The big change in the B206 is the addition of an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3450 graphics chip coupled with 256MB of DDR2 memory, which brings with it the promise of high definition video decoding - something that the Intel Atom processor on its own is a bit too puny to tackle. Now, before you get too excited, it's worth noting that its HD capabilities are far from comprehensive. Our initial attempts to playback high definition material proved disappointing. It was happy enough to chew through standard definition material without a hitch, but as soon as we upped the pixel count it started to stutter.
Malcontent: format choices determine a smooth or stuttering playback
Even at 720p resolution both QuickTime and MKV format H264 files refused to play without dropping frames when viewed in VLC. Switching over to Apple's official player had little effect on QuickTime performance. WMV9 format files proved equally bad in VLC, but played back fine when watched in Windows Media Player. Divx at 720p proved better still, capable of playing back without skipping when viewed in both VLC and Windows Media Player.
The reason for the erratic HD performance is due to the fact that the B206's video boost comes from the Radeon graphics card, but only applications that support DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) can tap into its power. This feature is supported by applications like WinDVD and PowerDVD, but they don't replay all file formats such as MKV. Luckily, the open source Media Player Classic Home Cinema (MPC-HC) application also includes experimental support for DXVA.
Watching H264 files using MPC-HC resulted in much more impressive performance. Playback of 720P H264 material was smooth without any dropped frames. MPC-HC doesn't support DXVA for WMV, but at 720p it still played without any issues. QuickTime files still dropped frames, however, since MPC-HC just uses the installed version of QuickTime to decode the files.
I'm still looking for something that size that has a decent video capture and IR control (along with an EPG that's at least as good as the one on my 10 year old Tivo). Seems a bit pointless only being able to playback pre-captured video/torrent files.. OTOH that's a failing of all 'media' centres I've seen
does what is says and more
I just don't agree with this review, I bought the 204 model as it was the only one I could find. I wanted a box that was low power, could play movies and do any torrenting/iplayer/4oD. It took a few minutes of research to find that media player classic was the best player to use (there is a user forum at eeeuser.com) but once setup I was amazed at what this little box could do!
It only eat like 15 watts, iplayer and 4oD work perfectly and over wireless too, have downloaded a few 720p videos to test and they all seem to work perfectly. When I read this review I was worried that it couldn't handle 1080p, to be honest not a big loss but thought I would download something at 1080p just to make sure and I can confirm that this works perfectly! I have heard that some people have issues but issually down to using the wrong media player etc.
I am dissapointed in the Reg's review :( I shall download a fe more clips to be 100% sure but so far so good ;) expensive yes but well worth the cash for the kit.
Just checked back on this review.
Regarding Noise - this is practically silent. I've had Eve-online running on a 42" LCD and 720p content running and I can't hear it at all. I'm not even convinced there is a fan in there and I do mean that.
Just a shame that boxee and iplayer aren't playing nice at the minute :(
So this machine is slightly better than my more than 6 year old Mac Mini G4, which can handle standard definition content just fine...
The Western Digital HD TV player utterly destroys this in every media-playing way, and can be had for 70 quid. El Reg reviewed it in December (95%!), its since been MUCH improved with firmware updates.
Sure its not exactly a computer(unless you install the custom firmware), but once you've lived the dream of no longer having to deal with codecs, settings, framerates and other bollocks, you never want to go back to computers again.