Hardware: poor interface
The iTab 38HD media centre has a trapezium-shaped design and it's well made. We were a bit disappointed by the VFD though, as it's quite small and can't be used to navigate through the internal menus if you've got the TV switched off. The remote control is fairly nice and it's comfortable to use; it's just a shame it's not backlit.
The menus are similar to those we used to see back in 2008, offering no advanced functionality. There's no way of creating a video jukebox or displaying album covers, and you can't view your photos as thumbnails either. As well as this lack of functionality, the overall graphic style and quality of the interface are pretty dodgy too.
Power consumption is just about average. We measured 1.2 W on standby and 21.7 W playing an HD film.
Compatibility: great for HD video, not so good for audio
The decoder chip is the Sigma Designs SMP8634, which is very similar to that used in the Western Digital WD TV HD. Video compatibility is therefore excellent and we didn't find anything bad to say about it.
HD films encoded in MPEG-4 AVC (H.264 and x264) play just fine, even those with a bitrate of 80 Mbps. For more information on compatible formats, why not take a look at our media centre face-off?
Audio is, however, a different story. There are plenty of compatible formats (MP3, M4A, OGG, FLAC etc.) but the device can't display album covers. In fact, only the information contained in MP3 files (tags) can be read by the device. The iTab 38HD can decode DTS and Dolby Digital, and stereo downmixing means the signal can be converted and sent to your TV's speakers (except DTS HD Master Audio).
Connections: networking but no Wi-Fi
There are plenty of A/V outputs, with HDMI, component, composite, optical and coaxial. USB Host ports are on hand for access to content stored on USB flash drives or external hard drives, with one such port located on the front panel. The only drawback is a particularly slow USB transfer speed of 4.7 MBps, compared with 15 MBps in some of the best models.
Networking is covered by a 100 Mbps Ethernet connection that's also quite slow, with a maximum transfer speed of 3.4 MBps when copying a file from your computer onto the device's hard drive. As a result, playing an HD video over the network can be painful, and you're better off transferring files to the media centre's hard drive.