Philips HMP2000 HD Media Player
Jumping on the Netflix bandwagon
Review Philips describes its new HMP2000 as a ‘smart media box’, along the lines of rivals such as the AppleTV and Western Digital’s WDTV Live . However, it would probably be more accurate to describe it as a Netflix  box, since Netflix is clearly its primary raison d’être.
Media smartie: Philips HMP2000
The wedge-shaped design of the HMP2000 makes it look like a fatter version of the AppleTV, but it turns out to be rather thinner in terms of features. Look around the back of the HMP2000 and you’ll see just the mains power socket and an HDMI interface for connecting it to your HD TV. There’s no dedicated digital audio output – you'll have to resort to the HDMI audio channels – and no Ethernet either, so you have to rely on the built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to your home network. The spec sheet makes no mention of the wifi, but I'm told it’s 802.11g.
Wireless networking and just HDMI and USB connectivity
There’s no internal storage, but the HMP2000 does have a single USB port on the left-hand side that allows you to play music, photos or video files off an external USB Flash drive or hard drive. That’s the only way to play your own files, though, as there’s no support for DLNA or any other networking options that would allow you to stream files from a networked Mac, PC or mobile device.
The credit card remote's action takes some getting used to
The initial set-up process is very straightforward, as the HMP2000 automatically guides you through the process of selecting a language and connecting to a wireless network. However, the cheap and nasty remote control immediately becomes an annoyance – it’s flimsily constructed, and the buttons aren’t very responsive, forcing you to press down slowly and firmly when selecting options from the on-screen menu.
Moreover, that menu turns out to be rather underwhelming too, consisting of just a handful of small icons floating in acres of empty screen space. The first icon provides access to Netflix, and there’s also a dedicated Netflix button on the remote control that confirms Netflix’s status as the virtual be-all and end-all of the HMP2000.
Minimal main menu
There are no other commercial video services available – no BBC iPlayer, Lovefilm, PictureBox or any other UK-based video services. The only other on-line options are a small selection of social networking sites. YouTube is there of course, and there’s an icon labeled ‘Internet Services’ that had me hoping for something a bit more interesting, but revealed a measly selection consisting of just Facebook, Picasa and the weather.
Slim pickings for other services
And that, alas, is the entirety of the HMP2000’s on-line offerings, so if you haven’t got a Netflix account then the HMP2000 doesn’t have an awful lot to offer. And yet, within those limits the HMP2000 does actually work quite well. Its 1080p output is crisp and colourful, and the HMP2000 also works well as a general-purpose media player for files stored on external USB devices. Its interface isn’t particularly elegant, but it’s functional enough and the one saving grace of the remote control is the Browse button that allows you to browse through individual folders or to sort music, photos and videos separately.
The HMP2000 also supports a good selection of file formats. The spec sheet lists only MP4, H.264, MKV and WMV video formats, and MP3 and WMA for audio, but I was also able to play some Video_TS files ripped off DVD, as well as my collection of AAC music copied from iTunes. There’s no support for DiVX or XVid, although there is a more expensive model called the HMP7000 that supports those formats and is available for about £100.
Affordable IPTV access
If your existing HD TV doesn’t have Internet connectivity already built in then, if you shop around, for a mere £45 the HMP2000 does provide a quick and affordable way of using your TV with your new Netflix account. However, the lack of additional VOD services means that the Philips HMP2000 is very much a one-trick pony, and many people will probably prefer to pay another £40 for the more versatile WD TV Live. ®
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