Whats the best external hard drive media centre?

Hi everyone,

I'm looking into purchasing an external media hard drive instead of having to watch it on my PC all the time which can be a pain.

I've had a look around and the following seems to stand out to me:

http://www.maplin.co.uk/Search.aspx?criteria=lifebox&source=15&SD=Y

Has anyone used it and if so, how good is it? Also, does it support DivX 6.x?

Does anyone else have any other recommendations?

Look forward to your replies

Danny
dannyleeuk2007Asked:
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
I haven't used the Lifebox, but I did have a look at the specs and FAQ's on their site and it clearly does support DivX, but does not specify the version number.

The Overview section and FAQ's together do a pretty good job of describing the capabilities of the box.   It seems a fairly nice device for what it does => but it IS limited in both the formats it will display and in the way it works (i.e. you can't browse your music content while playing a song; and it does not support WMA, WMV, OGM, OGG, or  RMVB formats).

It certainly looks like a nice device for what it does => although it's clearly limited in its capabilities and does not have an HDMI output for an HDTV.   Another more-flexible alternative would be to simply connect your PC's output to your TV, if they are reasonably close and you have compatible outputs on your video card.   A modern video card with DVI output connected to an HDMI input on an HDTV provides an EXCELLENT picture => and lets you not only watch your movies, etc. on the TV, but you can also use it to surf the web, do e-mail, etc. ... my wife definitely likes her 60" monitor :-)
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
Hi garycase,

Thanks alot for your advice so far, from looking at your comments, i've seen the following

http://www.maplin.co.uk/module.aspx?ModuleNo=221862&doy=25m1#overview

It does offer more features, seems to have better firmware upgrades AND supports HDMI up to 1080i.

The only down side is you have to purchase a HDD on top of it, but i've looked around it an I can get for £130 quid and a decent 250GB hdd would only cost another £40.

What do you think?

Danny
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
Forgot to mention in my reply, I currently do use my PC connected to my TV but its not the ideal of situations and means that I have to have my PC on to watch something i've "backed up" or recorded. I would recommend it though as it does make things easier in terms of managing files and of course, codec issues.
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
I've also noticed that it appears to be exactly the same as the HMR-700A but I don't know if that fireware for the HMR-700A would work on the HDR-350Q?
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
I like the Hyundai a lot better --> just read through the manual and it's a very nice unit.   I particularly like the easily swapped hard drives => with 500GB, 750GB, or 1TB drives you could store a HUGE movie collection (in DivX) on just 2 or 3 drives :-)     The 1TB drives are still too pricey in my opinion ... but 500GB is down to very reasonable prices and 750GB drives aren't far behind.
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
What do you think about the issue with firmware downloads though? I agree, it deffo scores at the top of the list so far. I've also just seen the following:

http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=221884&c=Maplin&u=ProdVid_221884_3.avi&t=221884&ShowVid=1&doy=25m1

Choices choices choices
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
The Neuros is also very nice ... but has only standard definition output => I think I'd prefer the Hyundai unit for its better output quality.   But both are very nice ... as you said, Choices, choices, choices :-)  :-)

Personally ... I've already got dedicated PC's for each of my HDTV's that are linked into my home network and have direct access to all of my music, videos, etc.   I wish some of these devices had been available when I built up my network ... it would have saved me quite a few $$ :-)   But I really like the capabilities that a full-fledged computer provides => no limitations on format;  access to any media anywhere on my network; etc.
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
Thanks GaryCase, I think I pretty much agree with you on the Hyundai, the only thing I am worried about is the firmware and the fact Hyundai unit isn't mentioned on their website nor is there an upated firmware for it. All I can find is an update for the 700A but as I said, I don't know if the firmware is cross compatible! If we can resolve that, then i'm sold I think??? :) :) :)

I perfectly understand btw about the home network...its so much easier but for a portability and ease of use/time etc I think this is the best alternative.

Would you go for the Hyundai even with the firmware concern?

Last question I promise :) lol
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
If does look very much like the Ellion HMR-700A => I wouldn't be surprised if Hyundai makes these units for Ellion.

As for your question ... Yes, I'd feel comfortable buying the Hyundai => I think it's a very nice unit and really like the interchangeable drives.
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
Thanks for your help GaryCase, much appreciated. Think I shall go for the Hyundai. Will let you know what its like.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
You're most welcome.   Post a note here when you get it and let me know how you like it :-)
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
Will do mate! :)
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
as promised, an update on this.

I decided to go with the Hyundai unit and i'm glad I did. Brilliant piece of kit for what it is! Plays 100% of the media files I have in my collection, and thats a lot, and without any problems whatsoever. The HDMI output is great with media files of the quality required and the sound is perfect, although I would have thought it maybe better if it was through the digital output?

Just a few notes to be made:

1.) The firmware is a little buggy, but only a few niggles really, the setup isn't entirely straight forward and requires a little common sense really.
2.) It would be handy to list all the media files in a list rather than going along each one and it trying to play each file.
3.) RTFM!! Seriously - it saves you a lot of time :)

Anyway, pleased I got the unit and its solved alot of media viewing issues - no more criked necks and uncomfy chairs!!

Let me know if any more questions
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Sounds great => wish they marketed this in the US :-)
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dannyleeuk2007Author Commented:
They do as far as i'm aware. At least, the Elisson version anyway....it comes either in Euro or American version to support the difference in connections that we have? As far as decoding goes, it supports both PAL and NTSC encoded video.
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