Tuesday, June 29, 2010

HDX BD-1 Part 1

Ok, I am done for Dune Prime 3.0, it should have arrived in Singapore safely and may be my brother is enjoying the high definition movies with it now. But there are still 2 gadgets eagerly waiting for exposure after Dune, let's continue with one of them first...


The HDX BD-1 bluray media player.

This box should have reached my table 4 months ago. Damn! There's an incident which I can't reveal until I settle it. Never mind, let's unbox what I have now in hands...


The manual, remote controller, the player, HDMI cable and the power brick. So the first noticeable difference is that this player has a power brick compare to Dune which is built in. And from the manual...


Support Bluray profile 2.0? Sound promising.

I also made a quick comparison before the Dune went to the island...




BD-1 is much smaller but the RC is a little longer. It still fits into the palm and fingers perfectly due to its well designed contour and curve...


Not only that, it is also an illuminated RC...




I like this useful feature very much. Imagine you're watching movie in the dark.

Now look at the metal box itself...


Nothing at the front panel except a red/blue LED indicator and a transparent window for RC infrared sensor. It's matte metal built. Solid feel but it feels hollow and with some metal squeaking noise when you shake it. This is because of this...


Slide the cover on one side, you expose the hollow stomach for an 3.5" internal HDD with the SATA cable hanging in there. If you are going to use this player for other functions like BT download, you will need an internal HDD. Notice the upside down text "Produced in HK"? Since it's Hong Kong product, I hope this is sorta the "guarantee" that this player would unconditionally support Chinese characters, unlike the case I had with Dune Prime.

Now turn to the backside...


Left to right and top to bottom sequence: reset button, power connector, Gigabit ready LAN and 2 x USB 2.0, e-SATA, HDMI 1.3, composite AV and component, coaxial and Toslink SPDIF audio out. The compact design is incapable of hosting 7.1 analog audio Dune Prime does. It support downmix (from 7.1 or 5.1 to L-R stereo) though.

Last, it's worth to mention the power adapter...


Since this player is compact in design and without any LED screen on the front panel. The LED indicator on the power brick is useful during troubleshooting and diagnostic time.

Stop for now. To be continued...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

MP#5 - Renovation Begins

Finally, after so many surveys, shortlists, interviews, RFQ etc etc, the renovation begins! It's easy to just say "you can start work tomorrow" but don't expect the workers would start drilling here and there on the very next day. If you're getting a good (in term of quality, service and $$) contractor, you may need to fit his/her busy schedule than he/she fits your schedule. In addition, you may be struggling to get him/her begin working on your house if your renovation work is of the "low value project" (just touch up here and there). This is common from my experience. Bottom line, it's an art and intelligence to deal/manage the contractor. To me, it's damn bloody exhaustive~

Whatever. Let's get dirty to visit the site...



Tools and materials to get started. Electric work is always the first to start. Or simply, whatever cables/wires you want to add and conceal must start first...




Additions of power points. A proper electric work is to run the wires in the conduit pipes. An experienced contractor or electrician should ask your usage (or you should tell him/her clearly) on the power point before he/she starts laying wires. For instance, if you are going to use appliance with high power rating i.e. oven with that power point, he/she should not loop the power source from the nearby power point but lay a new wire to draw power from the main source, which is the distribution box.

Next, plan other cables as well. Telephone, water heater, air cond, network, neutral (for advanced switch), Astro etc etc...




T/P for telephone, N for network. Go for CAT6 if you have extra to thrash, though CAT5e should be more than enough for home use especially in Bulleh Land where we are still on snail broadband. Oh, ask the contractor to make an active conceal box (basically to reserve extra pipes in the wall) if you plan to subscribe to Unifi so you can conceal the orange fiber cable later, and you will need a network point at the TV area for the set top box. Also, if you plan to subscribe Astro b.yond, get the RG6 cable.

That's all I have for sharing in the middle of the night. There are many more but my brain is BSOD now. Good luck to me...


Ah~ Saw rainbow when left the house. I think tomorrow will be better. 明天会更好...

Friday, June 25, 2010

HDMI Cable

Most HD media players bundle a HDMI cable in length of 1-1.5m in the box. That's enough if you have a simple setup, media player - HDMI - TV. If you have advanced setup with AV receiver, then you will need two: media player - HDMI - AV receiver - HDMI - TV. And depending on how far away the media player and the TV, the bundled cable may not be long enough. Therefore you would need to buy a new one.

Since my setup will have an AV receiver and it's far apart with the display, I need to get a long one for AV receiver - HDMI - TV. And since I am getting a better HDMI cable recommended by an audiophile, so I decided to get also a short one for media player - HDMI - AV receiver to replace the bundled one. After some online shopping and survey, I ordered the cable from a website (also recommended by the audiophile), and within 7 days I received my package...


Unbox it...


The Wireworld Chroma 6 HDMI 1.4 cable. Top is a meter in length and bottom is a 12m roll.

Some key features are printed on the package shown above, few more features here...



3D ready!! Oh yeah, I am also "researching" the 3D thingy...


Back to the cable, here's some shots on the cable...





Solid built. A flat body designed for in-wall conceal use and rated UL-CL3/FT4. Don't ask me what and how's that rate defined. I am still a newbie in this AV world and still learning.

No review on the cable as I am still learning and yet to enjoy my setup. But I've seen some setups with normal and Wireworld HDMI cables, there's difference in picture clarity especially on a big screen setup. This is very subjective and a long debate in LYN forum. Perhaps "the beauty is in the eyes of beholder". :)

Then again, with help from the audiophile friend, I engaged the professional for installation of necessary before I begin my renovation...


The 12m HDMI cable is now in the conduit and the white pole. As I paid a premium for it, I do not want to conceal it into the wall and want to be able to retreat it in the future if need to. Anyway, it would be hidden after the renovation. Notice the yellow ruler on the ladder? It's a level ruler to get a perfect installation. Awesome work by serious professionals!



If you're into AV world and looking for good and value stuff, check out Apollo AV online store. Good response and excellent customer service and the store does ship to Bulleh Land. Plus, free shipping via USPS Priority Mail Service for purchase over USD$200 (unsure if it's promotion or permanent policy). Some people worry about USPS service. From my experience, USPS Priority is sent via POS Laju and you can track the parcel at USPS website and here when it arrived in Bulleh Land using the same tracking number from USPS. Here's a sample of tracking result...


You can call up Pos Hotline 1 300 300 300 once arrived at the processing center to check further i.e. expected delivery date and time or arrange for self pickup.

Next phase? I hope I am not running out of budget. It's gonna be a month or two before the final installation takes place.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

HDI Dune Prime 3.0 Part 4

There are few items to follow up after the third post on Dune Prime. It sounds awkward to test a bluray player without playing bluray discs on the player. So I picked up few discs for testing...


When inserted the disc, you will get this...


Very Windows-like right? You insert a disc to your PC, you get some sort of similar prompt in Windows. Just one press on the Enter button on the RC and the disc will start spinning.

Nothing surprise. The disc start playing with previews and teasers if any then the movie menu just like the DVD menu. One thing worth noting is the noise coming out from the bluray drive. The spinning sound is quite loud if there's no sound from the movie and you're sitting close to the player. Not a big deal though. The other thing I observed was the shuddering playback during startup. Perhaps the player is catching up the spinning momentum and to cache the data into the buffer. After all the bluray playback is a pleasant one until I insert the third disc...


Violation?! Hello, the disc is original from Amazon.com! Then the screen went blank after I pressed Stop on the RC. I tried to shut it down using the Power button on the RC and I was greeted with this message on the player...


This message was followed quickly by RESTART. And? The player rebooted itself and returned to the Home screen. I ejected the disc, reinserted but still the same result. I then powered down with the power button on the player, whacked the player with some vulgar words :P, powered it up, reinserted the disc and finally the disc begun to play!

Yes, the movie start playing! Strange right? The movie should not play no matter how many times I reinsert the disc, if there's really a security violation. Like DVD, bluray disc also comes with region code protection. Meaning, an Asia region player will not be able to play bluray released in North America and vice versa. This player was bought from overseas, I can't be sure its origin. But, think about it. If this player is coded as Asia or Europe region, then all discs must not play at all since the discs were from North America. Similarly, if the player is from North America, then why "security violation" for North America discs? Bottom line, hopefully this can be addressed in upcoming firmware release and an option to allow users to select the region (for 1 or 2 times) should be included so that it does not stop users to buy online from other region.

Other than the violation error, BD Live feature is also not available in bluray disc. I guess it may be due to hardware limitation after a search on google to check the hardware specification and wikipedia on Bluray profile 2.0 requirements. Like I mentioned in 2nd post, an internal harddisk may be able to address the storage limitation to support higher profile.

I think that's all for the test. I wish but I doubt I would have time to unpack my AV receiver for further tests on decoding such as decode of Dolby TrueHD and whatnot. I learned from forumers in MPC Club that the player is capable to passthrough TrueHD and HD-MA without glitches. So I would take that as the test result.

Conclusion? This player is yet to be developed to its fullest potential and the developers look to be very aggressive in releasing new firmware and features, there's even a feature voting page! So IMHO, it's worth invest to take home one. In addition, its RM1388 price tag makes it the cheapest bluray player in the market, cheaper than PS3. Where did I get it? It's a "friend price", you can try to hunt in LYN forum, the price may be same or slightly higher.

Anyway, this player is not going to sit in my Mega Project's living hall, it's gonna to be "shipped" to Singapore for my brother this weekend. He is not as hardcore as me, this player should fit his plasma for a simple setup just like what I had for the test. Hopefully, the little darling would also enjoy watching HD cartoons using this player. :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

HDI Dune Prime 3.0 Part 3

First, I will run through USB playback test. Well, nothing big deal here as this is the basic that a player must handle well. Following that the tests will be direct streaming from my NAS, the central storage for all my data.

You may wonder why there is no USB icon on the main screen if you are observant to scan through every photo in the previous post. That's because I did not plug in any USB drive. Once plugged, there you go...


Press the Enter button on the RC will bring you into explorer view shown below, the view is configurable through the Appearance setup though...


Notice the different icons? Closer view...


The first 2 is just like ordinary folder icon whereas the third is a different one that indicates a Bluray folder (or Bluray disc structure). Let's get to the first folder first, we will get to Bluray matter later...


Now the file icon is a film roll, that indicates a playable movie file (in fact, this is a sample 1080p mkv file). The file name will scroll automatically if it's too long to display. One click away to play the file...


There is a blank screen of about 4-5 seconds to load the movie, DViCO 7000a has the same delay but at least there's a message "loading..." to prompt the user. During playback, you can change some playback setting such as toggle between audio streams and subtitles with the RC...


Beside the forward button, you can also fast forward with the right (or left to rewind) directional key in increment of 10 seconds...


All the basic (and must have) controls play well. Let's move on to the other mkv file...


Another 5 seconds of blank screen before the explorer screen reappear. In the explorer view as shown above, it not only lists the movie file but also other file types, you can differentiate it with the icon. Now play this mkv which is a sample of a Chinese movie...


Okay, the Chinese subtitle does not display properly, it comes out as ?????. It's an external SRT file. Changing the encoding in Miscellaneous setup yields the same result. Sigh. A big big no, but I will hold it until I try the same file with a different player, it could be a problem of the subtitle file.

Exit to the explorer view. Press the Pop Up Menu button on the RC brings you a familiar Windows-right-click context menu...


So this player has the basic file management ability. This is good, for instance, you can delete the file right after you're done with the movie. One thing I observe here is this player does not prompt whether to start playback from beginning or resume from last view point when you replay the movie. It's either auto resume or never depending on what you set in the Playback options in Miscellaneous setup. Also, if you have "Enable Subtitle by default" enabled in Playback options, you can only change the subtitle from one language to another but not able to adjust the other option like font size during playback. Disable that will not play the subtitle automatically but allow you to enter subtitle option.

Now try on the Bluray folder, this prompt pops up when click on the folder...


You're given option to open the folder in explorer view or to play the folder like a Bluray disc. Similar prompt when open DVD folder. Let's play it...


Look like not a good sign with this message. This Bluray title was bought recently from Amazon.com (dirt cheap!!) and ripped to the hard disk (digress a bit here, buy online is much cheaper than buy locally here which a title can cost you RM99 or more!). Meaning, the disc requires later version of Bluray Profile, there may be hardware limitation on this player to enjoy the additional interactive features. Nonetheless, the player is still capable to continue playing the movie without hiccup (movie menu then play).

Click on the Setup button brings up the contrast/hue/brightness and click on the Pop Up Menu button brings you the movie menu while the movie is still playing. When try on another Bluray movie, message above does not show up in this title. Other Bluray feature like U Control (PiP, Picture in Picture) is supported but not BD Live...


I will need to try it out the original disc. Likewise, Bluray in ISO format plays well by the player too.

That concludes the playback test and I am moving onto network test now. Click on Network Browser > SMB > Your workgroup > Shared server.


Direct browsing by SMB doesn't seem to work. So I go back to the main scree (home screen), press Pop Up Menu button and select New Network Folder...


New icon appears on the main screen. I like this feature as it allows you to specify the name you like to display on your main screen and not limited to the shared folder name that you connect to, as some times the shared folder name does not really make sense when appear on the player screen.

Click on the new icon brings you to the shared folder, if configured properly...



No problem playing back through SMB. Let's try with NFS protocol...


Select NFS instead of SMB and try with UDP before you try TCP option. The mount path (folder patch) is case sensitive. Check your NFS server for the mount path. I mount it to my Chinese movie collection and here's the result...


Bad bad bad. Just like the subtitle test above, the player does not support Chinese characters! Let's try another few...



Only the subtitle in Bluray titles play successfully. Other external or internally encoded (in mkv files) Chinese subtitles are either displayed in da Vinci codes or not detected at all! In addition, the player pauses in black screen for a second of two when you have a movie split into 2 files in the same folder. There's no seamless playback to play multiple files into a single stream. The playback is also shuddering when streaming high quality MPG and TS files, I have to stop and replay to get a smooth streaming. Hmmm... I have to get another player to find out if this is due to the 100Mbps network I have now.

One last test on the network is the UPnP feature. I enabled UPnP server on my NAS, go to Network Browser > UPnP > NAS...



Again, Chinese characters become ???. Dune Prime has no problem streaming mkv file via UPnP but Bluray files are transcoded (from m2ts) to mpg format, therefore you lose all the bluray quality outputs and features. Other UPnP features highly depend on the server, I believe the baseline here is that the player is capable of UPnP.

Look like there are more to discover and need to get back Bluray disc for testing too. Short conclusion for now, this player is quite decent in supporting many different file types, flawless on most aspect but some hiccups (playback mpg file) which I believe upcoming firmware will be able to address it. The big draw back is the Chinese character (or Unicode support) support. I suspect the support is already there (since Chinese subtitle in Bluray displays perfectly) but needing some tweaks to make it work outside of Bluray.

Stop for now. Not sure if I would have time to CSI further. Till then, I will share more discoveries.

p/s: copyright of the scenes sampled in this post belongs to respective owners/companies. It's illustrated here for testing purpose only.