A number of media players have been crossing the desks of DigitalReviews lab in recent times. The latest unit is the Avedia MP7220 DVB-T Media Center. However, under the hood the Avedia MP7220 is not just your ordinary media player.
With thanks to Avedia for providing the unit, let's read on to see what puts it firmly ahead of the pack and how it fares.
On surface the Avedia MP7220 has the look and feel of a thick novel both in size and weight. The unit has a jet black appearance, the bulk of it with a smooth gloss finish which is amply protected by plastic wrap in the packaging. A small strip of matte black plastic adorns the front with silver lettering proclaiming "Full HD Media Center". On the fascia there is a USB port and a SD/MMC/MS media slot, along with a few backlit indicators.
The back of the unit bristles with connectors and ports. There is a mini-USB port, Comp In, AV In, Comp Out, AV Out, HDMI, Optical, SPDIF, LAN, 2 standard USB, TV/DTV In and Out and a power jack. Reading through that list gives away the point of difference of the MP7220 - it has a digital tuner and is also a Network HDD Recorder!
Inside the unit there is room for a 3.5" SATA HDD supporting up to 1.5 Tb of storage goodness. 802.11g wireless connectivity is provided by an external USB adaptor which is in the 80s computer standard drab grey. On the other hand it can be hidden one of the back USB ports so you don't have to worry about how it mars the finish of the unit.
The remote control is a pretty full featured affair, although given the amount of functions the MP7220 performs it does not seem excessive.
The physical connectivity is easy to complete. Antenna cable into the TV/DTV in port, HDMI cable into the HDMI port, wireless USB key and that part is completed. The MP7220 fires up remarkably quickly and is ready for action in XX seconds from a cold start.
As for the tuner part all I had to do was to go into the setup portion of the system and instruct it to perform an automatic scan. It took a few minutes but was a painless process to complete. So far everything has gone smoothly.
Most of my media resides on a bunch of hard disks hanging off a server so network connectivity is important. The wireless dongle was easy to configure with the on-screen keyboard although having to use the CAPS key for capitals and Shift for symbols instead of the Shift to get a single capital letter was a little annoying. There is nothing greatly wrong with the on-screen keyboard a la the Astone unit, but personally I like the iBox's keyboard implementation much better.
The next challenge was to gain access to the share on my test domain controller. Despite having the options for domain, I could not convince the Avedia unit to connect to my Win2k3 domain. In the end I resort to copying some files to an USB drive instead.
The home menu of the MP7220 is a bit different from all the other media players I have reviewed to date. For starters it defaults initially to "Video In" which in my case is the tuner. The Source button on the remote control changes the mode from analogue TV to digital TV. The Digital Program Guide works as long as you are currently playing a DTV channel.
The browser option is not a web browser but a file system explorer giving access to files stored on USB, (media) Card, HDD or compatible network share. A playlist can also be created here to facilitate media playback. By default this screen displays all supported media but scrolling to the right will filter it by Music, Photos and Movies. For video files there is a slight delay as the file is analysed and then previewed on the screen.
Other options on the home screen are File Copy, Setup and Timer. The File Copy allows transfers between any supported devices (listed above) and also ability to delete files.
The file format support list whilst is not exhaustive, caters for a fair number of popular media files. There is no direct support for RM, WMV, H.264 and MKV, this requires a Transcode Server. The lack of direct MKV support is disappointing considering that the unit bills itself as a HD media center.
The Timer menu allows the set up of recording schedule in a relatively straightforward manner. You chose the channel, date, time, duration, storage media and confirm the scheduling. With a 1 Tb internal hard disk installed Avedia claims up to 232 recording hours of HQ video. Avedia confirms that it is possible to record to USB devices with the MP7220. This can be done by selecting USB in the time scheduler, or in the setup menu and default the recording media to USB. This will then work with the REC button on the remote control. The scheduling screen displays the amount of internal free disk space left and an estimate of recording hours left depending on quality, it does not appear to do the same for USB media so it would be wise to ensure you have plenty of space for your recordings.
The MP7220 features a built-in Bit Torrent client along with NAS support which permits access to the internal HDD over the network.
An internal fan works to keep the unit cool and is remarkably quiet.
There were a number of gripes for the MP7220. There is no physical power button to turn the unit on and off. Instead there is a standby mode but you are recommended to unplug the power source if there is to be no activity for an extended period. For me that is usually a guarantee that the power plug will fall behind somewhere difficult to retrieve.
The network support for domains does not seem to work. It works for simple share though.
Lastly and the most disappointing omission is the lack of direct MKV support.
Tuner: Hybrid DVB-T / Analog tuner built in
Video record format: Support D1 resolution (NTSC-720x480,30fps or PAL-720x576,25fps), Preset time recording DVB-T Signal recording : Support MPEG2 HD TS recording
Audio record format: ADPCM Video:MPEG4-SP@L3
Schedule recordings: Directly based on channel, date, and start/stop times, including daily and weekly repeats
Time shift: Yes
EPG function: Yes
Video playback format: Video HDTV (1920*1080i): Support AVI,MPEG,VOB,ASF,IFO,DAT,MP4,TS,DivX HD,Xivd; On-line playback - H.264,RM, RMVB, MKV (for PC streaming)
Audio playback format: MPEG3,WMA,PCM,WAV, Dolby AC3
Picture: JPG,BMP, Support Photo with Music slide show, Resolution Up to 1080i, High Resolution Zoom In
Subtitle support: SRT,SSA,SMI format
Music playback format: MP3,WMA,PCM, OGG
File format: FAT32, NTFS
Built-in HDD capacity: 3.5inch Support SATA Capacity up to 1.5TB
Card reader: 3-in-1(SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro/MS), Support Hi-Speed SD card & SD HC
USB2.0(480Mbps): Host x 3 Port
Mini USB: Device x 1 port (link to PC)
Video (In/Out): NTSC/PAL
Audio (In/Out): 2 channels stereo in/output
S/PDIF (Coaxial): AC-3/DTS pass through, Coaxial (Dolby 5.1 sound channel)
Component In: Y,Pb,Pr ( SDTV ),NTSC/PAL , 480i, 480p
Component Out: Y,Pb,Pr ( HDTV ),NTSC/PAL , 720p,1080i
HDMI / Digital Out: Connect with PC Monitor ,LCD or PLASMA TV
Wired LAN: 10/100 Mbps
USB Wireless LAN: 802.11g (Optional)
Remote control: Infra-red
Language: English, Japanese, French , Korean, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Russia, Traditional/Simple Chinese
AC adapter: 100~240V ,12V/3A
PC System: Microsoft Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP/ Vista / MAC OS, Pentium III, 500 MHz or higher
Dimensions: 206 x 54 x 145 mm (HxWxD)
Weight: 0.95 kg (w/o HDD)
The Avedia MP7220 DVB-T Media Center held a lot of promises when I first tackled the unit in review. Setting itself apart from other units with the built-in hybrid DVB-T / analog tuner, it seems to be a great step forward to a convergence in media recording and playback. As I dig deeper into the functions though, there are a number of flaws which crippled its usefulness in my particular environment.
Most notably the issues I had the most difficulties overlooking was the lack of direct MKV support for high definition media.
On a brighter node however, all the hardware is already in place for the MP7220 and a good firmware update would be able to resolve the majority of these issues. Also deserving a special mention, a bit of effort has been put into the user manual as it is remarkably well written without the fairly usual bad english (even by my English as a second language standards!) and spelling mistakes that is so common with equipment originating from Asia.
If your needs is for a set top tuner with recording ability and some fundamental basic media playback, then the Avedia MP7220 DVB-T Media Center is worthy of consideration. Conversely if you are a hardcore media fanatic then the small file format support would simply fail to make the cut. The MP7220 is just not quite there, I would love to see some firmware updates that will take full advantage of the hardware, although it is my understanding that the Realtek 1262 chipset cannot support MKV file format.
The Avedia MP7220 DVB-T Media Center is available here (without hard disk) for a special price of AUD$340.00 (about USD 300) with a bonus 802.11g wireless adapter. Standard price is AUD$450 for the unit without hard drive and $45 for the wireless dongle.