Review: TizzBird F30

Published: January 17, 2012 5:20 PM
By Régis Jehl
Translated by: Jack Sims
A new player in the world of media centres, TizzBird is aiming to make an impact alongside the Popcorn Hours, HDIs and Dvicos. Indeed, ex-Dvico executives (including the old CEO) are behind this new company. Their first product is the soberly named F30 that will nevertheless be an attention grabbing calling card: an Android 2.3 OS, automatic audio / video jukebox creation, 1 GHz processor and Gigabit network. Will it be able to take on the high flyers? Why not!

While it looks pretty standard, it is made of good quality hardware (plastic and aluminium) and is well finished. The hard drive is inserted using a rack for which no screws are needed (a plus!).

The remote is relatively standard and only a few buttons are phosphorescent. As the F30 runs on Android, you can also control it using a keyboard / mouse kit. It’s a shame therefore that no mini-keyboard with a touchpad or trackball is delivered with the centre. It starts up in a little over fifteen seconds, which is very fast for this type of product.

A singular looking interface

F30accueil


Graphical interfaces are always a question of taste and here we find the F30’s  seems very busy with all the different icons and background images. A lack of artistic organisation perhaps?

Navigation is nevertheless relatively intuitive and rapid. Old users of Dvico products will quickly get used to it as it is set up in a similar way.

F30liste


Several types of display

The first type of display is the standard list mode and you have to use the files names to find them by. We prefer the second method which allows you to display files as thumbnails with either a wall or different types of coverflow modes.

F30mur


A practical audio / video jukebox, but not yet working as well as it could

The display using thumbnails is fluid and practical as it allows you to carry out a visual search for a photo, music album or film and this is where the audio / video jukebox comes in handy. It allows you to retrieve information on films (posters, summaries, actors) and series (posters only) as well as music (album covers).

F30cover3 F30cover3
F30cover2 F30cover2
Posters can be displayed in 7 different ways.


Nevertheless, not everything is yet perfect with this system and it's sometimes rather laborious to retrieve the information you want. To access film summaries you have to place each film in a separate folder, otherwise you’ll only be able to retrieve the poster. Then, while you can request the system to go get information on all the files in a folder, it won’t do the same for sub-folders, which means you then have to handle each one separately, which is rather off-putting.


This limitation is particularly annoying when it comes to music as you then end up placing albums in individual folders and having to launch retrieval of covers album by album. It is, we suppose, some consolation to see that while not all that practical, the system does at least work: you’ll even find that you can source information on lesser known artists and we found the results pretty consistent.

To sum up, it would be good if TizzBird could improve its jukebox system by scanning folders and sub-folders. We would especially have liked to be able to choose between different posters. In the meantime, the NMJ system you find on the Popcorn Hour A-300 and Popbox V8 is much more efficient, though limited to just films and series.

F30musique2 F30musique2
F30photos2 F30photos2
Frames 1, 2 and 3: music.
Frame 4: photos in a folder.


Compatibility: in step with the standard offer

Playback of media files doesn’t pose any problem and all current formats can be played, as you can see in the media centre face-off. The TizzBird F30 is therefore an excellent performer in this respect, especially as high throughput full-HD videos are handled perfectly. DTS / Dolby (standard or HD) can be decoded and transposed to stereo or sent to an external amp (bitstream).

3D videos can only be played side-by-side or top-and-bottom and only if the image is in HD. You can’t display a 3D video 3840 pixels wide or 2160 pixels high (3D SBS / TAB full-HD).

Dvd
Find all our readings in the media centre face-off


DVD and Blu-ray backups are displayed without any difficulty. Only the Blu-ray menus don’t appear and are replaced by a generic menu (Blu-ray Lite) that is displayed on top of the film. 3D Blu-ray backups (AVC/MVC) can only be played in 2D.

Network is disastrous

The wired Gigabit Ethernet network interface is supposed to offer high speeds (sending files to the device or playback of HD videos without jumpiness). This is the case in theory, but in practice, what you get is truly mediocre.

Firstly, although the embedded processor is a 1 GHz ARM - and therefore high performance – file copying (from a computer via Samba sharing) hardly exceeds 7 MB/s. This might be better than the entry level products currently on the market but it falls a good way short of what might have been expected.

If you’re looking to fill this media centre’s hard drive, it’s best to use the USB 3.0 ‘type B’ port (for linking up to a computer, not to play what’s on peripherals). Using this USB 3.0 port, throughput is higher than 100 MB/s, though it depends on what hard drive you're using. In our case, with an HDD to HDD transfer we managed an average of 130 MB/s.

The most annoying thing is when you try to playback videos using the network. As there’s no network browser, you have to link a shared network to the device manually. This is a slightly complex manipulation for newbies and also only one network player can be added to the centre. If you have an NAS and a computer with files shared between them, you’ll have to make a choice.

Still on the subject of full-HD videos, anything over 18 Mbps and you get a jumpy image. This may be an issue with high throughput MKV videos or moderate Blu-ray backups.
Our litany of complaints ends with the fact that you can’t access the centre from a computer. Only a link up in the other direction (described above) is allowed.
4/5 TizzBird F30 DigitalVersus 2012-01-17 18:20:00

Pros

  • Multimedia compatibility
  • Film and music album information (jukebox) is retrieved
  • USB 3.0 port for rapid link-up with a computer

Cons

  • Jukebox needs some work in terms of management of sub-folders
  • Gigabit network slow and limited
  • Android is pretty anecdotal here: no applications market, applications not designed for TV usage

Conclusion

A good media centre with advanced features but which are not yet sufficiently integrated for us to give the F30 a five-star rating. It’s also a shame that the network connection is so disappointing and that Android reveals itself to be an as yet immature solution.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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