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Another great alternative to the AppleTV
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kaidomac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 1:54 pm    Post subject: Another great alternative to the AppleTV Reply with quote

Tvix M-4100SH

Tvix makes several different boxes; the M-4100SH is their latest-and-greatest model and supports HD as well as a variety of formats and outputs, including H.264. Here's a quick feature overview:

Features:
-Supports both SD and HD televisions
-Supports internal hard drives up to 1TB
-Supports USB hard drives
-Supports Network Playback (with or without internal hard drive)
-Only $80 more than the AppleTV ($379)
-1080p output
-Plenty of connections (Composite, S-Video, Component, HDMI with audio, Coaxial Digital Audio, Optical Digital Audio, Analog Stereo RCA)

Format Support:
-Video: WMV9 (DRM, WMV9 Pro & Advanced Profile Not Supported), WMV HD (DRM Not Supported), AVI, MPG, VOB, MP4, ASF, TP, TRP Codecs: MPEG 1/2/3/4, XVID, H.264, AVCHD Camcoder, DiVX
-Photos: JPG
-Audio: MP3, WMA (lossy only), AAC, FLAC, OGG, PCM, M4A (DRM Not Supported), Multimedia Digital Sound, DTS Pass Through & Down Mixing

I've been reading up on it and decided to order one; it should show up next week. I'll post again when it arrives and I play with it for a bit. I am currently using a modded Xbox for multimedia playback. It's a great player, but it can't do anything HD. In addition, the controls and menu system can be complicated, especially if you hit a wrong button. Fine for me, but my wife sometimes has trouble with it. The Tvix box offers a simple interface and supports both SD and HD televisions. You have several options for getting content on it, including simply plugging it into a USB port on your computer and copying files over. If you use it for network playback, NFS is recommended over SMB for better performance. There's a great thread over at AVSforum on it:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=825089

So far, I see the following drawbacks:

Drawbacks:
-More expensive than the AppleTV by $80
-Cannot play DRM files (i.e. no iTunes-encrypted movies or music)
-No integrated wireless
-Problems with high-definition H.264 material

The AppleTV looks very exciting to me, but I have a couple problems with it. First, both my wife and I have laptops. This presents two problems: small hard drive capacity and the laptops aren't always at home. Since the AppleTV requires iTunes to stream content (not to mention it has a smallish drive for syncing tons of media), that wouldn't work out for us. So, second - the hacks aren't very clean yet. NitoTV is looking pretty good, but the hack requirements are pretty high (i.e. complicated), plus if you run updates there's no guarantee it wouldn't break. I wanted a set-top box that (1) has an easy interface, (2) can play HD material, (3) is low-maintenance, and (4) could stream content off a file server. I considered an HTPC, but that can be high-maintenance - a Tvix box requires zero maintenance after initial setup, not to mention the cost is much better than an HTPC capable of playing a multitude of formats including HD material, plus having digital outputs for audio and video, plus be small and quiet.

Anyway, I just wanted to pass this along as not many people have heard of these things. I will update this post with a review once I get it setup Smile
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TonyMontana
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks nice. So this can be run with no hard drive in it? Connected to a NAS drive via USB or ethernet cable?
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Ben Tex
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That looks cool! I didn't read everything, but does it have a GUI or just the VFD for control and visual feedback?
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kaidomac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TonyMontana wrote:
Looks nice. So this can be run with no hard drive in it? Connected to a NAS drive via USB or ethernet cable?


That's correct, it can be used as a network player without a hard drive. You can add wireless if you want to. You can even add a TV Tuner if you want it to act like a Tivo Cool
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kaidomac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ben_tex wrote:
That looks cool! I didn't read everything, but does it have a GUI or just the VFD for control and visual feedback?


Yes, it has an on-screen GUI for navigation. I will post screen shots or a video or something when it shows up!
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randyharris
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen screenshots of that system, and it's not pretty.
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kaidomac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It showed up today! And it's TINY! I thought it was going to be a little smaller than my Tivo, but it's more like half the size of a shoebox. Neato! I'm playing with it now and setting everything up. First order of business was to upgrade the firmware, which was easily done over the network. It supports 10/100 Ethernet and DHCP as well as Static IPs, so it can join your network pretty easily. You can add a Wifi adapter seperately if you want, but I don't like Wifi for streaming so I decided not to get that option. You can also add up to a terabyte internally (single SATA drive) plus USB drives (2 USB ports) for more storage. Since I have a big fat file server at home, I just dump all my media on there. The box is pretty quiet; you can hear the fan without audio but if you're sitting on the couch you can't hear a thing.

Right now I'm testing it out on Composite on my 27" SDTV (just a tube, nothing fancy). The picture quality is OUTSTANDING! I thought my Xbox was great, but no - the Tvix is just awesome! I'm surprised I can get a picture this good over Composite! The unit didn't come with an HDMI cable, so I'm going to borrow one from my brother tonight and hook it up to my HD projector to see how it looks. The Xbox has a pretty good upscaler built into XBMC, so I'm curious to see how that compares. As far as the menu goes, it's simple enough. Not the prettiest, but I've seen some aftermarket tools out there to change it up a bit (add your own graphics and whatnot), so I'll give that a try after I've logged some time with this beast. It's easy enough that I would say my Grandma could use it without much hassle. The menus are just a teeny bit slow; it's not super-instant on everything like the AppleTV is. My Xbox definitely beats the Tvix in the navigation performance department. Going through movies is super fast on the Xbox, but the Tvix needs some time to catch up - however, I've heard that Samba (SMB) is very slow with the Tvix, so I'm going to setup NFS on my server tonight because that's supposed to work the best with the M-4100SH. More details to come! I'll post a quick video later too Smile
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shorafix
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 10:22 am    Post subject: can it be true? Reply with quote

over 450 views and only 6 (+1) replies? Maybe because it's not so cool at all. Besides of the fact that it rather looks ugly: How is it integrated into iTunes and other Mac apps? How about the look and feel of it's GUI as compared to AppleTV?
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kaidomac
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 11:53 am    Post subject: Re: can it be true? Reply with quote

shorafix wrote:
over 450 views and only 6 (+1) replies? Maybe because it's not so cool at all. Besides of the fact that it rather looks ugly: How is it integrated into iTunes and other Mac apps? How about the look and feel of it's GUI as compared to AppleTV?


What does the number of views vs. replies have to do with how "cool" it is? And you're basing your opinion on how it looks? It actually looks pretty nice in real life, better than the AppleTV imo. What's with the hating? I really don't understand why you posted such a negative response. As far as being integrated into iTunes and other Mac apps, that's the whole point - you don't have to have iTunes open to stream multimedia. I have a Mac laptop and I don't want to leave it connected all the time or have to sync my library to a tiny hard drive. The look and feel is not exactly like AppleTV because it's not an Apple product. It's not bad, but it's definitely not as "pretty" as AppleTV, if that's what you're worried about. If you want "pretty" then stick with the AppleTV; if you want functional and the AppleTV isn't meeting your needs, this is a good alternative. The GUI works fine and is very easy to navigate and read.

One of the major benefits of the Tvix unit is that you can play "real" high definition material. I've successfully played back 1080p material in addition to 720p, 480p, and a variety of other resolutions. That means you can rip and play DVDs, Blu-rays, HD-DVDs, and OTA HD recordings without a hitch. The AppleTV can't do that. That means that I can digitally store 100% of my multimedia without running into snags. In addition, the Tvix unit can run on a normal 4:3 television. I have a regular tube TV in my bedroom and a high definition projector in my home theater; it works equally well in both settings, unlike the AppleTV. I also have many more options for storing data - I can stream off my network, add an internal hard drive up to 1TB, or add USB hard drives. Plus I can add a USB DVD drive or TV Tuner if I want to expand it.
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devo
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speaking of alternatives to the Apple TV, it looks like the SlingCatcher is about to be slung.

http://thetomoreport.blogspot.com/2007/10/leaked-slingcatcher-spy-pics.html

http://www.slingcommunity.com/blog/252/24991/New-SlingCatcher-Details-Available/?src=103

It's going to support WMV, MPEG 2, MPEG 4, H.264 and Xvid, as well external USB storage. The bad part, I don't see anything mentioned about Mac support.
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replicant
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kaidomac,

can't wait to hear more of your findings of that tvix box. i currently have an atv and hate it. even after hacking it it is still so unusable unless you have the perfect network or media content environment. the tvix box seems so much more open. anyway, i do have a question for you. could you say, hook up a usb external drive to the tvix box then access the files on the drive from your laptop? so the tvix would in essence become a glorified NAS. i am in the same boat as you and your wife, in that i have a macbook pro and an external usb drive with all of my content on the drive, and currently have to have my usb drive hooked up to my laptop to be able to stream that content to my hacked atv. i could go the hacked usbpatch route on the atv and plug the ext. drive right to the atv, but my network conditions right now (wireless only) are rather poor and i have lots of bad experiences with lag, choppiness of files back and forth. anyway, thanks for reading through my rambling and my question.

looks like i'll be doing a boat load of research tonight on avsforums to see what i can find out about the tvix box(es).
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kaidomac
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi replicant, sorry I totally forgot about this thread. So far the Tvix has been good but it's struggling with 1080p MKV files; the next firmware update is supposed to fix that. Right now I actually have my eye on the $179 Popcorn Hour player:

http://popcornhour.com/

The Tvix has an FTP server built-in; I believe the top speed is 4 MB/sec (megabyte not bit) which is pretty decent. If you're not in a rush, I would advise you to read up on the Popcorn Hour machine reviews when people start getting them; another batch is scheduled to be released later this month (around the 19th I believe). If you need something now then the M-4100SH is definitely a good way to go.
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TonyMontana
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kaidomac wrote:
Hi replicant, sorry I totally forgot about this thread. So far the Tvix has been good but it's struggling with 1080p MKV files; the next firmware update is supposed to fix that. Right now I actually have my eye on the $179 Popcorn Hour player:

http://popcornhour.com/

The Tvix has an FTP server built-in; I believe the top speed is 4 MB/sec (megabyte not bit) which is pretty decent. If you're not in a rush, I would advise you to read up on the Popcorn Hour machine reviews when people start getting them; another batch is scheduled to be released later this month (around the 19th I believe). If you need something now then the M-4100SH is definitely a good way to go.

Since I cannot for the life of me get my Apple TV to run the patchstick hack to play other formats. This thing looks SWEET for the price. I might be dumping the ATV Immediatly.

Edit: This thing has no wi-fi? Hummmm naybe not. Confused
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kaidomac
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TonyMontana wrote:
kaidomac wrote:
Hi replicant, sorry I totally forgot about this thread. So far the Tvix has been good but it's struggling with 1080p MKV files; the next firmware update is supposed to fix that. Right now I actually have my eye on the $179 Popcorn Hour player:

http://popcornhour.com/

The Tvix has an FTP server built-in; I believe the top speed is 4 MB/sec (megabyte not bit) which is pretty decent. If you're not in a rush, I would advise you to read up on the Popcorn Hour machine reviews when people start getting them; another batch is scheduled to be released later this month (around the 19th I believe). If you need something now then the M-4100SH is definitely a good way to go.

Since I cannot for the life of me get my Apple TV to run the patchstick hack to play other formats. This thing looks SWEET for the price. I might be dumping the ATV Immediatly.

Edit: This thing has no wi-fi? Hummmm naybe not. Confused


I'm not a big fan of Wifi for streaming. Even 802.11n has problems with "real" HD material.
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kaidomac
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh also I'm selling my Tvix in favor of an HTPC...I want to play around with HD discs as well as media files. Details here, PM me if you're interested:

http://marketplace.avsforum.com/showproduct.php?product=935&cat=4
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