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Product Review
 

TViX HD M-5000U High Definition Media Server

Part I

March, 2007

Ofer LaOr

 

Specifications:

Codecs: WMV, AVI, MPG, VOB, MPEG-
   1,2,3,4, ASF, TP, TRP, DIVX, XVID, BMP,
   JPG
● Resolution: 1920 x 1080
● Chipset: Sigma Design EM8621
● Connections: Three USB 2.0, One LAN, One
   I/O
● A/V In/Out: DVI, Component, S-Video,
   Composite, Coaxial S/PDIF, Toslink,
   Analog
   Stereo
● File System: NTFS, FAT32
● Dimensions: 7.4" H x 5.3" D
● Weight: 4 Pounds
● MSRP: $399 USA

DViCO

Introduction

I've owned the TViX 5000 for almost 7 months now, but the unit has changed so much from firmware release to firmware release that it was very difficult to pin down in any specific point in time and review.

 
However, the software for the unit is slowly stabilizing so I feel it is a good time to review the unit.
 
The TViX HD M-5000U is a strange looking creature. It is round and has (in my humble opinion) a terrible outside design that causes most people to think it is a strange cross between a toaster, a small office shredder, and a garbage can.
 
Yes, the TViX 5000 by industry veteran DViCO, is tube shaped, and it's one of the best media streamers currently available. DViCO is known for various cards and devices for recording and playing back HDTV content.

The TViX 5000 supports most major formats (short of H264/AVC and Matroska content), in the MPEG-2, WMV, and DIVX variety. This includes both SD and HDTV content. Touted a media jukebox, the unit supports not only video, but a few audio formats (primarily MP3s) and image files (primarily JPGs).

 
We won't go deeply into the source of such material, but suffice it to say it is not difficult to obtain. DViCO offers an add-on to the unit (which I have not tested) which is essentially an HDTV tuner that allows one to record content directly on the unit. European users would be happy to learn that a similar DVBT add-on will be available soon. These add-ons are shaped like coasters that sit right below the unit and appear as an integral part of it.

The Design

 
Like other devices of its type, the TViX 5000 is based on the 862X Sigma designs chipset. As such, it suffers from the same issues as most other devices of its catagory - problems that we'll go into later on in the review.
 
The unit hosts a nice set of output connectors, including a USB type B (host) connector, two USB type A connectors, optical and coax audio outputs, composite, S-Video and component video outputs, a DVI output connector, and a LAN port.
 
The TViX can stream content from the network using up to four different network connections (each computer can host up to two connectors, so it can either connect to one connection on four different computers, or up to two connections on two different computers).

This streaming is done by either using an SMB (Windows networking sharing) or NFS (Linux file sharing system). In the past, only NFS was fast enough to support HDTV content, but DViCO has improved the firmware and optimized it so that the unit can support most typical HDTV content (up to around 18 Mbps) using SMB as well.

SMB requires no software to run on the streaming PC, which is a nice plus. For NFS, you must run a small piece of software by DViCO. This software runs in the background (a small TViX icon appears in the toolbar) and lets you share a single directory (hacks are available to support more than one disk that can run from this one share). I was able to test content that streamed at speeds of up to 26 Mpbs, which is higher than most content that is available today in these formats.

 
Alternatively, the unit contains space for a hard disk sporting up to 500 GB of content. The drive can run quite hot, so DViCO added a small fan to prevent the hard drive from overheating the unit. Unfortunately, this little fan can be quite noisy, so you are better off using a drive that doesn't run so hot (e.g., a 5400 RPM drive). Installing the drive requires the use of a screwdriver and two screws (i.e., anyone can do it).

Content streaming off the internal drive runs quicker (I was able to successfully test it with content of up to 38 Mbps!!!), and as an added bonus, the internal drive supports bookmarks - i.e., you can stop playing a movie or show and return to exactly where you left it off, at any time afterwards. Unfortunately, this great feature does not work for content coming from either the network or USB drives.

 
The two USB ports allow you to connect two additional drives to the 5000. This allows the unit to support many terabytes of data from directly connected sources or a network drive. Thumb drives can also be connected to the unit, but the connectors are in the back, which is oriented towards using it with outboard USB 2.0 drives.
 
The internal drives and the external drives can be either FAT, FAT32, or NTFS formats (the latter is the most popular for most computer users). To access the internal drive, you can connect the unit to a PC using a USB 2.0 cable, and it behaves like an external drive. However, when it is connected this way, the unit cannot be used with a display.
 
Alternatively, the 5000 offers external access to the drive through FTP. That means you can connect to it from another computer on the network and place content into its internal drive. This is a very neat and unique feature and one that I use often.

Click Here to Go to Part II.

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