MediaGate MG-350HD

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MediaGate MG-350HD

We found some innovative ideas inside the MediaGate MG-350HD, but this streamer’s shortcomings far outweigh its assets.
Designing the shell to accommodate an optional 3.5-inch hard drive, for instance, is brilliant; ditto for including logic enabling it to operate as a USB 2.0 host. This means it can not only behave as a NAS box but also copy images off your digital camera without you having to first fire up your PC. But we’re less enthused about having to do a reach-around to access the USB port, and the hard-drive interface is old-school IDE.

The MG-350HD is capable of streaming video at resolutions up to 1080p, but it’s equipped with a DVI port, not HDMI. While it’s no big deal to buy an adapter or a special cable to connect it to your TV or A/V receiver’s HDMI port, you’ll need separate cables to run audio.

It would be easy to overlook connector shortcomings if the device performed flawlessly, but the ugly user interface is so clumsy that it literally refers you to the user manual to figure out how to stream Internet radio. What’s worse is that you won’t find any such coverage in the nearly incomprehensible documentation.

We streamed standard-definition video over an 802.11g network without a hitch, but it should surprise no one that the player chokes on HD content unless it’s hardwired to the network. The MG-350HD supports a variety of audio codecs, including MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA, but the only way it can stream music during a photo slide show is if the music is stored on its local hard drive. Lame.

Reefer Madness

Accommodates an internal hard drive (not included); can act as a USB host.

She Gods of Shark Reef

No HDMI, doesn't support FLAC; as configured, cannot stream photos and music simultaneously.

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Lars Rasmussen

Time to review a box that uses the Sigma Designs SMP8635 chip.

The Popcorn Hour A-100 seems to be a good contender - I'd like to see Maximum PC do its worst and throw multiple video codecs at the device to try and stump its playback abilities. The SMP8635 chip seems to offer the most compatible embedded solution currently available for video playback.

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Lars Rasmussen

This 2 year-old device is to be used for playing video. Not some low-res junk off Youtube, but XviD, MPEG2, & MPEG4. There are plenty of other superior devices for managing an audio collection, and a presentation program will do a much better job of viewing still images with background music & effects. How relevant are still images with fading backgrounds while listening to Yanni in a device that is supposed to be hooked up to your TV? Back to video...

What is relevant is how well this device can playback your DVD(in ISO or VOB format) & HD video collection via component or composite cables to your old TV, new HDTV, or a projector. Where are the comments on video quality at different resolutions? Where is the test suite of different types of video file formats to be played? Which formats are not supported? What about H.264?

Which chip is used for playback? (Sigma Design EM8621) How does that chip compare to other chips that are being used in similar devices being reviewed? More specific technical info on supported video formats & playback quality would be helpful.

The unreviewed MG350SHD is the SATA HDMI version.

A newer, more 'Maximum' device would be the DVICO, Inc TVIX HD 5100SH.

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