Last night my MediaGate MG-35 arrived. This is a small front end device for playing back video, audio, or picture content off of a central server. I’ve got an xbox solution for this in the main living room, but with Susan and I using the exercise bike a lot more of late, I wanted the same thing going on in the family room. It was reasonably cheap (I got the one without a local hard drive for ~$120), so was worth the risk.
Once plugged in an running, the device was pretty easy to use. The remote is a little small (it’s actually powered by a watch battery), so it is hard to know if you’ve always hit the buttons. The interface isn’t as intuitive as XBMC, and the Samba server scan takes a little time when you first start to drill down into your media folders, but it isn’t very awkward. The interface looks a lot prettier than most of the filesystem browsing DVD players I’ve seen out there, which is a nice change.
Video playback worked fine, though one set of encoded videos I’ve got were a little jumpy. They are 704×400 in size, and I’m doing a test on some other media to figure out if it is a specific encode, or if the device just doesn’t have enough juice to scale at that size (which would actually be a scale down for the 4:3 tv it is on right now). I’m slightly curious if the MG-350HD has a better video processor to handle that (as it is “designed for HD”), but the price jump on that unit makes it a little beyond what I’d be looking at. I’m also curious if I’d get the same jitter if the media was local, vs. coming over a smb share.
For how we are going to use this, and the price, it works fine. It isn’t stellar by any means, but you can only expect so much from a device this cheap.