I finally got my hands on the O!Play just to be disappointed again. True, it does play back DVD Menus and idx/sub subtitles properly and even completely turns off my attached WD passport drive including LED, something WD seems to be incapable of doing with their WD TV. However, it’s design is a bit too clunky for taking it with you on a video night over at friends.
O!Play vs WDTV: can you say clunky?
Judging from the looks of the (pretty slow) GUI, it uses a similar chip to Antarius and Auvisio and although it’s possible to turn off the annoying video preview, because of the empty preview window
file names still cannot use the whole width of the screen.
That’s something the Xtreamer apparently is capable of, I really need to get me one of those. Next!
Since the WD TV most likely won’t ever support idx/subs properly and Asus does have no clue when the O!Play HDP-R1 will be available in Germany, I’m still checking out other devices despite their quite ugly (apparantly generic) design.
From the looks of GUI and menus (a puny 16 chars max, why don’t they do it like Xtreamer?) it would appear the Auvisio is equipped with the same (Realtek 128X?) chip as the Antarius, with no DTS downmix but quite an impressive feature list given it’s price tag of 99,- Euros:
LAN support (no WLAN)
full DVD menu support (ISOs/VOBs)
USB hub support
HDD support > 1 TB (1.5 TB Maxtor drive worked flawlessly)
pretty much every HD trailer I’ve tried played back fine
However, contrary to the Antarius there’s no setting to turn off the annoying video preview. So I mailed Pearl, the mail-order company that sells Auvisio, to ask about any upcoming firmware updates that might fix this flaw but apparently the manufactury does offer
no end user customer support!
As confirmed by the Pearl hotline, the Asian manufacturer does not deal with end users ever. So if you’ve got any problems with/suggestions about their product you can mail the retailer who will pass them on eventually but you won’t get any feedback. If it’s commercially viable the manufacturer might release an update but don’t count on it.
Sorry, but I won’t support any company that out of touch with it’s customers. Next!
Just popping in for a brief review of the Trekstor Antarius I’ve borrowed from a friend for a couple of days. Similar to the WD TV DVD menus are ignored but as it recognizes VOBs < 30 mins and ISOs < 40 mins and allows the user to select each title of these files via the remote, watching episodic shows and music DVDs is possible. Although it’s still gonna take me some time to jump on the HD bandwagon my next mediaplayer is bound to have HD support, however despite being advertized as such, the Antarius falls short of that category cause as of firmware 1.26 there’s
no H.264 support.
When pressing play on some trailers resulted in “invalid file” I re-checked homepage and manual and indeed, somewhere in the fineprint it says that MPEG-4 Part 2 ASP (xvid/divx) is supported up to 1080p but not MPEG-4 Part 10 AVC (H.264) which means that pretty much every mkv out there won’t play back. Epic fail.
OTOH I don’t feel to bad about skipping this device cause I think both design and UI suck and it comes with further flaws (YMMV), some of which might get fixed by an upcoming firmware:
due to a pointless preview window on the right side of the screen the file browser is limited to a puny 16 (!) chars with painfully slow scrolling (yes, it’s even slower than my old Panasonic’s display)
file browser: 16 chars max
the remote’s NEXT does not skip to the next song but goes PAGE DOWN (thanks for breaking usability)
no shuffle play (and as a matter of fact even no continuous play in folders unless you switch to music mode and select “repeat all”)
m3u playlist selection
some ID3 v2.3 tags don’t work (no time for further testing)
after file copy is done (you can’t write on FAT32 but only NTFS drives!) you’ll end up at root dir instead of the dirs you were in
on -> standby -> no power -> power -> on (instead of standby)
with some idx/sub only every other item is shown
no srt font size selection so word wrap does not work properly with some subs
Next up for testing are EGreat EG-M34A, Xtreamer and Asus O!Play HDP-R1 (I’m not kidding, that’s the name!), whichever is available in Germany first.
Currently I have all my original DVDs stuffed away in the basement and ripped to my Mediacenter PC in the living room which keeps me from playing DJ. But I’m still looking for a smaller device for bedroom and at my girlfriend’s. Since Philips does not seem to be interested in fixing bugs but rather releases new hardware I’ve started checking out other products, this time Western Digital’s WD TV.
You see, in Germany you can return products purchased over the internet for a complete refund within two weeks no questions asked. Some local retailers try to keep up offering the same return policy which means I can test the player for 14 days and give it back and buy it elsewhere again, repeat. Of course device and packaging have to be in mint condition which is why I carefully open it, don’t remove foil and use my own cables and batteries. Unfortunately the device is flawed as well:
No DVD menu support.
I know, it’s meant to be a HD player and therefore SD material is hardly prioritized, still I don’t get why one of the oldest formats around that any cheapo standalone can playback is not supported. I usually don’t care about menus but having to fast forward through the first three eps of a DVD to watch the last ep is a PITA. Sometimes even this won’t work as VOBs < 30 mins and ISOs < 40 are not recognized (for no technical reason). Apparently I’m not the only one who expected their media center to support old formats as well.
Although 4 months for the first firmware update with so few features seemed like a bad joke, a huge community evolved around the WD TV, just check out AVS Forums, english and german Wiki, modded firmware (with nice extra features like network support). WD is doing the right thing by listening to the community and trying to make the WD TV a better product. Way to go.
However, the current 1.02.07 firmware still has some serious bugs some of which affect my personal viewing habits like messed up idx/sub subtitle display due to weird palette interpretation. I’ve upped a rar file with some screenshots to demonstrate this effect (right-click, save as, rename to .rar). During my tests I’ve corrected some serious issues in the german UI which I’ve mailed to WD and b-rad.cc who said to implement them. If you don’t want to wait or feel uncomfortable to install B-rad’s modded firmware just to have some proper translations on your screen you can patch the official 1.02.07 firmware like this:
open a dos prompt in windows: START > RUN > cmd [ENTER]
apply the patch by typing: xdelta -d -s wdtv.old.bin wdtv.xdelta wdtv.bin
open wdtv.ver in notepad and change version to 1.02.08
copy wdtv.bin and wdtv.ver to an USB stick’s root dir and flash the device
I’ve only corrected the german UI files (ge.po, ge.mo) and adjusted their MD5s, other than that your new wdtv.bin will be identical to the official firmware. It goes without saying that I don’t take any responsibility in case you brick your WD TV. Done properly you can always flash over the original fimware by adding a higher version number to wdtv.ver.
I really hope WD is gonna put some more effort into this device and not just it’s already planned successor. Until then I’m gonna return my device and wait for positive rewiews on the next firmware update.
As you’ve propably read in my About section, Tech Flaws isn’t just about bitching about inapt engineers & designers but also about finding userfriendly devices that are designed with some common sense. That’s why – despite my previous bad experience with Philips – I’ve tested both 5990 and 3260 and decided to compile a FAQ from various forum entries. This is due to the player’s potential as well as to find people willing to donate so further features can be added by firmware modders (please check out this thread). I’m also gonna break blogging procedure by updating this post instead of adding new blog entries whenever this FAQ gets updated.
What USB devices are supported?
You can attach pretty much any device with an USB slot like USB sticks, card readers (in case your pics are stored on SD card) and USB HDDs albeit the latter aren’t officially supported. That is because Philips can’t guarantee compatibility since some of the 2.5″ drives need more power on startup than the 500mA defined in the USB specification. Also there’s been some concern that attaching USB-powered drives for extended periods of time might put too much strain on the Philips’ power supply and fry it eventually. Since some enclosure manufacturers do sell different HDD brands with their label one can’t know in advance what drive will work which means you gotta try or be on the safe side by using 3.5″ HDDs with external power instead. You are welcome to share your experiences in the comment section below.
What file systems are supported?
Unfortunately FAT32 is the lowest common denominator since it is supported by almost any OS out there so we’re stuck with it on standalone devices for the time being. If your external drive has several partitions with other filesystems like NTFS, you’ll only get to see those that are formatted to FAT32 (no matter if they are primary or extended partitions).
What partition/folder/file/filename sizes are supported?
According to the manual the DVP can handle 300 folders with 648 files each. FAT32 supports up to 8 TB for partitions (1 TB drives have been reported to work fine so far) and 4 GB for files as well as Long filenames of which the Philips filebrowser displays only a puny 14 chars.
Micros~1 limited FAT32 partition creation on Windows 2000 and newer to 32 GB. To create larger partitions on these systems use “fat32format.exe” (Google) under Start > Run > cmd [ENTER].
What media/file types/formats/codecs are supported?
As mentioned in the manuals (also downloadable as pdf from Philips) the players can handle avi, mpg, vob (also with AC3 sound), mp3, wma (no DRM), jpg from USB as well as CD-R(W) and DVD±R(W) DL. The 5990 additionally plays: mp4 (Nero Digital, xvid/mp3), wmv, ogm and transmits DTS audio via digital output to a receiver and handles GMC and QPel on xvid/divx. Please bear in mind that avi/wmv are containers that can hold a lot of different streams as well as codecs which are not necessarily supported. The player can handle divx 3, 4, 5, 6 (5990: + divx ultra) and xvid but only up to the max standard resolution of 720x576p i.e. no High Defintion. Subtitles must be srt or idx/sub (not compressed with rar) and should be named according to the video file since they’re not listed in the filebrowser, e.g.
my.favourite.show.1×01.avi or my.favourite.show.1×01.idx
The Philips does not display IFOs so if you do have a DVD-Video ripped to HDD you can only playback VOBs. This means you’ll have short but noticeable breaks between VOBs, messed up subtitles and no correct aspect ratio, menus nor chapters. You also have to manually adjust audio streams whenever a new VOB is started automatically if you’re not listening to the first stream in the file.
Contrary to some Multimedia-HDDs there’s currently no standalone out there that does playback DVDs properly from USB. There’s no official confirmation on this but there may be several reasons, a) legal: the DVD-Forum license does not permit it; b) technical: ifo files on DVDs address titles by sectors which are not present on a HDD filesystem so at least mapping sectors would be required. According to New_Age (one of the best MTK firmware modders) one would need to get their hands on ARM source code to add such a feature which is not likely to happen.
What about file order in the file browser?
Due to limitations of the FAT32 file system standalones as well as car radios and mp3 players that don’t have a database suffer from the same problem: files are displayed in the very order they’ve been written to the FAT which even gets more messy in case you deleted some files from in between before copying over new files. Cause if the new files/entries are larger than the previous ones copying over files numbered from 1 to 20 might get them listed in a different order. So your best bet to get files sorted in alphabetical order is using DriveSort.
Avis over 2 GB take forever to load, what do I do?
You need to remux them with AvimuxGUI which is done in a few minutes without re-encoding as explained by Squash on the Videohelp forums.
Some files are displayed with a wrong aspect ratio, what do I do?
First of all you should stop downloading crappy encodes from the net and/or use AutoGK for encoding your originals to xvid. If avis just weren’t encoded properly you can try rewriting headers with MPEG4Modifier from moitah.net or use DVDpatcher for setting the correct DAR in mpegs.
During playback of some avis video stops for a few seconds while audio continues, what do I do?
You wish! Unfortunately the display only shows elapsed time with 5 digits (h:mm:ss) and the track number on start of a track for 1 (MP3) and 5 (Audio CD) seconds. Pressing ‘display’ on the remote doesn’t change that and of course there’s no button to switch folders on MP3 discs nor a ‘play all’-mode so that the player would start playback of the next album folder automatically.
How do I set the player to Region Free?
Goto Setup > Preferences and press 138931 on your remote. Press up to select “0″ and hit setup to exit.
Is there a firmware mod available?
Fortunately yes! Vb6rocod has done a marvelous job modding them with great new features like:
new skins, OSD font (text and graphic) and filebrowser (with scrollbars, outlined font, new icons)
Read more about it on his homepage and blog. Other firmware modders might start adding further features but this might require donations to enable them to purchase the player(s) first. Please read more about it.
How do I flash the player with new firmware?
First of all open the tray and press ’55′ on your remote to see what player version you have, e.g. 12 is the european model and 37 the US model, you must not flash your player with the firmware from another model or you will brick it! Then check your current firmware by selecting Setup > General. Press 1379 on your remote to check the last two digits of the version number.
Download the latest original firmware from Philips and follow this procedure:
extract the bin file from the donwloaded archive to the root of an USB stick
remove any disc from the unit
reset your player to default settings so it is in a defined state and set to english language
attach the stick and switch to USB if the unit doesn’t do so automatically
press play when advised to do so on the screen
WAIT until the tray opens and the LED on your USB stick stops blinking
plug off the stick
WAIT till the player closes the tray automatically and reboots
do another reset to default settings for good measure.
Remember to delete the bin file from the USB stick before you plug it in next time to playback media so you don’t accidentally flash the player again. Download vb6rocod‘s latest firmware mod (be sure to use the same version number as Philips’ original firmware) and extract the bin file with the corresponding codepage, e.g.:
1250 — East European Latin
1251 — Cyrillic
1252 — West European Latin
1253 — Greek
1254 — Turkish
and repeat above procedure. Note that you can also revert to the original firmware applying the very same steps. Of course any problems resulting from flashing are your responsibility. In case you bricked your player you may be able to revive it using this cable.
How do I change volume with the remote?
The 5990 remote cannot change analogue volume except on a Philips TV. That is because you are supposed to connect the player via HDMI to your AVR or TV which in turn will decode the digital signal and only then adjust volume. The 3260 remote lacks volume keys completely but you can change analogue volume by mapping them to less used keys like Repeat/Repeat A-B easily with this tool: Remote Philips 3260.
What chipset is used?
Both players are equipped with Mediatek chipsets, the 3260 uses a MT1389DE, the 5990 a MT1389DXE (picture thanks to Huey) as shown below:
Click on a thumbnail to get a larger image and then again on the larger image to get the original size.
Despite all SMART values being way above thresholds my internal 500 GB Samsung was giving up on me which I realized when I suddenly couldn’t copy over a file to my external Samsung Spinpoint F DT USB backup disc. A deep scan with Samsung’s ES Tool revealed several defective LBAs so I cloned the entire disc to said external to swap them. When I booted up my machine the new disc wasn’t detected by my board’s VIA 8237 RAID controller revealing the flaw I’d overlooked so far:
SATA interface speed cannot be switched to 1.5 Gb/s!
Apart from SATA’s touted backwards and forwards compatibility which should ensure operating a 3.0 drive on a 1.5 connector the manual on Samsung’s product page explicitely mentions a SATA 1.5 Gb/s Speed Limit Jumper setting to avoid speed negotiation issues on older motherboards. The manual however depicts 8 jumper pins whereas the HD753LJ has only 4 (!) none combination of which does any good.
So I tried both patch downloads mentioned in the FAQ to set the speed via software on a friend’s PC whose motherboard can stomach 3.0 devices attached to it. Curiously enough both tools do not show the current setting so to verify patch results you gotta boot ES Tool again. 3 boot CDs, how’s that for convience?
Of course applying the patches did not work as confirmed by Samsung support the next day. I’d tried to contact them by mail but their German support form did not list my drive model so I had to call the hotline which failed to call me back. When I called again the next day the droid on the phone had no explanation on why manual and support form where out of date nor what the 4 jumper pins are supposedly used for (since they are not used for master/slave or 32 GB clip settings anymore).
Samsung – what’s the (Spin)point?
Update, August 6th
I’ve just read on a german forum that only after using the second tool on Samsung’s FAQ page ES-Tool 2.11 would get a new option ‘Set Max UDMA’ which at last would allow adjusting interface speed (‘process’ ). Can anyone please confirm that with a comment. I’ve already sold my Samsung and got a WD but I’d really like to know if Samsung tried to fix this flaw.
Update, November 4th
Since I’d sold my drive to a friend I was able to test it again yesterday at his computer and now it worked for me too! I was able to switch SATA speed setting by doing it as Ken Cowin suggested: set to 3.0 GB in SSpeed instead of 1.5! It appears whoever coded the tool accidentally labeled the routines the wrong way cause after using SSpeed I could verify (and even change) speed with ES Tools and option ‘Set Max UDMA’.
Update, June 6th 2010
As mentioned in the comments apparently the current version of ESTool does the job just fine. Can’t test it myself cause I’ve switched to WD Green in the meantime.
They’ve done it again! At least that’s what I thought while I was browsing the dvd player section of a retail chain here in my town where I noticed a bunch of returned Philips players. The packaging had clearly been opened before so I took the liberty of checking out the manual and as you may have guessed already the device appears to be limited by a serious flaw: 640 files max! Now that I’ve had the chance to borrow a friend’s unit for tesing it turns out:
Philips manuals suck!
MCM 393: Number of albums/folders: maximum 99, Number of tracks/titles: maximum 500
DVP 3260: The unit can only support up to a maximum of 300 folders and 648 files.
Just compare both entries above, the MCM can play a total of 500 songs, the DVP 648 songs per folder! You couldn’t derive this from the wording? Well neither could I!
Of course the DVP cannot handle FAT32‘s 65535 entries per folder. Still this is a vast improvement over the puny 500 files of the MCM393.
It’s kind of ironic though that the lack of official USB HDD support is allegedly due to the large storage capacity making navigation very difficult rather than the filebrowser’s embarrassing limit of 14 (!) chars! The real problem of course lies in USB powered 2.5″ HDDs which sometimes draw too much power so that compatibility cannot be assured. Of course Philips wouldn’t bother to write this valuable info into their manuals either.
But what do you expect from a company that’s too stupid to list the firmware update’s version number on their support page? Hey, there’s a new one out on October the 10th 2008! Your newly bought player reveals the version number but not the firmware date it is using. So do you upgrade or not? I’ve written a FAQ that might help you decide.
Admittedly I got hooked on this one’s iconic design when I saw it mentioned in a computer magazine some years ago half a year prior to it’s release. When it finally hit the market I’d already gotten another cell phone from my carrier. Thus when I switched to prepaid two years later everybody else already got it so I could get a new one cheap on Ebay. Despite it’s wide adoption one of it’s major flaws unfortunately had eluded me for all this time:
None of the five (!) keys on the closed flip can be used to deflect incoming calls!
I kid you not! Despite the external display’s major feature to enable you to “see who’s calling without opening the flip” you still gotta open it (thereby taking the call) cause only 3 of those keys trigger functions with the flip closed. I actually had to mod my device just to get this basic function working.
Remember my mental note to check out products myself instead of relying on other’s recommandations? This time I got lured into a retailer’s shop cause they advertized a bargain on one of those car mp3 CD players featuring an USB slot which would finally save me from having to burn my own mixes to CD-RW. Since they assured me it could play more than a puny 500 tracks from USB and I had ample time to test and compare it to others mounted alongside the wall in the shop, what could go wrong? Unfortunately I didn’t realize the flaw until I drove home that night:
The USB slot faces the stick’s LED towards the driver!
Thus you always have this distracting blinking light in the right corner of your eye while driving at night. The clip I made of this effect doesn’t quite convey the annoyance it causes:
Yeah, I know, Sony
The company that always thinks to know better thus flooding the market with proprietary technology like ATRAC, Mini Disc, Memory Stick, UMD and so on despite consumers ignoring these schemes. Was I too stupid despite being warned by Sony’s track record? Afraid so…
A friend of mine who was riding shotgun in my car made a good point: why does the LED have to blink in the first place? But since this apparently is agreed upon by manufacturers I tried to verify my suspicions which turned out to be correct: all USB-sticks I’ve seen so far (which is a lot) do have the LED on the same side in reference to the connector and only Sony has the slot facing inwards, all other players I’ve checked (by Kenwood, Alpine, JVC, Blaupunkt, Clarion) have their slot installed the other way round so the stick’s LED blinks facing outward. This can’t be due to left-hand traffic in Japan either cause this would require the main controls (volume, skip, source) to be placed on the driver side too.
Sony knows best… not!
P.S. Aren’t you just thrilled by the caution alarm the front panel makes to keep you from forgetting it in the car?
The small company I mentioned in one of my previous articles had recently been incoporated into a bigger one and their office been demoted to a mere depot which resulted in several cutbacks including a phone lines switch from ISDN (2 lines, 3 phone numbers) to analogue (1 line, 1 number), 2 phones to 1 and no fax. Since reality however refused to abide by company policy they still needed to receive faxes on a daily basis so I replaced their busted printer/fax anyway. Unfortunately it also came with an unexpected flaw:
Fax receive ring delay limited to 4 times!
Again the ladies were less than thrilled having to sprint from the other room to reach the phone in time to prevent the fax from taking the call. Since fax and phone had to be connected to a an All-In-One router/telephone system rather than an external phone jack there was no way to switch the fax to one of it’s other modes.
Still, why not allow a higher ring delay in the first place? I was irritated enough to call the expensive Brother support which instructed me by fax (go figure) on a lengthy procedure to unlock the device’s hidden maintenance mode to increase the ring delay to 10 times max. I didn’t get any satisfactory answer though as to why these options weren’t available by default.