “quivering” before the image stands still. There are different animations between the images. New image comes from: top, bottom, left, right; fade out (which is a bit more then 3 sec’s) and fade in.
By pushing the right arrow when you’re looking at an image (not during a slide show) you zoom in on it, you can do this for 3 times, to go back a level up you just press the left arrow, to see a different area of an image while zoomed in you just have to press ok and then you just have to press the direction you want to go in.
There have been a lot of rumors about the quality of the screen being really bad, but even while zoomed in at max (and keeping a “viewing” distance to the screen),
I don’t see any real problem. They must have changed the screen.
I know how the AV400 screen looks (-> buddy) and this one is certainly as good as the other one (and it has a higher resolution).
Same structure as always: on your left the choice between HHD/CF/SD (if available) on the right all the songs. (The only “twist” is that in front of image-names in the my photo folder is a camera icon, in front of video-names in the my movie folder an old camcorder icon, and in front of music in the my music folder a double music note icon)
If you click on a song you get a very organized (but a bit boring) metallic interface with no album cover, just the time it has been playing, total time, bit rate, kHz, stereo/mono, status of playing: pause lines or play triangle; status of shuffle: shuffle button pressed in or not; status of repeat: one, off, all; artist and song. By pressing the OK button you can change repeat, shuffle, bass (-3,-2,-1, off, +1,+2,+3) and treble (-3,-2,-1, off, +1,+2,+3).
There’s only one big surprise that is strange and annoying: no play list support.
After you enter the folder “my voice” you see a subfolder 100Voice, which upon access shows all recorded files (they have a single note in front of them), and you also see as instruction “record: ok”, pressing ok starts recording, pressing stop button stops.
Files are recorded in .wav, 64kb/s 16khz and are played back using the same interface as normal music.
For transferring files from HDD to CF/SD or vice versa you use the file manager, first you select the source (CF/SD/HDD) after that you get to choose between Create, Copy, Delete, Rename and Search. All works as the name suggests, the copying etc. is even quite fast, the on screen help is very good, but renaming and searching files takes a lot of time with the virtual keyboard. Not a function you’re going to use a lot, perhaps only for very important notes.
Comparison with Archos AV 400 Series
You get a lot more features and extra’s (+10GB, CF type II,… see introduction) for at least 50$ less then a AV420. One could argue about the thickness and sex appeal, but then you’ll notice the, CF II +SD vs. CF, the 30GB vs. 20GB and the difference in size between the AV420 and AV480. (The AV480 while it does support a 3,8” screen, also gets fatter and drops the removable battery, and following that it’s battery life advantage)
The MPM-201 and 202 (30-60GB) are exactly the same spec and dimensions wise
(the 60GB= black + 100$), so for 50$ more than the AV420 you get 3 times it’s storage capacity. If you also include the fact that it’s now shipping for free and with a free spare battery (25$, Archos batteries are 45$) you could almost say that the AV420 costs the same as the MPM-202 !
Good hardware off course needs good software, and here there are some small shortcomings:
The good: Smooth playback, Divx Certified, High resolutions
The bad: No bookmark function for resuming video, some resolutions don’t benefit from entire screen.
The good: 640x480 resolution recording, no macrovision, coax = unique, AV-out build in
The bad: Sound could have used some extra juice (bit-rate)
The good: plays back mp3 in VBR, “life is random” so shuffle mode rocks :)
The bad: No play lists is probably the biggest “bug” from this device, album art would’ve been nice especially because of the color screen, no protected .wma -> musicstore, only 2 equalizers.
The good: playback is perfect, slideshow is good, info is clear, rotating is fast
The bad: /
The good: .wav means uncompressed, low bit rate
The bad: the quality is so so, good for a quick mental note
The good: Does what it’s supposed to do
The bad: Virtual keyboard is slow
This company is a newbie to the PMP-area (like in fact every company except Archos), but still they’ve tried to make the best possible product out there.
They went for Divx Certification (succeeded), they have the best resolution video recording (except for PMA430).
Like I said before: they tried, so what’s wrong ? Unlike the other (in fact only other) preview that I found that blamed it all on the screen I must say: that problem is fixed, the screen is fine, the only problem remaining now is some firmware that has to be updated:
No bookmark function is already strange, but no play list support :| totally bizarre, a nicer UI (especially for music) would be nice as a finishing touch, when they fix these 2(3) things it will be perfect. If there’s any Linux guy out there who’s some spare time and is looking for a PMP: here’s your chance! All in all I’m really happy with the MPM-201, and I think it’s worth a serious consideration if you’re looking for a PMP/PVP or if you own a 7-8-9MP Digital Camera and need something to store pictures and keep your kids quiet.
I bought my MPM at Tight systems, which are one of the only retailers of it, and they’ve there own discussion board, which came in handy for some questions I had (especially about the “bad screens myth”) so if you still have some second thoughts you can ask them there they also sometimes have sweet deals (like the extra battery now) and the CEO participates on the boards (and I’m also there if you have a question).
Thanks go to:
Myself, for writing this thing and taking the crappy pictures.
For lending me his camera which is as bad as my own but not broken.
My brother in law:
Although he didn’t have his EOS20D with him, he gave some tips.
For resizing the images
For surviving reading this thing, and perhaps giving me some critics :)
My apologies for:
All language mistakes made, people who’ve to check if the DMCA is followed and suddenly discover that there are products like this which totally ignore it.
Specification of NHJ MPM-201 PVP
3.5" TFT color display
2.5 inch Revolution: 4200rpm
AV output (earphone jack)
DC input / S-Video output / AV output
/Tuner input /
Maximum speaker output
(L)230mW + (R)230mW 80C
Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery (3.7V)
Input:5.0V / 2.0A
Continuous playback time
Picture/movie playback: 3hours
Music playback: 6hours
Movie playback format
MPEG4EIMA ADPCM / VGA / 30fps
MPEG4EMP3(AVI) / VGA / 30fps
Recording video format
Recording bit rate
QVGA:1Mbps / VGA:2Mbps / VGA Fine:4Mbps
Audio playback format
MP3 bit rate:32~320Kbps
Audio recording format
Still image playback format
TV output format
NTSC / PAL
VHF / UHF / CATV
Auto / manual
Japanese, English, German, Spanish,
Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Chinese (Traditional, Simplify)
File transfer speed
Max approx 480Kbps
140.4(L) x 30.5(H) x 80.4(W)mm
164.2(L) x 30.5(H) x 80(w)mm
Less than 85%
288.6g (without battery and accessories)
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