Review: MaxInPower BEMIPMP363

 
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Published: December 14, 2008 11:00 PM
By Régis Jehl
MaxInPower has managed to create a very compact little multimedia hard drive, hardly much bigger than the 3.5'' enclosure for a regular external hard drive.  

Nevertheless, it can accommodate either 3.5'' or 2.5'' drives, using either SATA or IDE (3.5'' only) connectors.  

And while the case might look attractive at first glance, it's actually something of a disappointment: it feels very plastic, and none of the buttons on the front seem very solid.  The main power button has a tendency to get stuck inside its support when you push it in, too.

On the inside, there's a fan, and, unlike the rest of the equipment here, it's actually pretty large.   It keeps the hard drive running at an acceptable temperature without making too much noise, and the noise created by the spinning disk platters is also neutralized by the four rubber feet that the BEMIPMP363 sit on.

A full size remote control is included, which sits nicely in the hand, although the buttons are fairly small and difficult to press.  We're a long way from the kind of quality found on Divco or PopcornHour players.  

Navigating through the menus is quick enough--but that's sometimes due to a somewhat disappointing lack of features.  The settings page, for instance, is far too short, and it's impossible to specify whether the audio output should be 2.0 or 5.1.  

There are weaknesses in the rest of the interface, too, with no option to view thumbnails in folders with photos and videos.  

Another annoyance about the menus is that they appear letterboxed with black bars t the top and bottom of the screen when it's in 16:9 ration, even though widescreen video looks fine.

Interface

Compatibility

MaxInPower has opted for a Sigma Designs EM8623L-LF decoding chip, the same as is found on the Xibox Cinebox HD Wireless Premium or the Dvico Tvix HD 5100.

It's a very wise choice--so much so, that the manufacture has seen fit to mention it on a sticker on the outside of the case.  

The fact that MaxInPower are keen to boast about the chip they're using is somewhat undercut by the fact that they don't make the most of it.  

Although a lot of codecs are supported--including a decent selection of HD formats--most of the competition works with a broader smattering of video formats.  

The main irritation is not the absence of support for MKV, but rather the fact that there's no compatibility with files which contain multiple audio tracks and/or subtitle files.  The subtitles included in DivX files can't even be read at all, with both SRT and SUB files passing unrecognized by the BEMIPMP363.

To summarize, videos encoded using MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 (DivX 6, XviD, ASP), WMV, MP4 and H.264 can all be read.  When it comes to HD, WMV HD and DivX HD are on offer, but MKV containers are off the agenda.  MP3, WMA, Dolby Digital and DTS audio formats are supported, but for these last two, you'll need to use pass-through mode: the multimedia hard drive itself doesn't do any decoding, passing a raw signal to your hifi equipment for processing there.  JPEG, BMP, GIF and PNG make up a healthy selection of image formats, but we can only repeat that no subtitle files worked with our tests.

Connectivity

The selection of video and audio inputs and outputs is entirely predictable, with composite and component video along with HDMI for the former, and optical complementing the composite cabling for the latter.

A USB host has wisely been included on the front of the case, meaning you can plug in an external hard drive or a USB flash drive.  

You can connect the hard drive up to your home network either via its Ethernet port or wirelessly, using 802.11g.  Although this should offer fast speeds, the single antenna isn't very powerful so you'll need to make sure you have good wireless coverage near the BEMIPMP363.

MaxInPower supplies composite and component cables, a composite to SCART adapter and a USB cable, but nothing to plug into the HDMI port.
3/5 MaxInPower BEMIPMP363 DigitalVersus 2008-12-15 00:00:00

Pros

  • Support for many video codecs
  • Small form factor
  • Quiet operation

Cons

  • Decoding chip not well-used
  • Incompatible with subtitles
  • Defective HDMI output
  • Very few options
  • Limited network support

Conclusion

Attractive on paper; but less impressive in practice, this model presented us with a series of disappointments during our test. Although it is manufactured round some quality components, the software included just isn't up to the job.

OUR SCORE 3/5
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