Media Servers

HD Digitech HDX900 HDTV Media Streamer

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

Setting it all up turned out to be a bit different than described in the manual, which describes a combination of two key presses that can preset the unit to specific settings (e.g., TV-OUT and then a number). However, the functionality described in the manual has since been changed and only TV-OUT + 0 (auto) worked correctly. Once I had the video running, I could start configuring it.

The setup seems a bit more like a configuring Windows software than that of a consumer device intended for the living room. However, anyone who is computer literate will immediately catch on and be able to configure this product. There are lots of different video configurations possible, and it should be noted that switching from 50Hz to 60Hz is not done automatically but needs to be done manually (this is on the company's to-do list for changes).

The back hosts several outputs, including network (10/100Mbps Ethernet), two USB cables (for flash USB keys, or external drives), an eSATA connection (no documentation was available about this, I'm assuming this will allow you to connect the internal drive as an external SATA drive to a host PC), HDMI 1.1 output and analog and digital audio outputs. The unit also hosts an VGA connector which can work as either component or VGA (no adapter was available, but breakout cables can be easily obtained).

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What's missing? I would have liked the unit to have separate preamp outputs for audio, and a USB host connection for attaching the unit to a computer (although this might not be usable, as you will read later on).

The front panel of the HDX900 is quite minimalist and contains an On-Off button, two LEDs, and an IR receiver. A small LCD display in front could prove useful in setting up the unit as well as accessing audio, but this is obviously a device mostly intended for video playback. When the unit is fully off, it does not emit any light. When turned on, a red LED light turns on, which is way too bright for my eyes and seemed quite distracting. The company does plan to address this in a future hardware release. After two days of use, I had to put some black tape over it. Strangely enough, when set to standby mode, the unit lights up two different color LEDs, both are also too distracting for me when watching a movie.

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The unit is able to pick up content from the network coming in quite a few varieties. It detected computers on the network which were sharing data using SMB shares (simple window shares), but for some reason, I had to define these manually to actually see their contents. This could be because my network is domain based, so a simple peer-to-peer (workgroup) home network should work well. In any case, once defined, I could access my network computers easily and view their contents.

The HDX900 also detects NFS and UP&P shares (both are high speed shares that can come from Network Attached Storage devices like Netgear's ReadyNAS devices). DLNA shares are also shared using software like Windows Media Player. All you need to do is set Windows Media Player to share its contents over the network and everything gets configured automatically. The unit can also pick up content directly from the Internet (YouTube services and other services are accessible directly!) and from USB attached storage as well as the internal drives. Media sources are added automatically to the list as they are detected, so in some cases it takes a few seconds from the time you turn on the unit until you see all of them.

So, video can come from either the Internet, USB based flash, or the network. Playback supports most major formats, including the infamous DIVX, its HD replacement: MKV, DVDs (menus, et al.), high definition recordings (MPEG-2, TS, H264) and Blu-ray files (MT2S) as well as high quality HDV recordings in AVCHD M2TS formats.