Design is usually a question of taste and not necessarily something we feel the need to comment on. Here, however, we do want to give our opinion: we don't like it. You certainly don't get what you might expect from a "Hi-fi" or "HD" product but rather a big, ugly, badly finished box. The plastic really is plasticky, not the best at all.
All the same, at the front of the device there is an LCD screen, so you can navigate through the menus with the TV off! This is very practical when you just want to listen to music. However, the screen is very small and you need to get quite close to the box to read it. There are nine buttons to the right of the screen for various features on the device. Here again, the design is rather old school and the 80s style rectangular LEDs and the all-too-obvious IR receiver do nothing to counter this.
The manufacturer has tried a bit harder with the remote. It's actually the same as the one for the Dvico Tvix models. It's nicely finished and sits nicely in the hand. The buttons are well positioned and some are phosphorescent. This doesn't totally solve problems of navigation in the dark but it does help you to find the remote!
Well designed menus but deficient
The navigation interface has good graphics with a nice colour scheme. Navigation is rapid and the various options are easy to get a handle on. We do have some reservations however. First of all, you can't copy files from a USB key or external hard drive onto the internal hard drive. Secondly, there's no advanced option for page set-up. This means you can't display all the photos from a folder as thumnails or create cover + synopsis cards for your video library.
Decoding: H.264 and MKV, but old-style...
To be honest, we don't understand why Memup have gone for the Sigma Designs SMP8623 chipset. It came out in 2007 yet the Memup brochure talks about the "new Sigma Designs chipset". There've been two generations since! Unless Memup are talking about the most recently available stocks...
But to get back to our subject, this decoding chip is showing serious signs of age and can no longer play recent H.264 video correctly (MPEG-4 AVC HP@4.0 max., no HP@4.1 support). And it hasn't been chosen for economy either - the box certainly isn't a budget product.
On paper, it can decode all current video formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 ASP (DivX, XviD), MPEG-4AVC (H.264, x264) and VC-1 (WMV), all in both SD and HD. In practice however, many MPEG-4 AVC encoded files won't play, especially those that have been encoded recently. And of course, these are the most numerous, the most standard.
On the container side, things are a bit better with support for the following: AVI, DIVX, MKV, MP4, WMV, MOV and M2TS. Let's not get carried away however as, and this is also the case for recent codecs, you will have problems for certain MKVs and M2TS' on which the video track has been encoded at high speed. With one Blu-ray, for example, we had a jerky display.
Subtitling support isn't a strong point either: no support for subtitles in AVI and DIVX files. Not much better with MP4s where only the first subtitling track is recognised. As for separated files, you'll have to make do with the following formats: SRT, SUB, SSA and SMI. No support for IDXs.
Audio support is also average with the following formats: MP3, WMA, AAC and OGG. No FLAC or MPC. While it can decode Dolby Digital, you only get bitstream for DTS. You'll therefore need an external decoder to play this type of audio track.
As for viewing photos, you may as well forget it. Quite a few formats are recognised (JPEG, BMP, GIF and TIF) but the box won't display files with a res higher than 10 Mpixels. And you have to wait 11 seconds between photos!
Connectivity: HDMI, USB and Ethernet
Connectivity is pretty good. There's HDMI and YUV for HD TVs, RCA and S-Video for SD. On the audio side, there are coaxial and optical outs. Two USB ports allow you to link up your USB keys and external hard drives. Unfortunately, these sockets are at the back of the device, which isn't very practical if you plan to put the box in your TV cabinet. Wi-Fi is optional (via a USB dongle) and you get ethernet 10/100 Mbps.
- LCD control screen
- Nice remote
- Low energy consumption
- Problems with support for recent video encoding
- Max of 10 Mpixels for photos
- Overly bare menus (well designed however)
- Poor design
We don't recommend this product, which, though a recent arrival, is already outdated. The aging chipset will soon make itself felt.