Media Servers

DViCO TViX HD M6500A Media Streamer

ARTICLE INDEX

 

The Design

The unit is a media streamer, which means it is intended to play movie files of various formats (We'll count them out together later on) from its internal hard drive, from an external hard drive (over USB) or, the preferred method, over the network.

The 6500 is small and quite portable. It has just enough room to hold one hard drive inside. Early units had overheating issues, but units sold today do not suffer from these problem and although I live in quite a high temperature country, I have not had any overheating with my unit.

The internal 3.5" hard drive is quite easy to install, just put on the rail and slide it right in. Two connections – one for power and a SATA cord for data and you're all set. You should make sure you have fitted a preformatted drive, or you will have to format it using the USB host connection to your computer.

Connecting the unit to your computer is quite simple, you can connect it using a USB cord (which lets you address it as an external hard drive, which helps with initial formatting, if the drive was not preformatted). The unit has an HDMI 1.3 connection, as well as two USB slave connections (for connecting external drives and extending the unit), a gigabit Ethernet connection, component output (HD), S-Video, composite, and analog and digital (coax/optical) connections too. The fan, to the side of the unit, can be controlled via software and in normal or slow modes does not make too much noise. The unit can also be retrofitted with a tiny digital tuner which lets it double as a PVR and record your digital TV straight to the same hard drive.

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The GUI (Graphical User Interface) of the 6500 has been overhauled and is now shiny and black. This is a great improvement over the previous generation of units, which used outdated graphics and, while functional, looked quite plain.

The 6500 comes to correct some of the limitations of the previous generation unit, namely the 4100. The unit uses a newer generation processor, the Sigma 8635, which is capable of playing back high bitrate content. The 863X family is now in heavy use in almost all the standalone Blu-ray players (the Sony PS3 is of course not a standalone player). The fact that this unit is actually using the same bit of hardware that Blu-ray players use, gives it quite an edge.

The Performance

Whereas the 4100 was limited, in terms of bitrate, to roughly 25-26Mbps, there is no such limitation on the 6500. Blu-ray (MT2S) and MKV files play without a problem at 40 Mbps without even so much as added judder. The unit is able to play this type of content at its native rate of 1080P running at 24FPS.

One of my favorite features on this unit should have been adopted long ago by all other manufacturers – automatic rate support. The unit actually detects if the content is 50Hz, 60Hz, or 24FPS and adjusts the output frequency accordingly. This has the effect of eliminating motion judder and simplifies life dramatically. I would suggest they take this to the next level and also provide us with an option for automatically changing the output resolution exactly to match the content (i.e., switch to 720p, PAL, 1080i, 1080p, depending on the content type).

Configuring the 6500 requires minimal technical sense. You have up to four network locations available. These can either be NFS locations (based on the free Netshare program supplied by DVICO) or SMB shares. SMB shares are very easy to create and require no special software – they are the default network type for windows based PCs. Vista requires some more tweaking, which is explained in depth in the user manual and worked flawlessly for me.

A new addition is the fact that you can actually access the unit's internal hard drive as if it was a remote disk on the network (NAS). It is not as fast as a proper NAS, but does reach 40-50Mbps.

The gigabit network capabilities in the unit are not very useful. Network speed is capped right now by the unit itself and not really by the speed of the network. The unit also has an FTP server, which lets you overcome some of the flaws in the built-in SMB server (e.g., it is currently limited to 2G files). I have found FTP to be limited as well, as it only provides one connection at a time (use Filezilla as most other applications default to several connections, which can cause problems with the unit). DViCO realizes that FTP server stability is not the best and lets you restart the FTP server software on the unit without having to reboot like in the older models.

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Boot time has been dramatically increased from the 4100. This is reminiscent of Blu-ray player boot times and was clocked at about 50 seconds from the time the unit starts up until you can play back a movie.

The new HDMI 1.3 connection is a welcome change, and DViCO has already issued two beta versions that actually bit stream Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD / HD Master Audio formats (as well as multi-channel PCM). For people who don't need these, or use the SPDIF/coax outputs, they can make due with DD and DTS (WMA PRO and AAC are also passed through, but only few AVRs will accept them). The unit is also able to extract the DTS core from the DTS HD content and provide you with a 1.5Mbps stream that most receivers will work well with. It sounds better than almost any DTS DVD content (except for demo content, perhaps).

The unit allows you to determine, for each type of audio content, how you want it sent to the receiver (through HDMI or coax/optical) – bitstreamed ("digital" or decoded to 2 channel ("analog").

The unit also supports high and low luminance settings, which is very nice, but as yet does not support wider color gamuts (DEEP COLOR / XVYCC).