First things first, the MP800H is a Chinese mass produced device at a bargain price. This becomes clear as you progress with the product and manifests itself in a number of ways, including the packaging and box content. The box itself is well made and everything is nicely packaged but the slightly questionable language gives the game away somewhat - 'turn your USB drive into Hisense HD MEDIA PLAYER,allowing you to watch your favorite HD movies on your TV.'. I always wonder why such things aren't run by someone with English as their native language before production but hey, it's not really that important is it...
Inside the box you'll find the device itself, a power supply (mine had a US plug with a UK adaptor), a remote control, a basic cable set (you'll likely use HDMI) and a user manual (in Chinese). No English manual is included in box, however one can be downloaded from Hisense.
The MP800H appears to be manufactured in a variety of colours, however the unit offered by eXpansys is available in blue only. The unit seems solidly built, but it's not the most attractive device in the world to sit on your HiFi cabinet. The design itself is pretty straightforward, but the blue is quite stand-out and the single front LED (green for on, red for standby) is large and distinctly old-skool!
The left hand side of the device has a pair of USB ports for directly connecting memory sticks or hard disks while the back of the device is home to the main connectivity. On the back are the YPBPR plugs for HD output, the RCA plugs for audio output, the optical audio output, the HDMI output, an RJ45 Ethernet port and the port for the power supply. All of the ports feel solidly mounted.
While the device itself passes scrutiny, the remote control on the other hand is simply awful. Ugly, slow to respond and incredibly cheap in feel, it 'does the job' but is much better discarded altogether and replaced by a multi function remote (I used a Logitech Harmony and it worked great).
Software - In Use
While the hardware is important, the MP800H lives or dies of course by it's software - does it do the job it's designed for?
When I first unpacked the MP800H and set it up, I was massively disappointed. The network connection was unable to stream the smallest of files, it couldn't find my UPNP or SMB shares and it was, effectively, useless. Despite being tempted to pack the device back up and send it back, I persevered and had a search around the web for fellow owners to see if this was par for the course. Thankfully, I came across a FTP site containing updates for the device, and after updating to the latest v42 software, I saw a MASSIVE improvement.
After updating I set up both SMB (Samba shares) on my Mac, a UPNP server on my Mac and had a go at streaming some 720P and 1080P MKV content over my home network which is using Homeplug between rooms. Impressively, it worked great! Smooth playback, great picture, great sound! Everything I threw at the device codec wise both for video and music it played, which is a big plus. I normally use a Windows Media Center for playing back this kind of content and the output from the MP800H was at least on par if not better.
The playback of images can be carried out as a slideshow, music playback unfortunately does not display album art, which is a little disappointing. It's not clear whether the MP800H will receive any feature updates to add such functionality in future firmware, though this seems unlikely.
True to it's Chinese roots, the UI on the MP800H is what I would describe as 'adequate'. It's not overly slick and comes complete with questionable English translations, but it does the job.
The Tweak Factor
I love digging into the workings of my devices and the MP800H allows you to do this, by virtue of it's Linux core. You can SSH in to the device and have a poke around - pretty neat and it also opens up the potential of using the device for other things or tweaking the functionality to suit you. I haven't gone down this road, yet...
Here are the Specs from the eXpansys site for reference...
- 400Mhz MIPS CPU
- 16MB Flash Memory
- 128MB DDR2 SDRAM
- Video codecs:
- MPEG-2 up to 1080P
- MPEG-4 (720P/1080i/1080P)
- H.264 up to 1080P
- WMV9/VC-1 up to 1080P
- RealNetworks(RM/RMVB)8/9/10 up to 1920*720(720P)
- Flash Video
- Audio codecs:
- MPEG-1 Layers I,vII and III and MPEG-2
- LPCM,vADPCM,vFLAC,vAAC, WAV and OGG Vorbis
- DTS HD Master Audio,LBR
- Dolby digital Plus,TrueHD
- RA1/RA-cook/RA-lossless WMA/WMA Pro
- Photo - HD JPEG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, DNG
- YPBPR output
- HDMI output
- Audio RCA stereo output (L/R)
- S/PDIF output
- RJ45 for Ethernet
- USB 2.0 x 2
- Power supply: AC 100~240V / 50~60Hz, DC12V,2A
- Dimension: 210 x 170 x 32mm
- Gross Weight:1.1kg;
- Net Weight:315g
At the price, the MP800H is definitely a bargain. After upgrading the firmware, it proves to be a very capable device. You have to accept the hardware (particularly) the remote is a little cheap in feel and that the UI is a little bit low quality but if reliable playback is your primary concern, the MP800H will fit your needs.
The Hisense MP800H is available from eXpansys for £54.99 with a MoDaCo discount voucher.