Icy Box IB-MP309HW-B HD Media Player Cont.
As well as the main unit, there’s also a nice little bundle of connectors included in the box, although it’s perhaps not as comprehensive a collection as we’d like. While there’s Composite and Component cables for both SD and HD output, a USB 2.0A to USB 2.0B cable for PC connection and a sensibly laid out remote control, there are no batteries included (grrr), no HDMI cable and no WiFi adapter, which while supported, is sold separately.
Considering the fairly expensive asking price of around £200 these omissions are a little disappointing, especially the lack of a WiFi adapter which would have made integrating the Icy Box into a home network so much easier and less of a hassle. However, if you’re looking to stream high definition content to the MP309, as we’re sure many of you would, then a wired connection is always going to be far more reliable and up to task.
When we had the Icy Box fitted with a 1TB hard disk and hooked up to a suitable High Definition display we booted it up to find a surprisingly clean and clear interface which forgoes complex menus and instead focuses on making it simple for you to access your media.
Click to enlarge - Streaming even 1080p content isn't a problem, but network navigation could be better
The start screen gives you big clear icons for browsing specific formats in a desired location, with the side bar on the left allowing you to easily switch media source, access online media (YouTube, Flickr, Shoutcast) if available or change the player’s output or network settings on the fly.
The Icy Box’s impressive list of supported formats seems incredible, especially considering that driving it all is a Sigma Designs EM8635 300MHz 32-bit RISC processor and 256MB of DDR for use as a video buffer. MPEG-1,2,and 4 are all catered for, as are .DivX, .Xvid, .WMV, .MP4, .MOV, .H264, .MKV and even .ISO files. We’re pleased to report that we had a very hard time even finding a file which the Icy Box couldn’t play, especially as it also supports .Ogg, .ac3, .asf, .flac and .aac audio too.
We threw a huge variety of SD and HD content at the IB-MP309HW-B in 640p, 720p and 1080p and it played almost everything flawlessly, from .AVIs to .MKVs, .ISO to WMV. Note the “almost everything” there though, as an S-MPEG 4 1080p 10.4MB/s file failed to play. Although that is an oft-used HD format it was reassuringly the only thing we found within our vast library of video content the Icy Box unable to handle.
Click to enlarge
Sadly, while the operating system driving the Icy Box might look clean and clear, it’s wearisomely slow to respond to commands. Opening a new file location, be it the onboard hard disk or a network location can take a lethargic ten seconds, and the whole interface can often seem sluggish and unresponsive. This is particularly bad when playing audio files, where the Icy Box takes an insulting slow four seconds to change tracks – why isn’t that nice big 256MB buffer used here?
The problems with the OS continue when trying to access networked media. On boot the Icy Box handily found our local Terrorstation NAS box and listed it as a media source, but opening it revealed only four of the dozens of totally legal files we had stored there. To fully access media stored on a NAS you’ll need to navigate to it using the network browser which, while able to display all the files stored on a network drive, is sure to become a nuisance after extended use.
The Icy Box’s buffering isn’t perfect either. When you open a file a splash screen appears with the Icy Box logo telling you it’s buffering for playback, only for media to begin playing with the splash screen still overlaid on top of the video. This grumble-worthy flaw appears regardless of the video file you’re playing, and is bound to get annoying, especially if you’ve split video files into two for storage purposes.