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TViX HD M-5000U High Definition Media Server

Part II

March, 2007

Ofer LaOr

 

In Use
 
Now that we know how to put content on the TiVX HD M-5000U, lets see how well the unit works.

First, the 5000 has lots of buttons on top, fitting a unit that is meant to be used as a media juke box. However, the functionality of those buttons and the strange design leaves much to be desired. I would hope that a more conventional design is in the works for DViCO's next generation products. The front display has a very simple look that befits a small harmless jukebox, rather than the HDTV powerhouse that the TViX 5000 is.

 
The old GUI (version 1.9.5 and below) is very simple and conventional, and can either work in normal (file browsing mode that any user that is familiar with a computer can use) or a more advanced jukebox design for more advanced users, one which uses an icon GUI that people can design by themselves by placing the right JPG images in the appropriate directories.

A better idea, which I hope DViCO should be aware of, is automatically generating the movie icons by downloading them straight from IMDB. My unit is certainly connected to the Internet, and many users would appreciate this added functionality (while others might not like their appliances informing IMDB what movies they're watching). For now, this solution is quite usable.

 
As I said, the 5000 supports quite a few video output options. I would assume SDTV outputs are not of much interest, as this unit was obviously designed with HDTV as its prime focus. The two output options that the unit sports for HDTV are the component and DVI outputs. I found the component HDTV output to be slightly better than mediocre but "nothing to write home about".

The DVI output is the real gem of this piece. It not only neglects to use the annoying HDCP and therefore is better at supporting, well . . . practically any display I tried it with. Using the TV mode button toggles typical ATSC resolutions until you see an image.

From the setup screen, one can pick additional resolutions (but only a select few, the resolution options should really be improved here!). The unit can default to 50 or 60 Hz, but has a unique feature of detecting the source file type and switching between 50 Hz and 60 Hz timing automatically. While other units either avoid touching this issue altogether (e.g., the Zensonic Z500) or use tricks to resolve this issue (e.g., the MB200), the TViX clearly comes out ahead for supporting European customers, as well as anyone needing 50 Hz sources - with proper genlock and perfect timing.

 
The combination of no HDCP and auto switching between 50 Hz and 60 Hz are two features that won me over with this unit.
 
In terms of Picture Quality (PQ), the TViX 5000 is pretty much identical to other Sigma design 862X chipset products. I tried the TViX5000 with two 1080P devices, the Sharp XV-Z21000 (European version of the XV-Z20000) and the Pioneer PDP5000EX (or 50FHD1 as it's called in the US). In both cases, 1080i content and particularly high bitrate content comes off in bright exceptional colors and fantastic detail.
 
Not all is well, however, and the unit does suffer from problems in the DVI output. It was rare to find a combination of player and display that actually worked when the unit was set to 1080p. I think DViCO was overly enthusiastic about support for 1080p. While I had no problems using 1080p output from units like the Pixel Magic MB200, the TViX5000 was incapable of doing the same - even when using high end cabling and the same display. The problem manifests itself in the dreaded "green sparklies" issue. In several cases, I had similar issues with the unit even using 1080i and 720p resolutions with some projectors (Mitsubishi). The unit requires a good DVI cable, so proper care should be applied.
 
Setting up the unit is pretty simple, as the GUI does not have complex features or terminology. The most complicated operation is setting up the network, which basically entails knowing the IP address of the computers and what networking format (SMB or NFS) they support.

The remote control is very good and supports both the TViX5000 and its tuner add-on units.

 
The 5000 supports a few aspect ratio options. More aspect and zoom controls are seriously missing, and although they are enough for most applications, I found myself wanting more control over zoom and aspect ratio instead of using the display's capabilities to control this. In addition, access to these features is not really trivial, and many people won't even know these features exist.
 
Closed Caption support is missing, but the unit does support external subtitle files.
 
Trickplay is where most HDTV streamers fail to deliver, and the 5000 is no exception. The unit offers a few features in this realm: fast forward and back, which often cause problems in some file types (e.g., they go forward when you want to go back, or when pressing Play you end up in a totally different place than where you think you are).

A nice 15 second jump is used with the up and down arrows, but this feature doesn't always work with all file types (e.g., some TS files can jump to the future only, or jump in 5-10 minute increments instead of 15 second increments). Finally, the GoTo feature, which would have worked better had it supported percent jumps, goes to a particular point in the file's time. In many cases, I found it to jump to a different point in time, which requires repeated trial and errors until you give up and watch the same 5 minute sequence that you've already seen. In short, this critical feature needs a lot of work, and adding bookmarks to all video sources (networked or otherwise) could greatly improve the situation.

Finally, I found that cleaning recorded material with utilities like VideoRedo or MPEG2REPAIR, greatly improves the reliability of the unit, which prefers clean and correct files. Using corrupt content will often cause the 5000 to freeze and exacerbate the problems of Trickplay reliability.

 
DVD ISO and IFO support work quite nicely. I took a few kid's DVDs that we have lying around and they can easily be imported into the unit. My children like to watch disks repeatedly, and playing this type of content from the unit saves me the hassle of taking out the DVDs and putting them back when they are done.

A feature that DViCO added recently to beta software is Playlists, which supports audio and video, so I can easily select a few select movies and file sequences to avoid having to set the unit up for them as well. This can be combined with the icon view, which lends the unit a more professional look.

 
Conclusions

I liked the HD M-5000U a lot. With proper material that I hope will be available not only from recorded OTA programming, but also from content providers, I think this type of player can easily become a new standard of usability. I would much prefer to buy an HDTV movie for $5 and download it to my computer where I can stream it using such a device, rather than buy or rent the same movie in HD DVD or BD formats for $25-$35. I hope Hollywood comes around and figures out that they can make quite a lot of money using devices like TViX5000, and we will all come out ahead. Ah well, maybe I was just daydreaming there . . . .

Update:

New firmware 2.0.5 was just released with some interesting improvements. FTP access to the unit from remote has been improved. Shoutcast (streaming MP3) is now working, and I was able to hear my favorite US radio stations very clearly and with only occasional interruptions when the Internet connection got a bit overloaded. Audiophiles will be happy to hear that AFLAC format (A Free Lossless Audio Codec) is now working, and audio quality was very good when I tried a few sample tracks. But, the new GUI is, in my opinion, a step DOWN from the old user interface.

- Ofer LaOr -
 

Mr. LaOr is Editor of Hometheater.Co.Il, a Hi-Fi magazine published in Israel. He is also the moderator for the AVS Forum Video Processing section.

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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