Long Island, New York-based Hauppauge first entered the digital media receiver category in 2003 with its MediaMVP, which streams audio, video, and image files over a wired Ethernet connection from your PC to your TV and stereo system. The company recently expanded the product line with an 802.11g wireless version of the device, appropriately dubbed the Wireless MediaMVP.
Measuring approximately 1 by 6.5 by 5.5 inches (HWD), the diminutive Wireless MediaMVP is devoid of front-panel controls and buttons, and it doesn't have an integrated display, which means you'll have to rely on the remote and a connected TV to interface with the unit. The front panel is punctuated by only a swiveling Wi-Fi antenna and a status-indicator light that shines through the translucent plastic. Around back, you'll find an Ethernet jack for wired networks, composite-video and S-Video outputs, and analog stereo (red and white) RCA jacks, as well as a coaxial digital audio output. The unit doesn't have component-video or HDMI jacks. That's because, unlike the HD-capable D-Link DSM-520, the Hauppauge is strictly limited to standard-definition video streaming.
The Wireless MediaMVP's main menu is spartan but easy to navigate. Click one of the five big onscreen buttons--videos, pictures, music, radio, and settings--and you'll get appropriate submenus where you can navigate the respective media files, Internet radio stations, or system settings. You access media files through the directories and subdirectories in which they're stored on your networked PC. Although that's standard practice for video and still-image files, it's a shame that the unit doesn't let you more conveniently navigate music by ID3-based categories, such as artist, title, genre, and album.
The full-size, 43-button remote control includes a four-way keypad. It's used in conjunction with the center-mounted select button and the Back button to intuitively navigate lists and menu levels. The remote also has videos, music, radio, and pictures buttons that shortcut directly to the main navigation screens. Play, pause, track skip, track scan, and stop buttons provide DVD-player-like control of video.
Setting up the Hauppauge Wireless MediaMVP is simple. You connect it to your TV--and your home stereo system, if you'd prefer something better than your TV's speakers--then install the included server software on your PC, power the unit on, and step through a few screens, configuring it to work with your Wi-Fi network. The system supports 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption but not WPA--not uncommon but always annoying when you have to ratchet down your wireless network's security just to gain compatibility with a media device. The MediaMVP offers 16:9 and 4:3 display settings, but on several TVs, the user interface filled only approximately 85 percent of the screen, leaving black borders on all sides. Hauppauge's included PC application can be used to make files and folders available for playback over the Wireless MediaMVP, or you can grab the remote control and achieve the same results through the unit's settings menus. Our test unit came preconfigured to play only one Internet radio station, but adding more selections from Shoutcast was easy enough. It's worth noting that the device can't play Live365 stations, to which Live365 doesn't provide direct links (URLs), as required by the device.
The Wireless MediaMVP plays MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and DivX video files. It's compatible with MP3 and WMA audio files, but performance with WMAs was unacceptably sluggish: after we selected WMA files, the player took as long as 25 seconds to actually begin playback. M3U, PLS, B4S, and ASX playlists are supported, but Rhapsody compatibility and DRM-protected WMA audio files downloaded from Internet music stores (that is, PlaysForSure content) are a no-go. JPEG, BMP, and GIF image files all displayed successfully. The unit allows firing up a photo slide show with musical accompaniment.
The Wireless MediaMVP's wireless performance was below average in our testing environment, but as always, your mileage may vary. With the unit in the same room as our wireless router, playback was fine, but dropouts were more frequent when we placed the device one room away from the router in a building with plaster walls. Sometimes files wouldn't play at all. To help evaluate the Wireless MediaMVP's sonic wherewithal, we tested several tracks against Slim Devices' great-sounding Squeezebox. The Squeezebox was the hands-down winner, delivering clearer and more dynamic sound--but it costs twice as much, and it can't stream video. Nonetheless, the Wireless MediaMVP's overall sound quality can be characterized as average.
In the final analysis, the Hauppauge Wireless MediaMVP's shortcomings are numerous enough to considerably limit its appeal. The addition of wireless connectivity and a digital audio output would've been a big deal three years ago, but they're merely run of the mill now--and the lack of HD video, PlaysForSure audio, and Rhapsody compatibility are all the more glaring. Factor in the Wireless MediaMVP's spotty wireless performance, and you have a product that falls short of the competition--especially when the D-Link DSM-520 can be had for just $50 to $100 more.