Dynamode HD Media Player ReviewManufacturer: Dynamode
UK price (as reviewed): £33.37 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed):
Playing media files on your big living room TV is getting easier all the time, and there's a wide range of products available for doing just that. Some of these options can be overly complicated
, but when it’s done well
a media streamer can offer a seamless link between your PC and your living room TV.
Sadly, the Dynamode HD Media Player got off to a bad start when we spotted the lack of a network connector; in order to play files through the box you’ll need to load them onto a USB flash drive or SD card. This really hampers the flexibility of the device as, instead of just pulling the files from wherever they may be stored on your home network, a little forward planning is required to get them to the box in the first place, especially if it’s a particularly large video file.
On the plus side, the player boasts an HDMI port and it's capable of outputting a full HD 1080p signal, making connection to an HDTV simple. This sits alongside the standard AV outputs and, brilliantly, a VGA output for connection to older HDTVs or monitors. Sadly there’s no component connection, though.
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We’ve found media players to vary significantly when it comes to playback abilities, and sadly we found the HD Media Player’s playback of 1080p content to be very poor. The streamer was quick to stutter when there was any significant action on screen, making playback of 1080p videos pointless. However, playback of 720p content was much better, with no stuttering issues and excellent image quality.
Dynamode claims that the HD Media Player supports a wide range of industry standard file wrappers and codecs, but we found some problems with a number of the files that we threw at it. The streamer didn’t recognise our Blu-Ray ISO, for example. What's more, while it did at least recognise our collection of test videos, three of the files - an MPEG4V2-encoded AVI and two high-quality AVC-encoded MKVs - crashed the player instantly.
This left us with no option but to restart the device, which would then reboot without even telling us why it had crashed in the first place. Interestingly, the player would actually play our third test MKV file, although this file is encoded with a more basic CABAC compression system with only six reference frames, as opposed to the 16 reference frames used in the two unplayable files' compression system.
As with anything that gets hooked up to a television and is managed through a remote control, media streamers live and die by their user interface. Thankfully, the HD Media Player has a simple and logical menu system, although this is marred by excessive lag from the remote control.
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We often found ourselves questioning whether we were pressing the right button or not, and the problem is exacerbated by the fact that there’s no indication when the box is loading a file or moving to the next menu. You could be forgiven for assuming that the batteries in the remote may have run out.
We would expect any media player worth its salt to be able to play 1080p videos smoothly, but Dynamode's HD Media Player simply wasn't up to the task with our test files. This is a critical flaw on its own, but it's compounded by patchy wrapper and codec support. At least the HD Media Streamer only costs £33.37, but that hardly excuses the poor performance.
Add to this its lack of a network connection and the torrid amounts of input lag experienced in menus, and it’s clear that this is a product to miss. Okay, so the WDTV Live
costs twice as much money, but it's far more capable and user friendly, and well worth the extra few quid.