Hauppauge’s MediaMVP

To start this review off, I have to admit that I have very little expertise in the realm of digital media display. I bought this product as part of my initial baby steps towards converting my existing PC into a part-time PVR. As such, my standards might be lower than the power users of this site. But I figure I can give you folks a basic idea of its usefulness for me.

The mediamvp basically is a Linux based digital media receiver that hooks up to your network and handles output to your stereo and TV for digital files. In effect, it reads the video, music, and picture files on the computers on your network and plays them to your TV and stereo.

Setup for the system was not difficult at all. All I had to do was to connect the mediamvp to a standard network cable (not provided), hook up the audio/video cable to my TV (actually to my stereo and TV), install some minimal software, and plug the sucker in. It worked the first time I turned it on. The hardest part of the process was convincing my wife that it was necessary to string network cable from my office to the living room at the other end of the house.

The basic software setup has a media search that was fairly easy to figure out. The only issue that has popped up so far is that it does not refresh itself, so if you make major changes in your collection, you need to run it again.

As for performance….

When it came to displaying pictures, I was quite impressed. It only supports .jpg and .gif, but that is all that I usually deal in. The pictures were crystal clear on the screen and not niceably distorted. It was easy to set up a basic slide show.

The music performance was also solid. The mp3 sounded great on my stereo and it was easy to set up basic play lists. The unit also reads and plays a variety of playlists that can be created ahead of time in winamp or similar programs.

When it came to digital video playback, I had some mixed results. The first MPEG that I tried to play has its audio delayed by a few seconds. The second that I played was visually jerky. At that point I tried playing them with no other programs running on my pc. Once I did that there was no problem so I have to conclude that I can not multitask when it comes to the video playback (there is no problem with mp3 playback, however). One note of warning, however, is that I am not certain how the quality of my MPEG2s matches up. I installed a cheap tuner card with a software based encoder (TV wonder ve) and so I am not certain what the results would be with higher quality files.

The unit is controlled with a remote that allows for pausing, rewind, and other useful functions. There is a slight pause in the response which I can only assume is the result of accessing the network. After using the unit for a while I did not notice it much.

My main criticism of the device arises from the limitation in the files that it can play. For images, it only handles .jpg and .gif files. For audio it only handles MP3s and certain playlist files. Finally, for video, it only plays MPEG1 and MPEG2 files. This was frustrating for me because much of my music collection was .WMA and I can not play my DIVX Red Dwarf episodes. I emailed the company about this and they responded that they were looking into the possibility of a software upgrade, but the subtext of their message told me not to hold my breath.

Overall, I am pleased with this gadget. Its performance is generally good and since I got it for $65 as the result of a $30 rebate, the price did not break the bank. The cheap tuner card that I purchased along with it was about $45, which means that I have basic PVR functionality on my computer and in my living room for about $110 dollars. The company also has hinted firmware and software upgrades, so there is a good chance the functionality of this product will increase (crossing my fingers for DIVX).

Feel free to post in my original mediamvp entry in the forum if you found my review helpful or if you have any questions for me.

This item is available at Amazon.com with FREE super saver shipping