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Mvix MX-760HD review: Mvix MX-760HD

Mvix MX-760HD

Matthew Moskovciak Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater
Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.
Matthew Moskovciak
11 min read
Network media players have been around for quite some time, but with the announcement of the Apple TV, there seems to have been a resurgence of interest in the product category. To much less fanfare, the Mvix MX-760HD was released in late 2006. It's the latest in a series of products from the company that combines a network hard drive enclosure with a digital media players--just drop in a standard PC hard drive and you're good to go. Earlier versions of the product developed something of a cult following--thanks to appearances on sites such as ThinkGeek--as a do-it-all networked media player. And deservedly so--the spec sheet for the MX-760HD covers a dizzying amount of file formats, plus a bundle of features like DVI output, slot for an internal hard drive, 720p/1080i/1080p HD output, wireless 802.11b/g, Ethernet, and dual USB ports. In the real world, the Mvix MX-760HD largely lives up to its billing and delivers high-definition WMV video, ripped DVDs, and digital music to your home theater from tons of storage devices. That's not to say everything is perfect. There are some significant caveats: wireless performance wasn't that great, output modes other than 1080i didn't look that good, and the graphical user interface could definitely use some work. But if you're willing to live with these drawbacks, the MX-760HD packs a lot punch in a small package--and at a competitive $350 price. On the other hand, those that prefer slick graphical user interfaces and prefer simplicity to flexibility would probably be served by upcoming devices like the Netgear Digital Entertainer HD or Apple TV.



Mvix MX-760HD

The Good

Excellent file format compatibility; DVI output to as high as 1080p; slot for internal hard drive; Ethernet and 802.11b/g wireless networking; two USB 2.0 ports; outputs full 5.1 DTS and Dolby soundtracks.

The Bad

Hard drive enclosure is a very tight fit; user interface could be better; wireless performance is poor for video; no 802.11n; 480p, 720p, and 1080p modes have video-quality issues; image shifted to the left; no fast-forward/rewind on audio files; cannot play M3U, WPL, or ASX playlists; cannot save playlists; no HDMI; cannot handle files with DRM (including purchased iTunes and WMA-based subscription content); navigating large file libraries is cumbersome and unwieldy; no screensaver.

The Bottom Line

The Mvix MX-760 streaming media hard disk enclosure is absolutely jam-packed with features, but its varied assortment of quirks will probably limit its appeal to the enthusiast and DIY crowds.

Credit: Mvix
First, if you plan on using an internal hard drive inside the MX-760HD, you'll need to crack the unit open and do some tinkering. It's a somewhat confined space inside the device so you'll definitely need a short IDE cable to make it fit. We would have liked to see one of these included, as it's really the only way the MX-760HD will close. We also had a little difficulty with the screw on the casing, as it wouldn't quite fit right for us after several attempts. We eventually got it seated, but it was a pain.

Next, you'll need to format the hard drive, and the manual has instructions for doing so. However, keep in mind that if you have a sizeable hard drive, this could takes a long time--hours rather than minutes. Still, we like the fact that the drive installation is left up to the user--you get a much better bang for your buck by buying a third-party drive, and you can always upgrade it to a larger capacity in the months and years ahead. On the other hand, the fact that Mvix went with the older IDE connection rather than the newer--and faster--Serial ATA format is a bit of a mystery.

Once you get that up and running, you'll probably want to configure it to connect to either your wired or wireless network. The directions in the manual look imposing for a wired network--we certainly didn't feel like installing network protocols from deep inside Windows XP's setup menus. Instead, we played dumb and just connected everything, and it worked without a hitch with our D-Link DI-624 router after setting the MX-760HD to look for the wired connection. Likewise, just following the onscreen prompts to log on to our Wi-Fi network worked fine as well. As far as home-networking chores go, it's pretty painless.

Before you set the Mvix MX-760HD in its permanent location, you'll also want to add files to the internal hard drive, if you're using one. This can be done only by using the USB connection to a computer. That's a significant annoyance that we ran into--we'd rather be able to transfer files to the hard drive using either the wired or wireless network connection, even if it proved slower. Mvix is promising a firmware upgrade to correct this, but like all promised firmware updates, we can't guarantee when or if it will actually happen.


Credit: Mvix
The Mvix MX-760HD looks like an oversize hard drive enclosure and measures 2.28 inches high, 7.6 inches wide, and 7.36 inches deep. You can mount the 760HD vertically using the included white stand, or horizontally if you're sticking it in a traditional A/V rack. All of the connections are in the back, which is sometimes inconvenient for quick flash-drive hookups.

On the front of the player is a small LCD screen that can be used to navigate the player if the remote goes missing. Below that are a few status lights indicating which connections are active. Further down are some front-panel controls--including a navigation joystick--which do give you rudimentary control over the MX-760HD if the remote goes missing. However, the front-panel controls are pretty frustrating; when we pressed the joystick down once, it would randomly move the cursor down either one or two spaces. We were repeatedly skipping over the files we wanted and selecting the wrong ones when we got impatient. Just stick to the remote and you'll be fine.

The remote itself feels a little bit cheap, and the lack of button differentiation definitely makes it difficult to use by feel, but luckily it has none of the same issues the front-panel control has. If you're in a well-lit room, it works well enough but it's rough to navigate in the dark. We were frustrated by some button-placement issues, though. For instance, the Menu button is oft-used for DVDs, yet it's located very far from the main directional pad. As always, a nice universal remote will put this issue to rest.

When connected to a TV, you'll want to do your navigating via the onscreen interface using the remote. The interface itself is pretty utilitarian, but we've definitely seen worse. On the left hand, there's a navigation menu with five choices: movies, music, photo, mixed, and setup. Going into any of the media-specific categories will filter your digital files by type so that your video files won't show up when you're browsing your music files. Under mixed, all of your digital media files will show up, regardless of file type.

Credit: Mvix
Once you make a media-type selection, it will ask you what source you want to browse--whether that's the internal hard drive, a connected hard drive, or a computer via the network. We would have preferred an option that allowed you to just view all your sources at once, instead of having to remember where you put a specific file. Once you make that selection, the MX-760HD will list the files and folders of that source--and that's about it. Unfortunately, it doesn't currently have any support for tags, so you can't browse by genre or artist name--unless you make the folder structure yourself. If your digital media is carefully organized into subfolders, it's not that bad, but we wouldn't want to have to search through thousands of unorganized files.

Making playlists is easy, although limited. If you're just looking to, say, put together a quick playlist for a party, you'll have no problem. Just highlight the song you want, click "add," and it will add it to your list. However, there's no ability to save playlists or the ability to change the order of songs once they're added. Not a problem if you're going to put it on random, but otherwise you'll need to select the files you want in order. There's also the Jukebox, which is basically a short-term playlist. Once the Jukebox mode is engaged, every time you select a file and press Enter, it will be added to the list of files that will be played. One major gripe we had with playing audio files is that fast-forward and rewind don't work.

Digital video hounds will appreciate the long list of files that the Mvix MX-760HD supports. The high-def versions of the WMV, ASF, AVI, and MP4 formats each work fine. For standard-definition video, it supports DivX, Xvid, Mpeg, VCD, DVD (VOB, IFO, and ISO), WMV, ASF, TP, TS, and TRP files. We put it through our torture test of files, and it handled almost everything well, although we did notice it couldn't cope with any video file that used the increasingly popular H.264 (AVC) encoding format.

Audio file compatibility is solid as well. The MX-760HD can play MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG, WAV, and AC3 files. That's pretty extensive, but digital music buyers will notice that it doesn't support any type of DRM--that means tracks purchased on iTunes, Rhapsody, or Napster, for example, can't be played on the MX-760HD. The iTunes compatibility will have to wait for Apple TV, while Rhapsody fans should check out the excellent Sonos Digital Music System--although it can't handle video. Besides DRM'd files, there's a very noticeable omission of all types of playlist file formats. We made playlists using MSU, WPL, and ASX formats, and none of them worked. This is a significant drawback, so heavy playlist creators should probably steer clear. The only other file format we would have liked is FLAC, which offers lossless audio quality as well as a being a good way to back up your CDs. It also has the ability to play full DTS and Dolby soundtracks and output--via its digital audio outputs--full surround soundtracks.

There's also the ability to browse your photo collection. The MX-760HD supports BMP, JPEG, and PNG file formats. You can browse the files individually, or engage a slide show by pressing the play button. On slide shows, the interval between the images can be selected from between 3, 5, 10 and 20 seconds, and there's no problem playing music and displaying photos at the same time. But the MX-760HD cannot display progressive JPEGs, nor can it stream TIFF or GIF images.

Credit: Mvix
Connectivity is nearly exhaustive. For video, there's DVI and component-video for high-def, as well as S-Video and composite-video outputs. Note that the DVI can output to as high as 1080p, while the component output goes as high as 1080i. The big omission is HDMI, which could have allowed a single cable connection to a receiver that carried both high-def video and audio. You can still pick up a DVI-to-HDMI adapter for five bucks, but remember that you'll need to run a separate cable for audio, since the DVI output doesn't carry audio. Newer products coming this year, such as the Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 and Apple TV will have HDMI outputs, so if that's an essential feature, you might want to hold out.

On the audio front, both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs are present as well as a stereo analog output. Surround sound can be output via the digital audio outputs, and if you have an older receiver without digital audio inputs, the 760HD is capable of internally downconvertinging DTS and Dolby surround tracks for stereo output.

The MX-760HD is capable of being integrated with both wired and wireless networks, thanks to an Ethernet port and wireless 802.11b/g compatibility. It can handle both WEP and WPA encryption with the latest firmware, which is nice because you don't have to downgrade your wireless network's security just to stream media. For those craving more speed, a new model sporting 802.11n should released later this year.

In addition to networking connectivity, the 760HD's USB ports add an additional layer of flexibility to its design. Like most devices with a USB port, it can handle USB flash drives, but it can also go to the next level and connect to USB 2.0-compatible external hard drives or even a DVD player. Taken together, this means the MX-760HD could have a hard drive inside, be connected to both a DVD-player and an external hard drive via USB--and stream media off your PC. Wow. (We didn't test an external DVD player ourselves, but we've seen reports of this working on AVS Forum).

We did notice that the MX-760HD didn't have full aspect-ratio control. Many HDTVs, such as the HP LC3760N and the Philips 42PF9831D, do not have aspect-ratio control when fed high-def sources, so it's nice to be able to control it at the source. This is not an issue for most high-quality video files, which are anamorphic, but nonanamorphic wide-screen files will look windowboxed--even if you use zoom mode on your TV. We did find a workaround to get it to fill the screen (see the Tips and Tricks section ), but it's not an ideal situation.

With network media players, performance is critical--nobody cares how many files formats a player supports if everything is in the wrong aspect ratio or its playback output is choppy.

Video performance over a wired Ethernet connection was pretty solid. We watched a wide range of video content--from 1080p high-def WMV files to DVD rips, and the vast majority of the time we experienced no networking hiccups. We can't say it was flawless--occasionally there would be a slight jerk in playback--but it was pretty darn good. If you're a cinephile that demands absolute perfection from your A/V gear, maybe it's not for you, but it happened so rarely--and it was so slight--we think most people would prefer the convenience.

Wireless performance was another story. We connected wirelessly to our D-Link DI-624 router and tried streaming a few HD WMV clips from a networked PC. Getting files to play off the PC was no problem, but the experience was marred by choppy playback. We weren't surprised--it's a stretch to expect an 802.11g connection to handle high-def video, especially in our crowded office Wi-Fi space. Next we tried to stream some ripped DVDs off the hard drive and got more of the same. This was more disappointing, since we had success streaming ripped DVD video content using the Acoustic Research Digital MediaBridge. However, an important caveat is that these devices were not tested in the same facilities and that difference could explain the difference in performance. Moving onto less bandwidth-intensive files, such as DivX movies and music--was much better, as we rarely experienced any hiccups.

Video quality from the Mvix MX-760HD was mostly good, but there are some important caveats. First off, in our tests we found that the output resolution that the 760HD is set to has a large effect on the video quality. For instance, we started our testing using the DVI output in 720p mode and ran it through Silicon Optix's HQV test suite. In 720p, the 760HD failed the vast majority of the HQV tests and performed like a cheap DVD player. Interestingly, however, playing actual DVD videos from the hard drive didn't look so bad in 720p--we looked at both King Kong and Pirates of the Caribbean and were mostly pleased. At first, we were confused by this behavior, but further investigation seemed to hint that there were issues with its ability to detect and properly handle video (rather than film) content. The MX-760HD seemed to process everything as film (24 frames per second) in 720p mode, which may be why it failed so many of the video-based tests (30fps) on HQV, and yet looked fine when we watched film-based DVD files.

The difficulties with video-based content could have been a dealbreaker, but luckily the same issues do not occur when the output resolution is set to 1080i. In 1080i, the HD760 handled HQV with much more finesse--it wasn't as good as the best upscaling DVD players that we've seen, but it was definitely no slouch. We moved on and tried both 1080p and 480p, but these resolutions were marred by the same problems as 720p. The bottom line is that it seems that no matter what resolution your TV is, you're probably better off leaving the MX-760HD in 1080i mode. Another nagging issue that we noticed is that the Mvix seemed to shift the entire picture slightly to the left, which often left a black bar on the right side of the screen. This means on wide-screen titles you'd actually lose some of the picture. It's annoying, but it doesn't make movies unwatchable.


Mvix MX-760HD

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6