The HD video output - an HDMI 1.3 connector which includes Dolby Digital Audio - is supplemented by a get-you-home AV 3.5mm socket that does analogue audio and composite video. My Hitachi projector doesn't handle HDMI audio, so I use the alternative S/PDIF optical audio out to feed my Harman Kardon AVR 630 directly. I would've liked more options - component-video out would have made the VMP74 play better with older kit.
Nice UI - but it's a shame iPlayer doesn't work yet
That's the nuts and bolts, but what does this thing actually do? It'll display movies, music and pictures from a plugged in USB drive or streamed to it over UPnP, or, if you're not running a UPnP server, it can also - allegedly, but see below - collect them from Windows shares using the SMB/CIFS protocol.
The remote's not bad either
I tested it with MOV, MP4, AVI and MKV container formats, with a variety of encodings inside, and they all worked without a hitch.
Through your LAN it can also reach out onto the internet to deliver YouTube to your living room screen. Shoutcast and Live365 Internet radio too, along with the Flickr photo site. The BBC iPlayer also appears in the same list, although it turns out to be "Coming Soon" when you try to access it.
Re. HiSense is still ahead
Especially now the MP800H is now only £50 at Expansys...
New Firmware, Better Score
Since this review hit the Web Viewsonic has sent me a couple of firmware updates, in the light of which I'd be inclined to up the score to, say, 80 per cent. I put this tentatively, because the firmware is still beta and not public, and it looks as if the changes it implements won't be publicly available until next month, or perhaps later.
The latest firmware revision removes my objection to the Web browser -- pages are no longer messed up and the navigation is smoother and definitely useable. And the BBC iPlayer now works, so for those with reasonable Internet bandwidth (>=2Mbps) it offers a very decent catch-up TV experience in the living room. I don't have any way of measuring the resolution, but it's probably not 720p, but subjectively it does seem to be a better picture than I get when visting the iPlayer on a PC.
By the way, the BBC iPlayer seems to be the element that's holding up Viewsonic's distribution of this firmware -- I understand they can't go public with it until the BBC signs it off.
The bad news is that the Samba problem isn't, as I suggested, a function of my password protection. It's been confirmed that a firmware bug is preventing Samba sharing on some network configurations, although I'm told that Viewsonic's boffins are working flat out to fix it. When the Samba issue is fixed I'd be happy to shift this rating up another 5 per cent.
Quxy (above) raises the spectre of the HiSense MP801H, and indeed it's the low street price of the currently available HiSense MP800H that has prevented me giving the VMP74 a higher score. But as far as I understand it, the MP801H isn't destined for Europe, and its RRP is unknown at the moment.
I haven't kicked the MP800H around myself, but it certainly seems worth a look, especially at less than half the price of the VMP75 (although that's comparing street price with RRP, of course). If you don't want the YouTube and other Internet functions, and you don't need the advanced audio features like DTS downmix and full Dolby Digital (no space to go into this in the review, but worth following up if you're a HiFi buff) the HiSense seems like a nice cheap option at fifty odd quid.
Danny 14 mentions wireless. I believe the VMP74 wll take a USB wireless dongle, although I haven't tested this.
Better hope this thing never goes wrong as my experience of ViewSonic's aftercare is that it's fucking shit. A warranty repair, no less, for a monitor with a faulty EDID chip. Getting them to ackowledge the warranty was bad enough, look forward to month long waits for responses.
BBC iPlayer HD?
So what are the chances of this actually being able to deliver BBC HD straight from iPlayer?
I guess until its reviewed we'll never know.
El Reg (Chris or Alun) please keep us updated as and when said update is released.
Maybe your g wireless sucked for 720/1080 but n should be more than enough even with encryption. I must admit though, for the price it is cheaper than most ION systems when you factor in mobo and case (I run XBMC off USB so not much else is needed.)