The SideWinder 3 is one of Xtreamer's first Blu-ray 3D-compatible media centres. But that's not all it has going for it. It also includes Android 2.3 (optional) and a movie library in the form of an integrated jukebox. Basically, it's got everything. But is it really that prodigious? It all depends on your point of view...
The SideWinder is made of thick metal and quality plastic. There's no display on the facade, but there is a hard drive rack. The rack is easy remove, although you need 4 screws to attach a hard drive. There's no fan, which virtually guarantees low noise levels.
The remote control is the same that comes with a number of other Xtreamer media centres (SideWinder 2, iXtreamer, etc.). And we found all the same weaknesses with the remote: a fragile build and no backlighting for the buttons (although they are phosphorescent).
Same Interface, More Responsive
The interface is a revised version of the SideWinder 2 interface. It looks just as nice and is much more responsive and far less "buggy" than the previous one. You can still search through files as lists or thumbnails (miniatures). Thumbnails are a practical way of viewing the photos in a given folder all at once or seeing the album covers for music. The "favourites" function allows you to group together all your favourite files and folders, no matter where they're located (internal hard drive, network, USB).
The only complaints we have about the music manager are details, no more. The player shows the song info (tags) and album covers for MP3 files only. For all other formats only the file name is displayed. It's a shame that the whole system for sorting music by artist, album name, etc. goes to waste on these files.
Movie JukeBox: Easy To Use
After the 3.5 update, the Xtreamer Sidewinder now has an integrated video library. Movie JukeBox collects information about the films stored on it (poster, summary, cast, rating, etc.), and your movies can be displayed as a wall of posters (either 14 or 27 per page) or as a cover flow.
You don't need a computer to create your library, because everything's done on the interface. It takes 2 to 5 seconds to add a movie. If the film's info isn't right, or if you don't like the posters, you can edit the file and refine your search. At the time of this review, you can't choose a different movie; you can only change the posters or illustrations.
Compatibility: 3D Blu-ray Storage
Xtreamer is one of the first brands to offer a series of media centres capable of storing 3D Blu-ray movies. We encountered no problems with this function, and subtitles and closed captioning are displayed as they should be. The only thing you lose is when you save a Blu-ray is the original menus, but there's an in-house menu (BD-Lite) to fill the gap.
Find all our readings in the Media Centre Face-Off
And for all other decoding, the Sidewinder does the job well: it reads high speed HD movies without a hitch and decodes DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD or sends them via bitstream to your external audio amplifier.
The Gamut of Connectivity
Connectivity is one of the SideWinder 3's strong points. It has HDMI 1.4, composite A/V, component, optical and coaxial ports, plus an SDHC card reader on the front. Two USB host ports on the back allow you to connect your USB peripherals and there's even a USB 3.0 port for making rapid file transfers (over 100 MB/s) from your computer to the 2.5" hard drive.
In addition to Wi-Fi N, the Sidewinder has a Gigabit Ethernet port for reading and sending files over a network. In both cases, transfer times are relatively slow: 8.7 MB/s via Ethernet and 3.5 MB/s via Wi-Fi. The SideWinder 3 supports streaming, although faster-streaming HD movies sometimes turn out choppy via Wi-Fi. Via Ethernet this is never an issue, even at high speeds.
Android & Web Applications: Same As Before
Initially Xtreamer put a good deal of emphasis on the Android 2.3 aspect of its new generation of media centres. From the start we felt this was a mistake: back then the system was sluggish with tons of bugs and it just wasn't very effective on the whole.
Several updates down the line, Android is now optional and not selected by default. The user is free to activate or deactivate the Google OS, which simply becomes an extra layer added on top of Xtreamer's proprietary operating system.
We still find the SideWinder too slow when Android is turned on. And we stand firm in our position that Android isn't necessarily relevant on this media centre. No apps have been made for TVs yet and the official app shop, Google Play, isn't even accessible from the device.
Basically, it's kind of like the other applications on the SideWinder: you noodle with them for a minute just for the fun of doing it on a TV, and then you never touch them again. They just aren't that practical or properly designed.
- Full multimedia compatibility
- 3D compatibility
- Tons of connectivity
- Movie JukeBox
- Cursory Android presence & no Google Play
- JukeBox for movies only
- Slow network transfers
The Xtreamer SideWinder 3 is a good media centre with a full range of functionality. But we still have to say that certain features could have been further developed (the jukebox) and the network transfers could be beefed up.