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MvixBox 2-bay NAS and Network Media PlayerThe MvixBox 2-bay high performance NAS / media server is a 3-in-1 solution for storing media files, operating as a media server, and facilitating file transfer. These features are already available in other options, such as the DViCo TViX M-6500A, but the MvixBox is a more affordable solution that also offers the bonus of dual drive bays.  The functionality could also be achieved by buying a home PC, installing a server OS onto it, and connecting it to the network. However, chances are that even if you manage to get this working without problems, it would cost quite a bit more than even the DViCo TViX M-6500A.

Understanding the needs of small businesses and home users, MvixUSA has come up with a very attractive solution. The MvixBox offers many of the features consumers have been asking for in a network media player.  Here are some of the features that the new system offers:

Media server

The MvixBox provides gigabit network speed and large storage capacity, which makes it an ideal system for storing, serving, and transferring media files from one location to another. You can store media files, such as AVI, MPEG, and DIVX movies or MP3 files. From a different room in your home or a meeting room, you can access the content any time needed.

Web Disk Capability

The MvixBox is a Linux-based system, and it comes with what everyone expects Linux servers to include – Apache, MySQL, SQLite, and PHP. To make the server user friendly, a web-disk capability is also provided.  This means the user can drag and drop files between the PC and NAS server. User can launch applications like Windows Explorer, WebDisk Explorer, blog software, RSS reader, Torrent client, and more.  The setup ensures that anyone who knows how to operate a PC in the Windows environment will know how to handle a MvixBox.

Web Server

The web server is perhaps the most interesting feature of all. Since the MvixBox comes with support for Apache, MYSQL, and PHP, you can host web sites directly from the server. There are many different types of sites that you can setup – blogs, wikis, personal home pages, etc. If you don’t want to host web sites, you can even develop scalable intranet solutions using the database support.  This capability makes it one of the most affordable web server solution that the market has to offer for small businesses and home users.

DDNS Server

In order for a web server to recognize Internet domain names, there needs to be a DNS server (or in this case DDNS so that dynamic IPs can be supported). The domain name is mapped to the server IP address, and the DDNS service enables the server to recognize the domain name. Traditional servers supported mostly static IPs. For this reason, you can’t usually operate a web server from home, as most home Internet connections operate on dynamic IPs. Dynamic IPs change all the time, as they are assigned by the ISP. Fortunately, the MvixBox offers free support for dynamic IPs. There is no extra charge for the use of this service.

NAS, Torrent Sharing, and FTP Management

MvixBox offers a simple file sharing feature that provides file encryption when transferring files using HTTP or FTP protocols. You can use the built-in Explorer to transfer files, without having to install additional software.
The system boasts simple and secure administration.

As this is an NAS server, one would expect it to come with simple backup features. The MvixBox does come with easy-to-use data storage scheduling and synchronization. The software is included with the system.

For all the above features, an enthusiast would expect the price tag to be hefty. However, this is not true. The MvixBox retails for around $249.00.  Each unit includes two built-in hard drive bays that are capable of holding up a 1.5 terabyte (TB) hard drive. The hard drives are not included. Therefore, you can buy any size that best meets your needs.  Even with the most expensive hard drive bundled, the entire system still costs just about $600.

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Western Digital has released the new WD TV external HD media player that works in conjunction with one or two external hard drives to playback video, audio, and view photos at up to full high definition quality (1080p).  The device automatically sorts video, audio, and image files into corresponding categories for convenient navigation.  The player’s interface presents the option of thumbnail or filename browsing.  Thumbnails are extracted from movie cover art, album covers, and photos.  The media library functionality can also view all media files by type in a single menu, no matter the physical location of the files.  Multimedia content can be arranged into categories such as album, artist, genre, and date.  Similarly, search is provided by title, artist, genre, filename, and partial filename.  For photo viewing, the WD TV supports custom slideshows with transition effects and background music, as well as zooming and panning.  Video and music playback supports all the common commands you would expect, such as fast forward, rewind, pause, etc.

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The WD TV offers HDMI and composite video connections. ArcSoft MediaConverter 2.5 is included with the packaging for photo, video, and audio file conversion in case file compatibility is an issue at any point.  However, the WD TV player provides comprehensive format support. 

Video formats supported include AVI (MPEG-4, XviD, AVC), MPEG-1/2, WMV9, MOV (MPEG-4 and H.264), MKV, and H.264.  MP3, WMA, OGG, PCM WAV, AAC, FLAC, AIF/AIFF, and MKA are supported for audio.  JPG, GIF, PNG, TIF/TIFF, and BMP image formats can be viewed.  PLS, M3U, and WPL playlist formats are also recognized.

Aside for the player itself and the conversion software already mentioned, the packaging also includes a stand for WD My Passport hard drives (although any type of USB drive can be used), a remote control, composite AV cables, AC power adapter, and installation guide. The WD TV provides a simple, affordable solution for playback of PC video formats.  Note that the WD TV does not currently offer network support/streaming functionality.

Pricing for the WD TV is expected to be around USD $125.00, and will be available through all major retailers.

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We have reviewed numerous options in network media players, ranging back to the now defunct GoVideo D2730 Network DVD Player.  While every option has a shortcoming here and there, the DViCo TViX M-6500A Network Media Player is overall the best option we have thus far reviewed.  In addition to the network playback support from a PC or NAS, it also offers internal hard drive support for playback without any external source being powered on.  The new M-6500A features a black aluminum enclosure, Sigma’s latest SMP8635 processor, HDMI output, increased main memory, and more.

Formats supported for playback include WMV9, WMV-HD, DIVX, XVid, HDV, MKV, H.264, VOB (DVD layouts), ISO, MP3, WMA, FLAC, WavPack, PCM, DTS, and more.  Unfortunately, the player does not support WMV8.

DViCo M-6500A Network Media PlayerAnother beneficial feature of the TViX player is the bi-directional USB support.  That is, the unit can be connected to the PC to transfer files to and from the internal drive and external drives (USB slave) and USB flash drives can be connected as an additional source for video playback.  The latter is particularly useful for single-use content since users can simply copy a desired file onto a USB flash drive, connect it, and immediately play the video.  Both NTFS and FAT32 are supported for media file systems.

In addition to video, the player also offers music playback and image display.  All multimedia formats can be streamed via a LAN connection, played from the internal HDD, or accessed from an external USB device.

As for shortcomings, while the DViCo TViX M-6500A Network Media Player provides excellent overall format support, we have experienced playback trouble with some AVI videos.  The fact that high-definition formats and video content as fully supported (HD 1080i/720p/1080p Video output) is indeed a plus.  However, due to the player’s UI being specifically designed for hi-def display, if you have an older TV that does not support HD or does not support it well, the UI will be difficult to read.  Remember that having a LCD TV does not automatically mean that it is HD-ready.  In fact, we had to replace one of the test LCD TVs for this very reason.

The TViX M-6500A sells for about $399.  Note:  The TViX M-7000A model also exists.  However, it is not readily available in the US.  Also, feature-wise, it is almost idential to the M-6500A, while costing more and possessing a shape that does not fit well with most home theater systems.

Blaze Media Pro is a powerful all-in-one audio and video converter for CD, MP3, WAV, WMA, OGG, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, AVI, WMV, MOV, Flash (SWF and FLV), iPod, PSP, 3GP, etc.; editor; recorder; CD/DVD ripper; audio, video, data CD/DVD burner for DVD, VCD, and SVCD; and much more.  Joe Tex from Shareware Junkies has written a review for the all-in-one multimedia software that gives newcomers an idea of what to expect.

"The installation of Blaze Media Pro is easy and intuitive, you can place the program files where you want them.

It has been awhile since we have done a review of Blaze Media Pro and WOW what a change! Now Blaze Media Pro does everything but wash the dishes.

Can you believe it? Simply amazing is what I have to say. With Blaze Media Pro I’ve been able to save lots of money because it does so many things. For instance I was just going to go out and look for a good program for burning CD/DVDs and as I’m sure you are aware most of the top names in that business are bloatware and cost lots more than Blaze Media Pro.

Don’t get the idea though that Blaze Media Pro because it does all of these things isn’t sophisticated, for instance I have on my computer some high end studio recording hardware. Windows recording software won’t find it, and it took me half an hour to get Adobe Audition to find it and it then took a reboot to use it. Blaze Media Pro found it right away and it was ready to go. It even has a built in Audio Tag editor!

If there something in the Audio/Video field that Blaze Media Pro doesn’t do and do well I sure don’t know what it is.

In conclusion run don’t walk to the Blaze Media Pro website and download it.  I guarantee you will like it."

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Sony has released three new Walkman players from the S, E, and B series that suit the needs of different tastes and budgets.  The S and E series products also offer full video playback support, including DRM-protected WMV files.  The  Walkman players allow users to enjoy music from various download stores in addition to stored audio files.  The simple drag and drop file transfer makes copying music, videos, and podcasts onto the players quick and easy.  The players support most popular audio and video formats, and offer high quality audio and video performance.

Prices range from $45 to $180, depending on the model and storage capacity.

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