CDFreaks presents the Helios X5000 HD Network Media Player Review

vbimport

#1

The full review of the player can be read here.

Feel free to comment or ask questions about the review or player here.


#2

woooot :iagree:

Supported Audio formats: Audio CD, WMA / WMA Pro, MP3, MPEG / MPEG-2, [B]FLAC[/B], AAC & Ogg Vorbis

You can put on a DVD disc 4 GB of FLAC files and store in a safe place all your audio CDs :bigsmile:

Thanks for the review Seán :slight_smile:

:bow: :bow: :bow:


#3

Great review, quite a lot of work.
However, I could not find a price quoted anywhere in the review (maybe I missed it), so I searched for the manufacturer and found that it is only available in the US for 579 bucks.
I would not mind paying that much for a machine that offers so much, compared to my Kiss 600 and PixelMagic MB100, which each have many problems and limitations. But I’m not in the US. :doh:


#4

Thanks for the appreciation :wink:

So far I have only seen this product on sale on main NeoDigits website. However, you’ll have to keep your eye out for when the stock comes in, as each time I’ve seen it in stock, it is sold out very quickly. On the other hand, the price has been fairly stable with it being $579 for the past couple of months from what I recall. Unlike Blu-ray & HD DVD players where most of the cost is on the relatively new blue laser diodes and thus significantly affect the player’s price, with this player, it is the professional-level components that make up its cost.

Just out of curiosity, are there any issues you have encountered with your two players that I can try testing for on this player? For example, if you use a particular audio or video encoder or certain encoding settings that give bother, I can try creating an audio or video encoding based on these to try on this player. As you may have noticed, I also covered quite a number of audio & video encodings on the ‘Advanced Tests’ page of my review. However, I still have the player handy to carry out additional tests.

Assuming you get an average of ~60% compression with FLAC, you’ll get just over 12 hours of music on one DVD :slight_smile: Based an average of 1 hour of music per album, a small spindle of 25 DVDs would be enough to hold around 300 CDs of albums, assuming the albums contain an hour of music per disc on average.

On the other hand, once you get familiar with playing music over the network or from a USB HDD, I’m sure you would think twice of loading a disc if you can browse your music library directly. The network is also very handy when it comes to downloaded content, since if I point NeoLink to my download folder, once a download completes, I can bring it up on the player straight away, assuming it is compatible with the player.

The following shows an example when I add a link to my CD music library (camera pointed directly at my TV). In the HD text mode such as on a HDTV display, the full folder and track names are generally visible due to the smaller text.

One thing to note is that this player is fairly tall, so if you have a basic TV cabinet like the one I have in the following screenshot as an example, you may only be able to fit a slimline set-top box (such as a satellite receiver, DVD recorder, etc.) on top of it. The following image also shows an example of a folder listing of FLAC encoded tracks:


#5

ok, now I’m officially drooling :bigsmile:


#6

Some experiences with my two media players (not much info about formats, as I have given up trying anything that I am not sure they play):

The PixelMagic MB100 is only a player with optional internal HDD but no dvd player. It does not support Upnp. It supports Samba, but you can not specify a username/pw. This means that I can not see any media files on my Freecom FSG NAT server, so I only use a USB HDD.
I never know what the PixelMagic will play or not. I supports .ts streams, but often rejects Xvid or mpeg files, or plays them without sound. Flac is supposed to work, but the menu structure and playing options are such a hassle that I never play music on it.

The Kiss dp-600 is a dvd player with network support which can play media from a Upnp server like Twonky. However, both the dvd player and Upnp network support are very flakey so I also use a USB HDD with this machine.
I prefer the Kiss as it plays almost any tv-show that I download (mostly 800 MB files in Xvid 720p with AAC 5.1, or 400 MB files in Xvid 640 pixels wide with MP3 stereo sound). Also, it shows file names of any length that I have tried and the menu’s and remote work quickly. Music options are very limited, no Flac or anything.

It would be nice to be able to play my Flac/Ape collection over a wireless network and for instance in random order from a number of different folders. This is impossible with the PixelMagic. The problem with my Kiss is that the connection to a Twonky server gets lost after a while and I have to reset the player, often several times, and reconnect. This can take half an hour.


#7

This player will work from the NeoLink PC software, Windows Media Connect and uPnP devices. For example, it should work fine with Twonky. Unfortunately, Samba shares are not supported by this player. For example, if you have a NAS server without uPnP, the only way to access content on the player is by creating a ‘watch’ link in NeoLink’s PC software to point to the NAS or sharing out the network drive with Windows Media Connect.

Going by the file encodings you mention, it has no problems with XviD 720p encoded files, as well files I’ve come across so far encoded in 640x480 and 528x576, including with AC3 5.1, MP3 or multiple sound tracks. However, it does not seem to support subtitles, at least from my tests, i.e. it will play the files, but shows ‘Invalid’ if I press the subtitle button. Browsing content is much like browsing a hierarchy on a PC. For example, if I put plug in a USB disk containing a folder of TV recordings, from the root listing I select the USB drive, select the folder, select the title of a recording I’m interested in and press ‘OK’.

If you have music compressed in the APE lossless format, you’ll need to convert them to FLAC to play on this player. On the other hand, at least unlike WMA, MP3, etc. converting from one lossless format to another does not result in any loss of quality. :wink:

So far I have watched a handful of XviD and MPEG2 encoded TV programmes on the player streamed over my Wi-Fi network with NeoLink running on a Wi-Fi connected PC. While I very rarely experience a drop-out, the Wi-Fi access point or router needs to be reliable (not requred for an ‘Ad Hoc’ network). For example, if I used my old D-Link DI-624 Wi-Fi router, which has a bad reputation for dropping connections and randomly rebooting, the playback would often break up or stop altogether, like if I try playing back from a Wi-Fi laptop using that router. My current D-Link DGL-4300 gaming router so far has very rarely resulted in a drop-out. I also had the Club977 MP3 Internet radio station playing for part of the evening (over Wi-Fi) without any drop-out.

While I haven’t actually used a Kiss network DVD player, to me it seems rather unusual for your player to take up to half an hour to get a connection. As a quick test, I fully turned off the player and timed how long it takes from powering it on to the time it displays the list of network sources (as online). For me it took ~34 seconds using a stopwatch. According to Helios Labs, the player runs on an embedded Linux OS, which explains why it takes ~30 seconds to ‘boot’ unlike a basic DVD player.

When it comes to stability, generally the only time I had the player crash is on occasion if I try changing the video output mode while playing a DVD. For curiosity, I tried three simulated Wi-Fi drop-out tests to see what effect it has on the player while playing a 720x480 NTSC XviD file (3Mbps average bitrate):

[ol]
[li]On the first test, I disabled the Wi-Fi connection on the PC. After about 6 seconds, the picture on the player froze. Once I enabled the connection, the playback continued shortly after the PC showed the “Connected to…” balloon. I retried this test with a ~4Mbps PAL MPEG2 encoding (captured from a satellite TV channel) with the same result.
[/li][li]This time, I unscrewed the player’s antenna. Like the first test, the picture froze after a couple of seconds, but resumed playback within a few seconds of screwing back in the antenna.
[/li][li]Finally, I unscrewed the player’s antenna once again and this time left it off for over a minute. After about 30 seconds, the player displayed the writing “Connection Lost” while still showing the frozen picture. However, like the second test, once I screwed the antenna back in, the playback resumed after a couple of seconds.
[/li][/ol]
If the playback has become permanently frozen, such as if the PC is switched off, it is still possible to return to the main content source menu.

Now that you mention of drop-outs, I’ll be sure to try simulated drop out tests if I do another review of a Wi-Fi enabled network media player. :slight_smile:


#8

Thanks for the extra info. :slight_smile:

Samba is not necessary for me, as my NAS offers Twonky as well (and FTP, HTTP, SSH). However, the PixelMagic MB100 only has Samba but in a non-standard way that does not work with my NAS. I think it is a serious omision to make a standalone media player that is not uPnP-capable.

I did not mean to say that the Kiss takes half an hour to make contact, this is done very quickly. (I have a very good Netgear pre-N wireless router, which works fine with the Kiss.)
I was referring to the fact that whenever something goes wrong, the Kiss needs to be reset/restarted (which can take several attempts, each around the same time you mention for the Helios, but sometimes much longer). Then I have to establish connection to Twonky, which only works half the time. If not, I have to reconnect to my network and that means entering the WiFi/WPA details again with an on screen keyboard. :Z
For instance, when I change directory in Twonky, the Kiss freezes and I have to start all over. Internet radio will also freeze the Kiss. This is a well known Kiss problem, which Linksys has promised to fix with a new firmware but that was last year… Maybe March.
As long as I stick with USB HDD, no problem… very good quality, great remote (light, intuitive, and I can point it anywhere in the room) and lots of options for playback, info, zoom etc. (though not as many as the Helios). :slight_smile:

I just get so bored schlepping the USB drive between rooms when I have access (both wired and wireless) to a NAS server with over a terabyte of media (internal HDD, two USB drives and eSATA). :rolleyes:


#9

I’ll wait for a x264 and VC1 capable streamer thanks :wink:


#10

I realize this was posted a month ago however, I’ve just ordered my X5000 via one of two authorized resellers represented via Amazon. I chose the one I did as they have a 30 day, unconditional money back guarantee without a restocking fee! This will give me enough time to make sure I can get the gear to work as I intend to use it, along with an Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ which is also currently on its way.

I am not endorsing either of these resellers as I’ve yet to receive my product. However, in sending both of them emails asking about return policies, ‘freshness’ of inventory, etc., I received favorable and quick responses. The price from these resellers is also quite a bit less than buying direct from NeoDigits …

HIDEF Lifestyles (who I ordered from) and

Electronica Direct

Hope this info is useful.

Regards,
David


#11

Yes, it is. :slight_smile:
Unfortunately, the first one only offers shipment to USA destinations and the second one charges $63 (or more) for shipment to Europe. I am still tempted, but I will probably resist the urge and wait a while…


#12

I converted the music videos in my iTunes to work on my iPod. In iTunes GetInfo, it shows as “MPEG-4 video file, 21.4 MB, 96 kbps bit rate, 44.1 kHz sample rate”. When I try to play it on NeoLink on my X5000 (wired ethernet), the video plays but there is no sound. I can understand not supporting DRM, but native formats SHOULD be supported.

I ripped all my CDs into iTunes as “AAC audio file, 128 kbps bitrate, 44.1 kHz sample rate”. When I open the file in NeoLink, it will not play any sound. When I press “Info” on the remote, I see “MP4”. I should not have to convert all my files to MP3!

So when I saw the review and it “passed” all MP4 formats, I thought maybe it’s just my box. I upgraded to the 07-Jan-8 Firmware on the first day I got the box.

Anyone else have the same experience?

~Eduardo


#13

Regarding WMV9-HD format: I downloaded a high-definition WMV9 video test file from Microsoft. It plays fine using Windows Media Player 11. But when I play it on Helios through NeoLink, the video skips every second or so and the audio does not play. When I press “Info” button on the remote, it says “ASF (WMV9 + WMA PRO”. When I play it on WinMediaPlayer11, it says “bitrate 4.8 Mbps, VideoSize 1280x720,VideoCodex WMV9Pro, AudioCodec WMV9Pro 384 kbps 5.1 channel 24-bit VBR”. Apparently, “WMA-PRO” audio format is not supported. Yet another “gotcha”. Sigh.

I’ve given up on NEOLINK Server and have switched over to WIZD. The interface is much better and quicker. But it’s still not polished enough! I wish someone would clone the AppleTV interface for MediaConnect! Anyone?


#14

So far, I haven’t tried encoding any videos in iTunes, however, my MP4 audio tests I carried out were encoded in iTunes, FAAC (a command line utility) and Nero. The samples encoded in iTunes and FAAC played fine, however, the Nero encoded samples were detected as video files due to the .mp4 file extension (i.e. the video section of Neolink). Here are the 96kbps and 192kbps test samples that were created in iTunes and also confirmed to play on my player:

http://upload.cdfreaks.com/seanbyrne/tests/itunes_96.m4a
http://upload.cdfreaks.com/seanbyrne/tests/itunes_192.m4a

I will try creating a test video clip in iTunes and in Nero Digital to see how these perform and if successful, I’ll post the samples here to try at your end. From what I recall, the player will play Nero Digital encoded video, but only if the audio is encoded as “Low Complexity” MPEG4.

I’m not quite sure why your WMV9 HD samples will not play smoothly over the wired network for you. I tried a handful of 720p and 1080p WMV HD trailers via wired, Wi-Fi, a USB HDD and from a DVD. I got the issue you mentioned when I tried playing any of the trailers over my Wi-Fi network, however, all played without a glitch when I used a wired ethernet connection and also from the USB HDD and the DVD (DVD-RW disc). The only equipment between my PC and the player is the D-Link DGL-4300 gaming router, where the PC and the player are connected to its switch ports.

On the other hand, I do find it quite odd that the player will play WMA Pro as part of a video stream, but not on its own. For example, the following is a 128kbps WMA Pro audio-only file created in Windows Media Encoder, which shows “Invalid WMA file” when I attempt to play it:

http://upload.cdfreaks.com/seanbyrne/tests/test_128_44sPro.wma