While many harp on about the high-definition revolution, we mustn't forget that most of all music and movies are still MP3, DVD and Xvid/DivX – standard-definition content. HDTVs are still dropping in price all the time but with so many DVD bargains out there and the fact that plenty of us want to rip our CDs into lossless formats.
This brings up a question of storage and functionality – do you want a DVD player and a CD player and as a result have masses of disc storage available, or do you want to store all of your media in one device—such as a home theatre PC, or even your desktop PC with a media extender—that allows you to access it with a few button presses. The problem with those solutions is that they use a lot of power—even when it's doing nothing.
This is where Raidsonic comes into play with its Icy Box IB-MP303S-B media device.
The unit itself is unlike what we'd call a normal external storage device and instead it looks very similar to a Mac Mini in terms of aesthetic design. However, instead of just being a dumb box with a lot of storage space, the IB-MP303S-B features a dedicated media processor that can play back video straight from the device. There's no need to have a PC turned on all the time and you'll only need one to drop the content onto the device's hard drive – once that’s done it’ll store it until you want to play it.
It’s compact, low power and costs far less than a home theatre PC: these are all things that got us interested, but what's it like to use? Let's find out...
Video media: MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (AVI, VOB, ISO), MPEG-4 (AVI, DivX, DivX Video on Demand (VOD), XviD)
Audio media: WMA, WAV, MP3, AAC, AC3, OGG Vorbis
Image media: JPEG (with Photo Slide Show)
Supports SATA HDD storage capacity up to 500GB
File System: FAT32, NTFS, HFS+
Supports multi language
Audio out: Stereo (RCA), SPDIF optical digital
Video out: Composite, S-Video, [VGA, Component (RGB)]
TV system: NTSC/PAL
USB 2.0 up to 480Mbps
Supports ME/98/XP/Vista, OS-9/X
30mm fan cooler
Power: AC: 100-240V, 0,4A, 50-60Hz, DC: 5V, 2A
Inside the box we get:
A power adapter
Optical S/PDIF Toslink cable
We’re off to a good start as all the outputs the Icy Box supports, have cables supplied. For a change the manual is certainly worth reading as it clearly explains how to use the device, what the best setup is given certain limitations and how it’s designed to support extra features like, for example, separate subtitle tracks on MPEG-4 video.
The supplied cables aren't exactly very high quality, but they work and suffice given they only support composite and S-Video. Unfortunately, from the looks of it the A/V out port is proprietary so even though the media processor in the Icy Box supports Component YPbPr and VGA output, no cable is supplied or offered as an extra purchase on the Raidsonic website.
The provided remote control is simple and not particularly ergonomic, but it provides plenty of control from the 44 buttons. It is, however, so thin that you’ll easily lose it down the side of the sofa. Considering it’s a standalone device and this is the only input, you’ll find yourself using it a lot, so even though the layout is not that intuitive the buttons are easy to read and colour coded.