It’s that time again, another media player review This time I will be taking a look at the Mede8er MED500X2, which is based on the Realtek 1185 chip.
Price: USD 209
Processor: Realtek RT D1185- 256MB SPI Flash – 256MB DDR2 SDRAM
Video Formats Supported: AVI / BDMV Light / BDISO Light / MKV / TS / TP / TRP / M2TS / MPG / MP4 / MOV / M4V / VOB / ISO / IFO / DAT / WMV / ASF / RM / RMVB / FLV resolution up to 720p / 1080i / 1080p
Video Codecs Supported: MPEG-1 / MPEG-2 / MPEG-4 SP /ASP /AVC (H.264) / XviD / DivX / WMV9 (VC-1) / RealVideo 8/9/10 (up to 720P)
Audio Codec Supported: Mp3 / Mp2 / OGG Vorbis / APE – APE Cue /PCM / LPCM / AAC / RA / Dolby True HD – DTS MA Passthrough on HDMI Dolby AC3 Downmix & Passthrough / DTS Downmix & Passthrough / FLAC up to 24bit 192Khz (HDMI & Co-Ax Digital only) Flac Cue / WAV, WMA Standard (DRM, & Advanced Profile not supported)
Photo format Supported: JPEG, BMP, PNG
File System Supported: FAT32 (up to 2TB), NTFS (up to 3TB),MAC HFS+ (USB Drives only)
Video output resolution: NTSC, PAL, 480p, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 1080p. 24hz
Input / Output:
HDMI 1.3, Component Video, Composite Video
Stereo RCA audio for analogue audio connection
SD / Sony Pro Duo Card Slot (with adapter)
SPDIF Optical – Co-Ax Digital Audio Outputs
USB – 2.0 HOST port x 2
USB – 3.0 SLAVE port
RJ45 – Network Connector
• 3.5″ SATA Internal Hard Drive Bay up to 3TB compatible SATA2 (SATA3 not compatible with current firmware)
• Built in 40mm cooling fan – TPE mounts for low noise
• Media Library Video Wall with Metadata *
• Favourites Manager *
• Alpha Jump in Media Library
• BD Menu – Non Java support
• 12 Bit Deep Video Colour support
• Internet Browser (Flash / Video playback not supported)
• Parental Control
• Playlist creation from remote
• Screensaver – Selectable in GUI setup
• In folder JPEG preview feature
• Easy navigation button use
• Resume playback feature
• Photo slide show with background music
• Network – Ethernet 10/100/1000** Mbps
• Optional Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n up to 300Mbps) – MED10WFB
• Samba server – NAS storage
• UPnP Device, DLNA (DMR) complaint
• Internet Radio (SHOUTcast) / .pls Playlist support
• File Copying – Card, USB, HDD and Network
• Subtitle: SRT, SSA, SUB, SMI format
• Size: 225 X 160 X 60 mm
Here is the box, highlighting “The Greatest Show on Earth”!
At the front of the box you won’t find any inputs, just the power button as well as additional function buttons.
On the side of the case is an SD card Slot, USB 2.0 HOST port and a USB 3.0 Slave port.
To the back you will see your usual array of inputs and outputs.
Here is a picture of all the goods, which includes a USB 3.0, Composite cable, HDMI cable, remote control w/ batteries, and power brick. I was surprised that a network cable was not included as this really should be standard fare for a networked media player.
On the underside of the case is a panel that can be removed for mounting an internal 3.5in hard drive
Here is a picture of the tray itself where you would secure the internal hard drive to before placing back in the MED500X2
One item worth pointing out since I know some of the readers here are sensitive to, the MED500X2 does come with an internal fan (as you can see in the upper right hand corner of the photo below).
In general the MED500X2 has a solid look and feel which should help it fit right in with the typical A/V gear. If you are using an internal drive, the combination of USB 3.0 on the MED500X2 as well as a corresponding PC with USB 3.0 should make for some speedy file transfers. The only issue I noted was that the internal fan could get a little noisy, not noticeable when there was background noise, but some people will be very sensitive to this.
Also, it is worth noting that the MED500X2 uses the Realtek 1185 chip, not the 1186. This is important to point out because the 1185 chip does not support Blu-ray 3D whereas the 1186 chip does.
When you first turn on the MED500X2 you will be greeted by a series of icons (Favorites, Media Search, Network Browser, Internet, and Settings). For clarity the Music/Videos/Photos search icons only apply if you are using an internal drive.
One interesting feature is that not only can you change the background picture, there are also skin packs made available by the Mede8er community which can completely change the look of the UI.
Here is a screenshot of the UI once I changed the background picture.
Here are a few pictures of available skin packs (which can be found here)
Towards the end of this review there is discussion about some of the jukebox options. The jukeboxes do require some work to maintain, but just using the base UI you can still navigate around with still a functional/eye pleasing UI.
When you navigate into any folders if there is a folder.jpg file present it will be displayed, so you still get the opportunity to view in a somewhat movie wall type view. The big difference (at least from the movie side) is that when you are in jukebox mode and you click enter on a movie it will take you to the info screen. From there click enter again and the movie will start. When you are in file browser mode clicking enter on a movie (as shown below) will simply take you into the folder where you will then have to navigate to the appropriate video file to play. If you want to see the movie info screen you will need to press the info button.
As part of the UI, you have 5 different views that you can utilize and switch between (Videos, Music, Photos, List, and List/Photo). The below screenshot shows the icons for the 5 available views (currently viewing photos in List/Photo view)
As you can see, even though I am not in jukebox mode I still get a a nice view for my music (although the covers being shown are because I have a folder.jpg in each album folder)
Nothing too crazy here, just your typical info bar screen that will appear during playback if called up.
Menu navigation for a main movie mkv rip.
Menu navigation for a Full Disc rip
The stock UI of the MED500X2 is just your basic UI. However, the ability to use custom skin packages really enhances the experience and gives the MED500X2 a much more robust look and feel.
The remote control is IR based which means direct line of sight is needed, and comes with the usual assortment of buttons. The only part of the layout I didn’t like is that the “+” and “-” volume buttons are next to each other horizontally (where typically these buttons are usually vertical). On several occasions I found myself hitting the stop or play/pause button (which are directly below the volume buttons).
Navigating around was relatively quick, with very little lag when scrolling through the file browser. At times though the pointer got a little too jumpy, and I found myself constantly having to scroll back because scrolling once would actually register as two clicks over.
The MED500X2 has a gigE NIC. Unfortunately I didn’t have access to an internal drive at the time to test out file transfer performance. Smb from my Windows Home Server was picked up right away, although I couldn’t get the MED500X2 to recognize nfs (there is an nfs option). Using the infamous “bird scene” from Planet Earth I was able to play back without issue the 50 Mbps clip via smb. This was a bit odd as typically with most other players I have tested I can usually get to at least the 70 Mbps clip before I see playback break down (and these are from players that were only 10/100). This would indicate to me that there is room for improvement in the firmware with smb implementation. However, it is important to point out that even at 50 Mbps there is still plenty of headroom to play back HD content (I noticed no issues with playback on even some of my more bitrate intense movies).
I tested playback using the latest MED500X2 public firmware at the time of this post (24-Mar-2012, V2.0.6), and below are the results:
- mkv w/ chapters – (PASS)
- mkv w/ 480p internal IDX/SUB subtitles (PASS)
- mkv w/ 1080p internal IDX/SUB subtitles (PASS)
- mkv w/multiple SSA subtitles – subtitles are not displayed properly (FAIL)
- mkv w/ internal PGS subtitles (PASS)
- HD Audio downmix to stereo – DTS(MA) (PASS) / TrueHD (PASS)
- mkv w/ forced subtitles – (FAIL)
- mkv/(m2)ts with DTS(MA) – bitstreamed without issue - (PASS)
- mkv/(m2)ts with TrueHD Audio Track – bitstreamed without issue - (PASS)
- mkv/(m2)ts with Dolby Digital Plus – bitstreamed without issue - (PASS)
- mkv w/ VC-1 encoded video – played without issue (PASS)
- Forced Subtitles in a BluRay Structure – (FAIL)
- BluRay ISO (main movie only) – played without issue (PASS)
- BluRay Folder (entire disc) – played movie, only main movie with bd lite menu support (PASS, but with watered down menu support) or full menus (Couldn’t confirm)*. However, if the BluRay is a seamless branch (i.e. the main movie is broken up into multiple files) playback issues were encountered (FAIL)
- DVD ISO and/or Folder Structure – played with full menus (PASS)
- 1080p quicktime (.mov) trailer – played without issue (PASS)
- 1080p WMV w/ WMAPro Audio – (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)
- 3D SBS mkv – played (PASS)
- 1080p60 mkvs- played without issue – played but jerky (PASS/FAIL)
- L5.1 mkvs – played, however noticeable blocking in video (PASS/FAIL)
- 16 Reference Frame mkvs – - played, however noticeable blocking in video (PASS/FAIL)
The biggest issue that the MED500X2 encountered revolved around subtitle support. Forced subtitles in both mkvs and folder structures do not work, and multiple SSA subtitles (such as those commonly used in Anime) did not display properly. Several file types (most noticeably 1080p60, L5.1, and higher referenced frame videos) would play but would exhibit a significant amount of blockiness.
Full disc playback seemed to be hit or miss. There is an option to enable full disc menus (for non java menus) but the only two full disc movies I have I got an error message of an unsupported format (assuming these two movies have java menus, see screenshot below for popup message). Otherwise the MED500X2 would start playing the main movie as expected, but I couldn’t find a way to switch titles. At one point when testing District 9 the MED500X2 refuses to shut off subtitles. Also, and what seems to be the norm among many players, playback of seamless branch movies resulted in stuttering/jumping during the transition from one m2ts to the next.
Now you may be thinking that the MED500X2 sounds like a real dog when it comes to playback. However, my usage experience was actually much better then my testing experience. I have been using the MED500X2 on and off for over 3 months and it has played just about everything I wanted to watch without a hiccup. I would say that if proper subtitle support is important or you have a large Blu-ray full disc library, the MED500X2 is probably not the right player for you. Aside from that I actually found the MED500X2 to be very solid when it came to playback of all my local content.
Third Party Jukebox:
When I started writing this review only a video jukebox was available, but since then a music jukebox has been added as well. As such I will break this section up into two parts. Also, it is important to note, when the MED500X2 creates the jukeboxes it saves a database file in the same folder as the media that it is scanning. This means that the MED500X2 must have write access to the folder where your media is stored (this was driving me crazy at first until I realized I was using my guest account to test which does not have write access).
I. Video Jukebox
The MED500X2 doesn’t really have a third party jukebox per se (such as Zappiti, YAMJ, etc…), but more of a hybrid type jukebox similar to the Popbox v8. At the core of the jukebox is a proper folder structure (meaning each movie and tv show episode be in its own separate folder). The jukebox requires a folder.jpg (for the cover), about.jpg (for the detail info screen), and xml file (for the actual video details). The folks at Mede8er have actually created a tool called Y2M which can be run from a PC and will help get all the necessary files together/saved (using YAMJ at the core). My Movies and ThumbGen also have the ability to create the necessary files.
Assuming you have the proper folder structure and files, the first step is to navigate to your video folder (s) via the network browser. Once you locate, highlight the folder, press the menu button, and choose the option to add the folder to your favorites. Under my Videos Share folder I have a variety of subfolders (i.e. Movies HD, Movies SD, etc…) so I added each of these to my favorites. When you then head over to your favorites each of these folders should be there. You would then highlight each folder and choose the Scan folder option, which will then go and scan for media in those folders. You can also customize by adding individual icons to each folder (as seen below)
When you head into a favorite folder now you should be greeted with a nice looking movie wall, with cover art and movie information. One item of annoyance, the way the movie wall navigates is vertically. With most other movie walls as you scroll down one row will come up at a time. So if you have a movie wall with 2 rows, when you scroll down the 2nd row would move up to the top and the next row would appear as the 2nd row. With the MED500X2 when you scroll down past the 2nd row instead of everything moving up one row it moves up two rows at a time (so you get two new rows instead of the bottom row moving up and a new row taking its place).
Once you find a movie you want to watch click enter which will bring up full details, coverart, and backdrop for the movie.
Using the xml files generated by one of the mentioned tools, you can do an xml search which will help you filter out content by genre, year, etc…
Everything looks great, so why do I consider the jukebox to be a hybrid? Well, the best way to explain, with the MED500X2 even though you see covers, you really are doing nothing more then viewing in file browser mode, so you don’t quite have the flexibility of a full fledged jukebox (like Zappiti, YAMJ, etc…) where you can see all your movies spread across various folders/drives in one view, boxset views, etc… What this means is that if you have multiple favorites set up your cannot view or do an xml search all of them at once. Also, I believe the jukebox update process is a two step process. First you need to update your new media on the PC side with the correct artwork/nfo. From there you then need to run a scan on the MED500X2 to pull in the new content. Hopefully down the road there will be the possibility to simply push the update through from the PC instead of having to do through the MED500X2.
Another issue (at least for me) is since this is a bit of a hybrid jukebox what I consider proper TV Show support doesn’t exist. The most commonly supported TV Show structure is usually Show Name (with all episodes contained in the Show Folder with the typical S##E## naming) or Show Name -> Season # (with all episodes contained in the respective season Folder with the typical S##E## naming). Doing either of these will not work with the MED500X2 simply because the hybrid jukebox requires each video file to be in separate folders (so you would actually have to put each episode file in its own folder, a crazy idea if you ask me). You don’t get proper naming support or even thumbnail support. Since the music jukebox supports nested folders I would hope a similar function can be added for TV Shows to give true TV Show support.
UPDATE ON TV SHOW SUPPORT:
Well what do you know, since I originally wrote that portion above about TV show support, there has been implementation of TV Show support to an extent that is more in line with what many other jukeboxes provide. However, it is not part of the jukebox functionality per se (so if you scan your TV Show folder in the same manner you would scan your movie folders to generate a jukebox it will not work). Instead you simply navigate to your TV Show folder and assuming you have all the appropriate jpgs/nfos you should get a wall view and episode details with backdrops.
Drilling down into a TV Show you will see a corresponding backdrop and TV Show information (ignore the fact that the TV show info for the screenshot below is incorrect lol). Keep in mind that I get a breakout by season because this is the folder structure I follow. If you simply have all your episodes regardless of season under the root TV Show folder you will just see a list of all the episodes.
Since you are still essentially in file browser mode, the episode names will appear exactly as how the file is named. Also, you will not get episode thumbnails (in the screenshot below the thumbnail you see to the right is actually a preview video playing on the file highlighted).
The new TV view is a solid stopgap that makes the MED500X2 much more functional for me since TV Shows is a big part of my family’s library. Of course I would love to see full integration of TV Shows into the main video jukebox, but I am impressed how quickly the Mede8er development team was able to push this out since I had been harping about this quite a bit on AVSForum (maybe just coincidence but if not big thumbs up for the dev. team).
II. Music Jukebox
As of the 29-Feb-2012 firmware the MED500X2 now comes with support for an integrated music jukebox. Scanning can be done directly from the MED500X2 for all mp3s (reading off the ID3 tag). For all other music files (i.e. OGG, Monkey’s Audio, Flac, AAC, wma, m4a) you need to use a separate tool called Tagscanner on a PC first to generate an xml file for the MED500X2 to read. Since about 99.5% of my music library is mp3s I decided to just try and do a direct scan from the MED500X2. Unfortunately for whatever reason this failed, so I had to resort to Tagscanner. Once TagScanner did its thing, I was able to successfully set up my music jukebox.
As with the video jukebox, you can then filter out based on a variety of criteria such as genre, year, album, artists, etc…
Hop into an album and select from the available songs
I only had a few minutes to spend with the music jukebox since it was just released as I was writing this review. It is a nice addition to the MED500X2, and nice to see some focus here since music is usually long forgotten with these media players. Hopefully the music jukebox will evolve where it can be managed completely from the media player regardless of music type without the need for a 3rd party program.
Well, let’s just cut to the chase, there is no Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon VOD, etc… Instead, the MED500X2 comes with an internet browser (which does not support flash playback for those thinking they can access Hulu through there) and some basic online content apps.
From the main menu you can access the online content portal which brings up content available. If you notice in the screenshot below, content what requires a mouse/keyboard (connected via USB) will show a mouse/keyboard icon in the upper right hand corner.
To test how well a keyboard/mouse would work, I grabbed my Dune Keyboard, connected to the USB input, launched YouTube, and sure enough the MED500X2 picked up the keyboard/mouse without issue.
If you are looking to access the internet, the MED500X2 provides some quick shortcuts to a variety of popular sites.
When it comes to online content there really isn’t much to see here. There is no premium content that would really attract a user looking specifically for, and even when compared to some of the players that don’t have “premium” content but have a robust online catalog (such as the PCH or Popbox), the MED500X2 is behind. You do have access to a web browser, but in general I found it to be a rather poor/clunky experience and not something I would bother using.
Overall I found the MED500X2 to be a solid media player when it comes to local video streaming/playback. I have been using for several months now and in nearly all instances it played back my video content without a hitch (and this of course is one of the most important aspects of any media player). However, and as you can see from my test results, there are still areas that need to be improved. In particular proper subtitle support and better full disc Blu-ray support would definitely go a long way to making the MED500X2 a complete player.
There are a couple items worth mentioning that I feel are important to bring up. First, this review was most written over a month ago, but with continuous firmware updates I had to keep pushing back to make sure I captured the new features added (such as the music jukebox and TV show functionality). Second, I was discussing the MED500X2 on AVSForum with a few other members, and a member of the Mede8er team saw this and reached out to me to discuss further. Both of these actions show great support for the Mede8er, and is very encouraging for the future development of the Mede8er line of players.