Review: Myka 250

by Damian on October 28, 2009 · 16 comments

in Reviews

A few weeks ago the folks over at Myka.tv sent me a review unit of their Media Player called the Myka for review (you can view the unboxing here). The Myka runs on the Sigma 8635 which is the same chip used in players such as the Popcorn Hour A-110. Since I own an A-110, I had a good idea of what to expect with the Myka. With a solid two weeks of testing it is time to take a closer look at what the Myka has to offer.

Hardware:

The first thing people will notice about the look of the Myka is that it has an Apple/Sonos type feel to it due to its white exterior and square shape. My guess people are either going to hate the look or love it. Going with white is always a risky move in my opinion for any device that is meant to be part of an A/V setup since most other equipment is generally black.  The folks at Myka actually looked in to producing a black unit but there was not enough demand to justify pursuing.

IMG_2401

From what I can tell the case is made from aluminum (although it may appear like plastic from the phot0s) which gave the unit a very sturdy yet light feel to it. Since the internal hard drive gets mounted relatively close to the top of the case I had concerns about the case heating up under continuous use. I was happy to find that the case felt cool to the touch after extensive use (playing over two hours of movies directly off the hard drive). Also, there is a small fan mounted on the side of the case to help keep the unit cool. Whenever there is a fan involved there is always the potential that the fan can get loud or unbearable, but the fan in the Myka was barely audible, only noticing any sound when putting my ear close to the case. The hard drive used in the unit I received was a 250GB Seagate Barracuda. I would actually like to see the green drives produced by Western Digital or Seagate to be used in place of the Barracuda.

As mentioned earlier, the Myka is running on the Sigma 8635 chip which some people may be turned off by since it is not the latest and greatest (that being the Sigma 8643). As someone who is currently testing out the Sigma 8643 (in the PCH C-200) until all the bugs are worked out with the 8643 (which there are many) it only makes sense to go with the more mature and established 8635.

The Myka comes equipped with the typical array of inputs (HDMI, Composite. Component, Optical, 10/100 LAN, USB 2.0, and 2 USB ports), so most every connection should be covered. There is also a power switch, but the Myka allows you to turn off the unit from the remote as well. All connections are in the back of the unit, which is not an issue for me but I know others like to have at least one USB port in the front for ease of access.

So far everything looks good, until you power up the unit and see the two extremely bright green lights staring at you (see below, no that is not Wall-E). There is also a bright orange light in between the two green lights that will flicker. Fortunately you can power down the unit when not in use to shut off the lights, but many people will probably find the lights somewhat distracting when using the Myka in a dark room.

IMG_2584

Overall I am very happy with the hardware. At first when I saw photos of the Myka I thought the look might be a little too “cute” for my taste but it grew on me very quickly. I really like the shape/size of the Myka, and since it has an internal hard drive it makes for a great mobile jukebox when traveling (something that is important to me with two young kids). The one big negative is the glowing lights, something I hope can either be eliminated or dimmed significantly in future models.

UI Appearance:

When you first access the Myka you will be taken to the main UI which consists of four sections (Home, Watch, Get Stuff, and Tools). The Home section is really nothing more then a welcome screen which once the novelty wears off you will probably ignore.

IMG_2586

The next section is “Watch” which provides you shortcuts to access your media (via My Shows which would be media stored directly on the HDD) or via any shared networks (in my case I set up a smb connection called “myserver”). There are also shortcuts to some of your favorite online content of which you can customize further (I will discuss that later on).

IMG_2589

I like where Myka is going with the Watch section as it is very easy to navigate through and has a good feel to it, but wish they had taken it a step further. For instance, when I access “myserver” I get taken to the same dull “windows explorer” type list that most other Sigma players use. This is the area to me where a company can really set their player apart from the rest of the pack. What I would like to see with the Myka, or any other media player, is a built in jukebox which can read/display metadata as well as coverart/fanart for both video and music (ID3 tag for music). There are 3rd party apps that can be used to get this, but in many cases this requires a lot more work and is probably over the head for the average consumer.

IMG_2590

In  the “Get Stuff” section you can set up and manage any BitTorrents as well as handle file transfers between the Myka and any network connected devices.

IMG_2596

The final section labeled “Tools” gives you access to some additional “utilities” such as disk space monitoring. This is also where you would access the settings of the Myka.

IMG_2597 

Network Performance:

After dealing with constant network performance issues with the PCH C-200 over smb, I was very anxious to get a player that played all my content, regardless of what protocol I was using to access it. As expected, the Myka came through without issue. I tested playback of my video content (including Blu Ray/HD movies) over both smb and HTTP (via myiHome) and not once did I experience stuttering or signal dropouts (all testing done via wired Cat5e/Cat6). Transferring files between the Myka and my PC over the network averaged between 4-8 MB/sec, not blazing fast but it did the job. Setting up wireless-n with pretty quick and I was able to play back my SD content but for the most part my HD content was too much to handle. This was not unexpected as generally wireless is not the best option for playing back HD content, and since I rarely use wireless in my house I am sure my wireless setup is not exactly optimal. Ultimately the Myka played all my media streaming from my WHS without a hiccup so I couldn’t ask for more.

Audio Playback:

Whenever I test out a media player I like to test it out with two scenarios, 1) connected directly to a TV and 2) connected to a Receiver. When connected to a TV this gives me the chance to test if HD Audio downmix is supported. This is important to me since if downmix is not supported I would be extremely limited in where I could use the Myka. To test this I used a Blu Ray .ts movie with a DTA-MA audio track, and another with a TrueHD audio track. In both cases the Myka was able to successfully downmix the audio to stereo which my tv could then play.

The second scenario would allow me to determine if the Myka is capable of bitstreaming the HD audio tracks to my Receiver to decode. If successful my Receiver would display DTS-MA or TrueHD. Using the same two movies as in the first scenario I confirmed that the Myka does not bitstream but instead only sends through the core audio (DTS for DTS-MA tracks and AC3 for TrueHD tracks).

Although I rarely use, another requested feature I see a lot is support for multi channel FLAC. When I played back a movie with FLAC audio I got no sound, which would indicate that the Myka does not support multi channel FLAC currently.

Video Playback:

This is probably one of the first things people ask when they hear about a new media player being announced, does it play x format in x container at x fps… One thing that the PCH A-110 was known for was the ability to play back almost anything thrown at it, so I expected the same for the Myka. I tested different file types from my collection (ranging from basic xvid avi files to high bitrate Blu Ray mkv/ts to 1080p Apple Trailers) and for the most part they played back without issue. I tested out a straight Blu Ray rip (keeping the Blu Ray structure in tact) but the Myka viewed it as nothing more then a bunch of folders with files inside (as opposed to playing as if it was a Blu Ray disc). Once I started getting to videos averaging a variable bitrate greater then 50+ MB/S I experienced stuttering. The same thing happened when I attempted to play back videos with 16 reference frames. I should state though that the files I had issue with were reference files I found on the web (some people will argue that these files were not properly encoded in the first place so you should not expect proper playback). All my video files (including H.264/VC-1 ts/mkv) played flawless. Also, I should mention that I had no problem with chapter support in my mkvs (other players I have ran into issues with this).

As far as picture quality, I found it to be excellent for both HD and SD content, which is right in line with my expectations.

IMG_2607

3rd Party App Support:

Since Myka runs on the same Sigma chip as the PCH A-110, inevitably the next question is can you run some of the popular add ins used with the PCHs and other NMTs (movie jukeboxes such as YAMJ). Since I already had YAMJ set up for my PCH C-200, I decided to give it a run on the Myka and sure enough I could access YAMJ as seen below without any additional steps.

Stock YAMJ UI

IMG_2591

IMG_2592

YAMJ with Aeon MovieWall Skin

IMG_2606

The next plugin to test was PlayON. The Myka detected PlayON on my WHS right away. I was able to navigate through the list of services provided by PlayON and had no issues playing back content from sites such as Hulu.

IMG_2600

IMG_2603

In theory, using the latest firmware of the Popcorn Hour A-110 should work with the Myka, but I didn’t look into this further for fear of bricking my unit. Myka is still working out how to deploy future firmware updates.

Miscellaneous:

One thing I like to do when testing out a media player is to go to the company’s website and browse through the forum to see what type of activity is going on there as well as response time for user inquiries. Since Myka is a relative newcomer there isn’t a lot of activity yet on the forums, however I did notice that some user inquiries went unanswered for days by a Myka representative. This is definitely something that will need to be improved on.

Where Myka is looking to set itself apart is its open source approach to its software which will allow developers to create their own user interface, especially for private network customers. With each Myka the user gets a free My Myka account where they can register their unit. From here specific content can be delivered to the user and the user can customize what content can be viewed. For example, as I mentioned earlier when discussing the “Watch” section a list of online content is available. By registering my Myka and logging in to the website I could actually pick and choose from a list of available sites what content I wanted. I decided to add Apple trailers via the website, and within 5 minutes the Apple Trailers icon appeared on my Myka. This is the area that offers a lot of promise and could allow Myka to provide a more personal experience to its customers.

MyMyka

Aside from the consumer business Myka also focuses on the commercial business, targeting companies looking to start an internet video business or deploy “mini-cable” systems. With these private networks Myka provides some of the following features:

  • Completely customizable user interface.  Your network, your brand.
  • Content subscription services.  Automatically send shows to your customers.
  • Custom case (with a minimum of 100 units).
  • Easy to add functionality
  • Flexible pricing options.
  • Complete turnkey solution – your network can be up and running in as little as 60 days.

Pricing/Options:

Currently the Myka is offered with three hard drive sizes (250GB, 500GB, and 1TB) with pricing at $199, $249, and $299 respectively. A wireless N USB dongle can be purchased for an additional $40. Given that a hard drive is included the pricing is very competitive (the PCH A-110 without a HDD retails for $215 and the EGreat EG-M31B without a HDD retails for $210). The price differential moving from the 250GB version to either the 500GB or 1TB model is a little steep (an extra $50 for an additional 250GB of space, and then an additional $50 for another 500GB of space). Ideally the consumer could buy a Myka without a hard drive to keep the costs down. However, currently a hard drive less Myka is not offered, which is something I would hope to see in the future offered to consumers. Also, the HDD is not interchangeable, so in the case of a HDD failure the Myka will need to be returned and replaced with another unit (One year warranty).

Summary:

Pros:

  • Small form factor
  • Operates cool and quiet
  • Competitive pricing
  • HD Audio downmix
  • Ability to play a large selection of video/audio formats, including HD content
  • My Myka, which allows for customized content to be delivered and managed.
  • Running Sigma 8635 which is currently more stable then the next gen Sigma.

Cons:

  • Extremely bright lights on the front of the unit
  • No HD Audio bitstreaming, only core audio is passed through
  • “Windows Explorer” type menu navigation
  • No option for harddrive-less unit
  • Failure of harddrive requires the unit to be shipped back and replaced
  • Lack of presence on forum




Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 16 comments }

Brent October 28, 2009 at 9:59 am

Damian,
Great review! I have a very strong suspicion that someone who knows how to get around linux could manually install SageTV HD200 firmware on this thing and use it as a slightly upgraded SageTV box. Care to give that a try? I know it’s kind of a risk, but I really think this would work…

Tim October 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Yes, excellent review. Wondering, in your experience, which extender you think best plays BluRay rips, even if on the more expensive side.

Damian October 28, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Brent,

Hmmm….very interesting idea. I am not very familiar with linux but if I get some free time down to road I may have to bug you for some more info!!!

Damian October 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Tim,

Just to clarify, when you say Blu Ray rip are you talking about doing a straight rip (i.e. keeping the actual Blu Ray structure in place) or just pulling out the needed audio/video (similar to what I do with Clown_BD, no encoding done)?

Tim October 28, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Damian,
thanks for fast response.
I use MyMovies to import blu-Ray discs onto my WHS server. So these are legit purchased discs, with the added benefit of AnyDVD processing, but maintaining the disc format/structure.

It sounded in your review that the extender could handle specific files/streams well, but not the blu-Ray file structure. Was wondering of you had any luck with any extender/client that could use a copy onto a home server (mine is an HP 485) or really any mass storage networked device.

Thanks.

Chris October 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Damian,

Excellent review and being a new owner of the Myka I noticed your review to be right on… Your Pros and Cons are also right on. Their support isn’t the best and needs work in order to start getting more sales. I almost didn’t buy taking note of the lack of support on the forum.

Those lights are hideous when used in the bedroom! Wife is about to kill me on that one.

Question though, how the heck did you get PlayOn to work??? I can not get it to work with the Myka at all. Simple navigation doesn’t even work and I have basically resigned to the fact that there is a issue (besides it being noted on PlayOn’s forums and also the NMT forums).

I can sometimes get something to play on the first shot after rebooting the Myka but after that no go… Reboot Myka and try again and that very seldomly works.

Damian October 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm

@ Chris,

No clue regarding PlayON. To be honest this was the first time using it was with the Myka. I had purchased it about a month ago but never got to testing it. I wonder it if it a problem with the Myka or where ever you have PlayON running. I tested two different Hulu tv episodes and one trailer and all worked without issue. I will keep messing around with it to see if I run into any problems and report back.

I can confirm that PlayON does not work with my PCH C-200 so there are definitely issues with PlayON and the NMT family.

Glad my review reflected the same experience as yours. I almost think the best thing to do is throw some electrical tape where the lights are, kills the look of the Myka but better then your wife going Loraina Bobbitt on you :-)

Damian October 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm

@ Tim,

From what I have tested or read the PCH C-200 (I did test and confirm this) and the SageTV HD 200 (have not tested, still have to reinstall SageTV on my WHS) will both play the full BR structure. I know the C-200 plays it as if there is a disc present (menus, etc…), I vaguely recall that the HD200 will only play the main movie. If you have read my review on the C-200 though it is still riddled with bugs. Brent (the first commentor here) is the SageTV guru, so you can head over to his site for more info on SageTV as well (www.Sagetv.com).

I use AnyDVD for my Blu Ray collection. The reason I use Clown_BD though instead of ripping the fill disc with MM is mainly for space. There is a lot of extra stuff on a BR disc that I don’t need (trailers, extras, additional languages), so using Clown_BD I can just pull out the main movie, the HD Audio track, and a secondary AC3 track, and throw into a ts container. This allows me to play back the BR movie in its original quality on just about any extender/player, and cuts the amount of space needed versus a full BR disc in half.

Chris October 28, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Love the Loraina reference! Actually I am going to take the cover off again and put some white vinyl over the backside and cut a opening just for the IR receiver. Should be a simple fix but just have not gotten to it yet.

As for the PlayOn, it is surely a issue with the NMT (myka) as I have the xbox and D-Link DSM-520 working flawlessly with it. It is a known issue on the NMT boards but all the resources are going into the C-200 at this time.

Good test is, play something then go back out to your sources menu and select the PlayOn server again. This time when you go in you will not be able to navigate to the second screen listing on the primary channel list on PlayOn. You will see it pop up and go directly back to the first screen listing items 1-10 or what ever it may be. From here it seems to hang and you have to clear the Cache on the Myka and that resolves the issue sometimes. I was just in playing with it again and was able to watch a couple videos but now hung up! Cleared cache and no go now I’m about to restart my PlayOn Server.

If only PCH and PlayOn would play nice we would have a wonderful setup to say the least!

Tim October 28, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Damian,
Thanks again for a thoughtful reply. I have gone through you PCH review, including helpful directions on USB formating. Thank you.

Damian October 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm

@ Chris,

OK, just turned on the Myka. I was able to go over to Hulu and play the first few minutes of Alf. I then stopped, went back to Hulu, and was able to navigate to and play an episode of the Adamms family. Stopped after a few minutes, went back to the main menu and went into YouTube. Had no problem navigating through, but then at some point I got a message about no content available and I got booted out of PlayON. I assume this is the issue you have run in to?

Also, have you tried setting up any of the jukeboxes or just strictly using the Myka UI?

Damian October 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm

@ Tim,

Glad I could be of help. Any other questions don’t hesitate to ask. I can always be reached via the Contact link at the top of the web page.

Cheers
Damian

Chris October 28, 2009 at 5:30 pm

@ Damian,

Yes, you are seeing one of the problems. Being that you are new to PlayOn I bet you don’t have a ton of plugin’s added either. Once you start adding those you start having menu problems only on the main menu though. Try the playonplugins.com site and add a few plugins so you get beyond the standard included channels and have about 16 to choose from, then you start having issues with the main menu.

When you see the problem you have i bet you go back out to Source and notice the PlayOn server is missing right? If this is the case then go to the maintenance menu and click the File button (right under the power button on the Myka remote) and you should see in the upper right side of the screen a “Clear Cache” screen pop up, hit the enter button and this will clear the Myka Cache. Now click the sources button again and you should see the PlayOn server again.

According to the NMT forums this issue started when PCH implemented a DLNA code to prevent the DirectTV receivers from overloading the PCH network interface when connected to the network. They are aware of the issues and supposedly are working with PlayOn to develop a solution. Till then I think we are stuck with a kinda sorta working program that has a lot of value.

As for the JukeBoxes. Yes, I have ported the YAMJ to the Myka’s hard drive and also made it work like you did through the MyiHome server. They both work great. I have not figured out how to edit the Myka Index.html to automatically boot into a Jukebox yet. I messed with it for a couple hours but could not make it work.

One other note, if you store the YAMJ on the Myka HD you have to mount the SMB for it to work. If you restart the Myka and then try to play a movie from the YAMJ it will say “File can’t be played”. If you see this go back out to the Sources menu and just click on your SMB share, this will mount it and then go back into your jukebox.

I have also used the iPhone remote control and added the iSkin too. Pretty cool to start a movie for the kids from down stairs!

I have noticed though that HD content is delivered much better going through the MyiHome server, the bandwidth seems to be higher than that of the SMB shares. I especially noticed this last night while streaming a HD version of Black Hawk Down. My understanding is that the HTTP server (MyiHome) has a much higher thoroughput than that of SMB.

I hope this helps a bit! I have learned a lot about these NMT’s over the past couple weeks!!!

Damian October 29, 2009 at 3:40 am

@ Chris,

When I get the problem PlayON still shows as a source. My guess though since I have barely scratched the surface of PlayON with any plugins things go a little smoother. I have yet to test out PlayON on any of my other devices, but something I have been meaning to do as a writeup for a future post here.

I have had the A-110 for over a year and never bothered with setting up a jukebox, so this has been my first stab at it. I am definitely a little bit spoiled by being able to do all this on my HTPCs. I will probably do a Skin Battle Royale (YAMJ vs UMC vs Movie Flow). I am in the process of moving all my SD DVDs which are in Video_TS format over to mkv (using MakeMKV) so I can get everything running via myiHome.

One interesting thing I found with YAMJ (why is it I somehow always find some bug or something weird that only happens to me!!!) is that it doesn’t like it when you have two similarly named nfo files for a movie. For instance, one of my movies is named “Cars 1080p Blu Ray”, so YAMJ (using YANFOE) creates an nfo called “Cars 1080p Blu Ray.nfo” and all the associated cover/fanart. Since I do a lot of testing of other software on my PC I have XBMC set up. For ths same move XBMC only creates an nfo with the movie name (leaving off the excess stuff), so XBMC created an nfo called “Cars.nfo”. Having these two nfos in the same folder for Cars causes an issue with YAMJ where it either doesn’t pull any coverart or if it does it attempts to convert fanart to coverart. Very strange, hopefully Omertron or the other developers have some ideas of ways around this, otherwise to get YAMJ running properly I am going to have to manually delete every nfo created by XBMC. Always something, isn’t it!!!

Chris October 29, 2009 at 8:15 am

@ Damian,

Interesting, I thought for a NFO file to work it had to have the same file name as the movie file in order to work. Maybe that is only valid for YAMJ. But you are right, there is always something buggy!

Oh, by the way, the Myka case is metal on the bottom, plastic on the sides and aluminum on the top!

BIll October 29, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I will parrot Chris’s comment:
“Excellent review and being a new owner of the Myka I noticed your review to be right on… Your Pros and Cons are also right on. Their support isn’t the best and needs work in order to start getting more sales. I almost didn’t buy taking note of the lack of support on the forum.”

If you need support I’d recommend emailing (see myka site) rather than relying on forums.

About the bright lights, I’m thinking of somehow shielding the LEDs from INSIDE the myka (easy 4 screws).

I do love my myka (my first and only STB).

Cheers, Bill

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

Previous post:

Next post: