Oct 19, 2011

Mvix Ultio Pro (MX-880HD) Review


I have a friend that mentioned that he had purchased a really cool device called the Mvix Ultio. It is an HD media server device that can play just about any type of media file out there in 1080p goodness. It also features something that most devices of its kind don't, a built in BitTorrent client!

I decided to contact Mvix USA to see if I could get a review model to test out myself. Lucky for me, they sent me a review unit at a substantial discount! Anyway, when I got the unit, it wasn't the unit my friend had, but their latest model, the Mvix Ultio Pro! T.his device, like it's predecessor, has a built-in BitTorrent client, can handle internal storage up to 2TB, as well as additional storage via USB, and SDHC. It will also play DVD's if you have an external USB DVD ROM.

With a built-in BitTorrent client, you probably already assume that it is network attached right? Good, glad we're on the same page. Yes, you can either attach it via ethernet cable, or via wifi. Since it is network attached, you can also share files over the network to and from the Ultio Pro using SMB shares. Also, if you have a UPnP server like PlayOn or Tversity, you can stream stuff like Hulu, Netflix and Pandora directly to your TV!

Ok, now you know all about the device, lets get down to my review. All the above are true. You could potentially use this device to free yourself from your TV cable company, satellite company etc. Would you really want to though? That is the real question with this device. You see, for a computer guy, this device is fine, but I think the average user might not like this device as an alternative to cable. The reason being it that the device's navigation is done in file folder format. Trying to find something to watch, even using UPnP is like browsing through files on your PC. Also, when you hi-light a show, or a file, there is no metadata, or show information. People like seeing that stuff when they are browsing for things to watch, that is why cable companies do that. Here are some pictures of what I'm talking about from my TV:

The top picture is the file structure of the internal hard drive, the bottom picture is from Hulu. To me, it isn't so bad. Especially with Hulu using PlayOn, because you at least get the episode titles. You also get a little bit of a preview on the upper right. The problem though is that when using UPnP there is a little bit of a lag when navigating between shows, and you have to wait almost one full minute before you get the preview to work.

Navigating the local hard drive isn't as bad, as it is relatively fast. The problem there is the BitTorrent client. There are a couple of things I don't like about it. One, you can only download one item at a time. If you wanted to use a Torrent RSS feed from say EZRSS, you will still have to use the BitTorrent client on your PC. Also, it dumps all downloads to the root on one file folder. If you want to keep your shows organized, once again, you will have to use the Torrent client on your PC. I had my PC Torrent client set to download directly to the Ultio Pro over SMB, the problem with that is that SMB to the Ultio is ridiculously slow and periodically disconnects. To compensate I have to download to my local hard drive, then using a Robocopy script, I move the files over to the Ultio Pro. Not exactly user friendly for the average Joe.

As mentioned above, the device supports UPnP. That is good, because if you want to watch legal shows from the Internet, that is how you have to do it. The problem? The only UPnP server that I know of that does this well is PlayOn which costs $39.99 for the license plus an annual subscription of $19.99 after that. Sure, it's cheaper than cable, but I think if Mvix wants to truly make a cable TV killer, they need to have this functionality built in. They do have some things built in like Youtube, but for some reason it looks like crap... Too much compression I guess.

Finally, lets get to the hardware. I mentioned above that the device supports up to a 2TB SATA hard drive. Now you can buy this bundled with the device for a little extra. For instance, the device retails for around $160. If you want a 1TB drive, you can add an additional $90. For 2TB you pay an additional $179! I recommend that you buy this without the drive, and get your drive some place else. I picked up a 1TB SATA drive from Geeks.com for only $64.99! Installation is pretty easy too, all you have to do is unscrew the top, mount the bracket, and plug it in.

All said and done, on a scale of 1 to 5, I give this device a 3.5. It does display video really well, and it plays everything. I do like that I can watch anything I can find online, and the device is fairly easy to use. My problem with it is that it really isn't "pretty". That is fine for me, but if I am going to convince my wife to let me cancel cable, this device has to be easy for her to use, and at least "look" like something you get with Cable or Satellite TV. Because it isn't, this device is sitting in my entertainment center like a novelty instead of a money saving solution.

If you are looking for something relatively cheap to replace cable, this device is a good option. If you already have a Playstation 3, or and Xbox360, don't waste your money, because you can get the same UPnP functionality by just buying PlayOn by itself to use with those devices. If you want something all encompassing, I think upcoming Google TV might be a better option.

Let me know what you think. Do you have an Mvix Ultio, or Ultio Pro? Do you like it? Do you have something better? Let us know in the comments!

EDIT: So I've had this thing for a while now and it worked OK, but after about a year it started to stop playing videos in the middle and freeze with an I/O error. It seemed to be caused by the box overheating, as the box is very poorly designed and has very little ventilation. I have since removed the internal hard drive, and have switched completely to streaming videos using a UPnP server, which so far works okay.

If I were you, don't waste your time or money on this thing. Go with an Apple TV or a WD TV Live HD box.

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