About a year and a half ago I posted an unboxing of the Xtreamer Media Player. This was supposed to be followed up with a review which…um…. never quite happened (and thankfully no one ever called me out on ). Since then my Xtreamer has gone through a bit of a change. The original one that I had worked for a while, but I encountered issues with the fan and then eventually it just bricked on me. I was able to get it replaced, and for a small upgrade fee was able to instead switch to the Xtreamer Pro. Out of all the players on the market none I have found elicits quite the response from the community as does the Xtreamer (in both a positive and negative manner). I will discuss this in more detail towards the end of the writeup, but first let’s get to the fun.
USB 2.0 (Salve + Host)
2X SATA 2 3.5″ HDD ( unit can be used with one hard disk only or even without an HDD)
Up to total of 4 TB internally plus external storage devices via two USB 2.0 ports
- eSATA up to 3.0Gbps (300MB/s)
- USB 2.0 up to 480Mbps (60MB/s)
Video : YouTube, Picasa, Yahoo Video, CNN, NBC Today, CBS Face the Nation and more
Audio : Live365 Radio, iPodcast, Radiobox, ABC News, BBC Podcast, CNN News , Indiefeed, Jamendo
Photo : Picasaweb
RSS feed : Yahoo! Weather, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Xchange, MSNBC News and more
Supports On2Media VP6 Codec h.264 Streaming FLV
Media files supported
MPEG1/2/4 Elementary (M1V, M2V, M4V)
MPEG1/2 PS (M2P, MPG)
MPEG2 Transport Stream (TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M2TS, MTS)
AVI, ASF, WMV
Matroska (MKV) (H.264)
MOV (H.264), MP4, RMP4
FLV - Flash Video
VP6 Codec h.264 Streaming FLV
MPEG audio (MP1, MP2, MP3, MPA)
Audio Down Mix : DTS, DTS-HD MA, DTS-HD HR
Audio Passthrough 5.1 CH : DTS, DTS-HD MA, DTS-HD HR 5.1 CH -
Audio Passthrough 7.1CH – Dolby TrueHD , DTS-HD MA, Dolby Digital Plus
Photo formats : JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, HD JPEG
Other formats: ISO, IFO, FLV, RM, RA, RAM
Subtitle formats : SRT, SMI, SUB, SSA, IDX
Streaming formats : RTSP, FLV
BluRay BD Iso with Simple Navigation
Commercial DVD with menus
HD menu with Artistic (user defined) BG
Search, Indexing and Thumbnail Based Navigation (MovieJukeBox) will be introduced in later FW update free of charge.
JM20336 – Dedicated Storage Controller
256MB DDR 2 SDRAM, 256MB Flash
HDMI v1.3a (up to 1080p)
Stereo Analog Audio
S/PDIF Optical Digital Audio
1x USB 2.0 slave
2x USB 2.0 host
Internal SATA 2
Ethernet 10/100 RJ-45
WIFI USB Antenna 802.11n (optional at additional Cost)
Free DDnS Name
Multilingual On Screen Display , Subtitles & GUI
Arabic, Thai, Hebrew,Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, German, Italian, Turkish, Greek , Dutch, French, Latvian, Russian, Croatian, Portugese, Swedish, Polish, Romanian, Ukrainian, English, Magyar, Czech, Slovenian, Finish, Danish, UTF-8
Integrated iPhone RemoteControl
Your device IP/iphone
12V DC, 3A & 5V DC, 4.5A
• universal auto-switching (UL, cUL, CE, TUV approved)
• Protection: OCP, OVP, SCP
175mm(W) x 120mm(D) x 82mm(H)
The Xtreamer Pro comes in a colorful package, although I am still trying to come to grips with how the Skateboarder ties in to the product .
When unpacked the Xtreamer Pro comes with a bevy of cables and accessories, which includes an HDMI cable, e-SATA cable, composite cables, e-SATA connector for a PC, USB extender for a wireless dongle, and a remote.
Unfortunately it appears I erased the pictures I took of the front and back, so instead I will just show the stock pictures from Xtreamer’s website. The front of the unit has a cover that showcases varies LEDs as well as a USB 2.0 and e-SATA connector. Removing the cover gives you access to 2 x 3.5in hard drive slots
At the rear of the Pro is a HDD switch (when you are copying data to the Xtreamer you need to select which hard drive is to be used), fan, composite output, Optical, HDMI 1.3a, 10/100 LAN, USB 2.0, USB slave, and power connector.
You may think that since the Pro can hold 2 x 3.5in it must be huge. I must say I was very surprised at how compact it was, close in size to a bushel of bananas
Overall the Pro feels solid and compact. Once in operation I found the fan to be quiet. However, when first powering up the Pro the fan makes a high pitched whine, so hopefully this is not a bad sign of fan issues down the road. The Pro came with just about every cable you could need which is always welcomed. The lack of component output may be a negative for those who do not have an HDMI capable TV/Receiver or no free HDMI slots. The fact that you have to manually switch to the specific hard drive you want to copy to is a bit of an inconvenience, but when it comes time for playback you will have access to both drives simultaneously.
When you first launch the Pro you are welcomed by a sharp looking main menu. From here you can access your Favorites, Media Library, Internet Radio, Xtreamering, File Manager, and Settings. The main menu was a big overhaul from the original main menu that came with the Xtreamer which frankly I found hideous.
Seeing the main menu there is a lot of hope that we have finally gotten away from the dull stock UIs. Unfortunately, like most other media players, the UI reverts back to a Windows Explorer type experience.Accessing your media library brings up a list of available options to choose from. If you are using 2 internal hard drives you can access both drives simultaneously via the HDD option. However, on the down side each drive appears as a separate drive in the Pro, which means you will need to know what content is on each drive ahead of time (or of course you will just have to navigate between each drive until you find the content you are looking for).
Once you go into your media the Pro has an option to display the folder art (in the case below each movie is in its own folder and has a folder.jpg file). This is a nice option as it gives a little bit more of a jukebox feel to it. This however only works if movies are stored in individual folders. If the folder is a folder rip of a DVD or BluRay when you select a pop up box will appear asking you if you want to navigate the folder or if you want to play the folder (in most cases you are going to want to play the folder which will begin playback). If you have a standalone file in the folder (such as an mkv) you still have to navigate into the folder and select the file. One other neat feature, there is a preview feature available. When you select a video file a preview clip will being to play in a small window.
The settings menu is fairly straightforward (apologies for the blurry image). The only part that I found a bit confusing are the various HDMI settings. There is an “HDMI Compatibility Set” which has 6 or 7 options to choose from. It is not clear what each option represents, which can be frustrating if you are trying to troubleshoot an issue. Also, there is a setting called “HDMI Chroma Sub Sampling”. The default setting caused everything viewed on the Pro to have a green “Hulkish” tint. Changing this setting to 4:4:4 fixed the problem for me (but once again for the average person this is a foreign setting).
One other section of interest is “Xtreamering” from the main menu. This takes you to a menu with a variety of online content as well as access to a video jukebox ( I will discuss more about shortly).
For me the UI is a bit of a mixed bag. The main menu looks great, only to be let down once you move beyond that. There are some nice touches (such as thumbnail view and preview mode) but ultimately you are still left in a file browser view. Of particular annoyance is that fact that the Xtreamer is incapable of showing the two internal hard drives as one big drive. The Xtreamering menu adds to the inconsistent experience as it go back to the original red coloring. I realize that some of the cosmetic items discussed are just that, cosmetic. However, it left me feeling as if the Pro was put together in pieces instead of one nicely integrated package.
Navigating around the UI on the Xtreamer was fairly quick with no noticeable lags. Compared to the Dune or PCH navigating through files was quicker. The remote however was another story. I found that unless I had the remote pointed directly at the player the signal would not register. Also, I was frequently hitting remote buttons two or three times before it would get actioned in the Xtreamer.
This is an area that I found to be hit or miss when it came to using SMB. My previous testings with HD content streamed over SMB was not a positive one with frequent stuttering, but recent firmware updates had fixed much of the problem. On several occasions while testing playback over SMB I experienced severe stuttering (for example, while playing Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince the first two minutes played fine, but then it was followed by video stuttering and audio dropouts). Other movies I tested I did not have this problem, so it is hard to pinpoint a culprit. However, when I switched over to NFS the stuttering went away. This confirms that the issue is with the implementation of SMB on the Xtreamer (in particular because other devices such as the Dune, PCH, and Boxee Box had no issued with SMB on the same exact connection). If you plan on streaming high bitrate HD content to the Xtreamer I would definitely recommend using NFS.
Since the Pro can hold two hard drives (for up to 6TB worth of storage) it has potential be a great all in one media server/player, especially since it can be used as an SMB/NFS server. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to test out streaming content from the Pro to a different media player so I cannot comment on how effective it would be. I did test how well transferring files to the Pro over the network worked. Not surprisingly (since it is only 10/100), transfer speeds were rather abysmal, averaging between 4-5.5 MB/s. Since I was looking to transfer over nearly 3 TB worth of media to the internal drives this was just not going to cut it. Bypassing the network and connecting the Pro to my PC was the best option, bringing transfer speeds via USB 2.0 back in the range of 25-35 MB/s.
I decided to test playback using the latest Xtreamer firmware 2.6, which can be found here. Here is a description of what I tested and the results:
- mkv w/ chapters – (PASS)
- mkv w/ 480p internal IDX/SUB subtitles (PASS)
- mkv w/ 1080p internal IDX/SUB subtitles (PASS)
- mkv w/ internal PGS subtitles (FAIL)
- HD Audio downmix to stereo (PASS)
- mkv w/ forced subtitles – (PASS)
- mkv/(m2)ts with DTS(MA) – bitstreamed, however I did experience some audio dropouts which others have noted as well (PASS/FAIL)
- mkv/(m2)ts with TrueHD Audio Track – bitstreamed without issue (PASS)
- mkv w/ VC-1 encoded video – played without issue (PASS)
- Forced Subtitles in a BluRay Structure – played without issue (PASS)
- BluRay ISO (main movie only) – played without issue (PASS)
- BluRay Folder (entire disc) – played movie, only main movie with no menu support (PASS)
- DVD ISO and/or Folder Structure – played with full menus (PASS)
- 1080p quicktime (.mov) trailer – played without issue (PASS)
- avi/mpeg/m4v clips – played without issue (PASS)
- mkv w/ FLAC – played w/ multi channel PCM (PASS)
- mkv w/ header compression – played without issue (PASS)
Overall the Xtreamer Pro handled just about everything I threw at it. More impressive was that fact that it supported 1080P IDX/SUB subtitles, as well as the forced subtitle flag in an mkv. I couldn’t seem to get PGS subtitles in mkvs to work properly which is the only significant issue I can see. One other strange issue I did encounter while testing, during playback of my Back To The Future Blu-ray rip, audio would drop off inexplicably during a certain scene. To confirm that the rip itself wasn’t bad I replayed the same scene on my HTPC and Dune, and in both instances audio played as expected. After reading around it appears that there is a DTS(MA) audio dropout bug which most likely accounted for the issue I encountered.
Third Party Jukebox:
As a replacement to the stock UI there is a third party jukebox that can be accessed/launched from the Xtreamering menu. Once launched you will see a menu similar to the Pro main menu which offers you access to your Movies, Series, Pictures, Music, and Setup. At present Series (TV Shows) is a future feature. I did not get a chance to see if pictures and music were functional. To set up the jukebox you will need to go into the Setup option.
In the setup you will need to go through a few steps before scanning of the jukebox begins. The setup was fairly intuitive to follow along with.
Once the scan is in progress you should see a results summary which shows how many movies are available and how many new movies were found. One nice feature, you can then access your jukebox and manually adjust on your own personal site (i.e. http://myxtreamer/jukebox)
Once complete to access your jukebox go back to the jukebox Main Menu and select Movies. There are several different views that you can toggle through which is a nice change from the static jukeboxes (such as Zappiti, YAMJ, etc…) in other players that lock you in to one view (unless you first manually edit a properties file). Unfortunately on the internal hard drives I had a mix of TV Shows and movies, and instead of ignoring my TV shows (which the jukebox does not support yet) it added a poster for each episode (and came up with random posters), so this led to over 200 erroneous posters being added which will require manual deletion. Navigating around was not lightning fast, with the name of the movie taking a few seconds to appear after selecting, but otherwise it was manageable.
Also, one other thing worth mentioning, when the jukebox scans your library it saves the metadata/artwork to the folder where the movie file is stored. One of the files it creates is named “filename”.png (i.e A Bug’s Life 1080p BluRay.png). The issue I encountered is that this is the same naming convention used for YAMJ. What ended up happening is my YAMJ created files got overwritten by the Xtreamer files. Whilst this worked great for the Xtreamer, when I turned on my PCH the YAMJ jukebox images were all messed up (I talked about this briefly here).
There are many things to like about the jukebox. The ability to run the jukebox directly from the Pro without the need for a PC is a big plus, and you still have the flexibility to manage/edit the jukebox separately via the website. The ability to also instantaneously switch between views was a welcome change over other static jukeboxes. On the downside the jukebox still appears to be a work in progress, and lack of TV Show support is a deal breaker for me.
Online content is an area that is definitely growing in importance in the media player work. As you can see from the Xtreamering menu the Pro offers a variety of online content. Xtreamer Live is probably the most active project. It is community driven, and allows for a variety of content to be aggregated for playback. Installing Xtreamer Live is a simple process downloading the first time you choose Xtreamer Live from the Xtreamering menu.
Once installed, you will see a variety of online content and tools available for viewing. Navigating around was hit or miss, as some content played back whereas others I encountered errors when trying to play.
Of course, when you mention online content there are two names that always come up, Hulu and Netflix. Well, neither service is available, although there is a menu item for Netflix stating that it is “Comming” soon.
The Pro does a good job at making online content available. However, it will most likely be hit or miss if you find anything that you would actually watch, and as is the case with many of the media players out there the “big boys” are missing. Xtreamer is definitely looking to take online content to the next level with the just announced Xtreamer Prodigy, but it is not clear whether any of the advertised content will make its way over to the Pro. If online content is a top priority for you, it may make sense to wait for the Prodigy to be released before making any decisions.
The Xtreamer Debate:
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, just simply saying the word Xtreamer elicits a wide range of both positive and negative responses (with probably the negative camp being the most vocal). Here are a few items of “controversy” that is worth quickly highlighting as part of the Xtreamer drama:
- When the original Xtreamer was first announced one of the advertised features was full bitstream support for HD Audio. Unfortunately the Xtreamer did not deliver, but the company kept promising that the feature would be arriving any day now. At the end of the day it was discovered that there was a flaw in the Realtek chip being used, and that HD Audio support would never be available for the original Xtreamers. You can’t blame Xtreamer for a defect responsible by Realtek, however some criticized how Xtreamer handled the situation.
- When the original Xtreamer was first announced one of the big selling points was a built in movie jukebox. However, two things were quickly discovered. First, there was no jukebox for the Xtreamer, it was simply a PC application independent from the Xtreamer (so in my view this was quite deceptive advertising). Second, and a bigger issue to many, the Xtreamer jukebox they were advertising appeared to be a rip off of the popular YAMJ jukebox, used without getting permission or at a minimum acknowledging the YAMJ developers. This may explain why the original jukebox has been dropped in favor of the community driven jukebox highlighted in this review.
- There have been a lot of stories about users being banned from the Xtreamer forums simply for expressing discontent or raising issues. As a moderator over on the MediaSmartServer.net forums I can appreciate the need to keep some sort of order. I don’t know enough details about any of the bans to make a judgment call, but it doesn’t give a rosy picture looking from the outside in when you see numerous accounts of this (add to the fact that guests cannot view the forum, they must register).
At a minimum I would say that Xtreamer was probably a little too ambitious with some of their goals/marketing (which quite a few other players are guilty of as well). If they can successfully pull off their new line of players that may be the key to winning back some of the dissenters.
At the end of the day where does this leave us? Well, I have a bit of a mixed reaction regarding my experience with the Pro. For someone who is looking for a media player that plays nearly everything and doesn’t want to mess around with networks or separate storage, the Pro is a very compelling device. I ended up giving the Pro away to my sister (part of the reason why there are a few items in this review that I am unable to go back and confirm). The last thing I wanted to do is set up some sort of network for her and end up being tech support, so the Pro seemed like the best option. I loaded a 1TB and 2TB drive and then copied all her movies/shows over. She has two young boys and now can access all their content without having to worry about discs, so for her setup the Pro has been perfect. With potential for 6TB worth of hard drive space, and a price coming in just under USD 200, the Pro meets the needs of this setup nicely.
For my setup at home HD audio support and flawless performance playing back high bitrate content over the network are two of my most important criteria. Although switching to NFS fixed streaming issues with the Pro, the audio dropouts with DTS(MA) (similar to the Boxee Box) keep the Pro from taking a spot in my setup. Of course for those who either aren’t looking to bitstream HD audio or simply want the audio downmixed to stereo this issue will not matter to you.
Like most other players on the market you just need to assess what your needs are and based on the pros/cons figure out what player best fits. Using the Pro to store large amounts of content as well as playback worked great, and even the original Xtreamer I found to be the perfect mobile jukebox. For a spot in my home setup though the Pro just falls short.
Of course in the future I hope to get my hands on an Xtreamer Prodigy and Ultra for review, so stay tuned over the coming months.
As a quick side note, I purchased the original Xtreamer and subsequently the Xtreamer Pro from Xtreamer.com. I was very happy with my dealings with them and if you are looking to purchase an Xtreamer in the U.S I would gladly recommend their service.