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TViX-HD Network Media Player (NMP) and HDTV DVR

A quick comment on my on going project, I've spent years storing and archiving HDTV recordings, ripping all my DVD and CDs to disk, and I owned a stack of hard drives (in removable bays) with files scattered throughout.  A year ago, I acquired the first of my favorite toys, an Infrant ReadyNAS 1.6TB NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive and started the task of organizing files.  With the ReadyNAS as a server, all my music and video files are now in a single networked location that can easily be accessed by all my network based gear.  No longer is a PC necessary in the chain, although one can certainly be dedicated as server for storage.  

My original plan was to build an HTPC for each room, but I nixed the idea for having to overcome some copy protection issues.  What I needed was a single box that could play all the files I had stored.  Simplicity was a goal, but compatibility with all my files the driving factor.  A quick glance at the diagram below shows how I fulfilled all my requirements.

This TViX diagram represents my current configuration, but don't overlook the optional features to this media player:

  • Internal SATA Hard Disk Controller for hard drive installation

  • ATSC Tuner upgrade slot for viewing and recording HDTV content

Out of the Box

If your intention is to simply play files via your network, the TViX is ready out of the box with a 10/100BT Ethernet port.  Connect to your router/switch, set video output, run through the network settings (know the IP address of your other network devices), and you'll be playing video and audio files as well as viewing photos pronto.

When the unit is first turned on, you can toggle through the TV out mode to get the correct signal for your display.  The multiple output types allow you to connect to all types of TVs from standard NTSC to 1080p HDTV. With a hard drive installed, it's ideal for the road as a portable video server.  

The file system is fairly PC centric, but the interface is easily mastered. 

 

The TViX works well as a music streamer with Internet Radio, I personally appreciate the ability to play my FLAC files.  Screenshot above shows the available connection choices, internal hard disk, network, and USB.  

Files are transferred to the hard drive (optional) in the TViX either via USB 2.0 connection to a computer or over the network using the TViX built-in FPT server.  The TViX works with both PC and Mac, the SATA controller (TViX M4000PA uses IDE) is compatible with 750GB and larger hard disks, but heat should be considered when installing large drives with higher power requirements.

 Performance 

TViX-HD is a versatile decoder, able to play many formats and files at up to around 30Mbps.  Its up-converted 1080p video quality rivals HTPC and some serious scalers, although lacking some features found in high priced video-processors.  

The display controls are basic and simple to setup, the audio can be a little more complex especially with HDMI as an option, but anyone with a receiver or pre/pro should find the configuration a breeze.  The TViX has both Toslink and S/PDIF ports as well as Analog L+R RCA jacks to cover all bases.    

One quirk of the current Sigma based streamers to note, when playing consecutive files they  pause breifly at all file transitions.  This is a problem for multiple-file recordings and music that continues unbroken into the next track.  There are file utilities that can fix many of these issues, so remember to create single video file when possible.

Add  a SATA hard drive and the optional tuner to TViX for recording over-the-air (OTA) HDTV broadcasts.  The scheduling is done via an on-screen guide based the program information embedded in most local broadcasts, not the best solution but typical of OTA tuners.  

The TViX-HD does not directly offer wireless networking, but it does support WiFi connection via external USB adapters, such as the LinkSys WUSB54GC (per DVICO website-I have not tried this). Also, a WiFi upgrade module is in the works, but it will take the same space as the HDTV tuner that's infinitely much cooler.  Furthermore, if you store and play HD files, WiFi-at least through the "g" flavor- is a non-starter as it lacks sufficient bandwidth for HDTV transport streams and other high bitrate files.    

TViX is Mac compatible on drives formatted as FAT32 partition, though that is not recommended for Windows because of its maximum 4GB file size limitation.  Once the hard disk is installed in the TViX, use USB 2.0 to connect and format the drive as an NTFS partition with the Windows Disk Management utility.

DVICO provides Netshare utility for NFS connection to a Windows based PC as an alternative to standard Windows file sharing, called "SMB" or "Samba".  With the ReadyNAS or other NFS supporting server, simply choose the "Normal" network-share setting in the TViX to get smooth playback of high-bitrate files.

The TViX handles DVD and transport stream files with ease, but H.264 support is still in development stages and will fail to play some file types.  Problems have been reported, such as when displaying large jpeg files or some A/V file formats.  But easy-to-install firmware updates to address many of thse have been frequent, so the number of issues is declining.  

Conclusion

The TViX is a perfect companion to Home Theater PCs and other recording-capable products such as the R5000 and similar devices that create transferable files.  It's small and portable, and puts out surprisingly stable and well scaled video.  The box is fairly responsive to its remote control, which is provided with oodles of shortcut functions. 

For centralized multimedia storage, the TViX is a nearly ideal solution that is relatively family friendly, but flexible enough for the inveterate tinkerer.

-KC

    

  

 
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Network Media Player

     
New TViX S1 Slim Media Player is the new affordable unit that does it all.  Great file support, good functions with WebRemote and screwless hard drive bay.    
Supports Blu-Ray, MPEG-2, .TS, H.264, .MKV, FLV, RMBV and much more!

TViX S1 Slim
 
 

 

 

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