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Two Networked HD Media Players Compared

Introduction

Have you ever longed for more high definition content? Welcome to the club. There's no doubt that HD is currently at the forefront of video technology, but come on! It's been at the forefront since before it was established as an official video standard way back in 1996! Why must we wait for HD to finish its painstakingly slow march to replace standard definition video completely? Why is it that we are often forced to wait until "prime time" to catch any shows that are broadcast in HD? Even then, HD broadcasts are usually on at the same time, so you miss one show because you're watching another. I didn't invest in a nice HDTV to watch low resolution video. I don't know about you, but I want more!

Well, on the off-chance that my little rant there had no impact on bringing HD any closer to replacing standard definition, I offer a temporary solution to the problem. Those of us who want more HD are going to have to find a way to record it. That way we can save a few glorious high resolution videos for that insufferably frequent HD downtime. There are a couple of common ways to record high definition video. One is to use a standalone HD digital video recorder like those offered by TiVo. People who use TiVo HD recorders already have a way to record in high definition and they don't mind paying a nominal monthly fee to get it. The same can be said for cable users with HD recorders in the cable boxes, though fees are far from nominal. The rest of us can either stand being envious or pony up a few bucks to add an HDTV tuner to our computers.

Once we have added the tuner card, we face the next challenge. Unless you want to gather the family around your computer's monitor, it's time to start thinking about getting the recorded video out of your office and on-to your HDTV. If you're not feeling up to putting together an HTPC you'll need a network media player of some sort; these are standalone devices designed to bridge the gap between your PC and your TV using a network connection. Fortunately there are lots to choose from.

Luckily, I happen to have a couple of network media players sitting on my coffee table at the moment. Allow me to introduce the Mvix MX-760 HD and the Rapsody N35.

Since both players have similar functionality I'll first outline the features that they have in common and then cover their differences. The Sigma Designs EM8621L Media Processor is the brain behind both the Rapsody and the Mvix. When you look under the hood of most standalone video players these days you'll very likely find a member of the Sigma Designs media processor family running the show. Sigma chips are popular because they are capable of decoding such a wide variety of audio and video file types. Interestingly enough, the similarities between the Rapsody and the Mvix don't end with the Sigma chip; they also use the same Silicon Image SiI164 DVI transmitter, the same Realtek RTL8100CL Network Controller, and the same VIA VT6212L USB host controller

The Mvix MX-760 HD and the Rapsody N35