If we had a penny for every reader who asked us how to connect their laptop to their big-screen TV, we'd have about £8.73 by now. We've told them all how, obviously, but what we forgot to mention was that you can enjoy digital movies on your TV by using a digital media player such as the ViewSonic VMP30.
The device connects to your telly box via the magic of HDMI and allows you to watch movies, browse photos, listen to music, or view text in relative comfort. Just connect a USB drive or a memory card to the rear of the device, select the HDMI input on your TV and it'll give you access to a wealth of digital file formats, including MPEG1/2/4, RealVideo and H.264, which means Xvid/DivX, Mov, AVI, TS and VOB 1080p files are a go.
At least, that's the theory. The reality is that the VMP30, despite ViewSonic's claims, can't handle high-quality 1080p very well -- or 720p, for that matter. Yes, it'll play films with those resolutions, but it'll struggle if they're encoded to a high bit rate. In our experience, it worked fine with bit rates lower than 20Mbps, but struggled with anything higher, displaying severe artefacts at best, or crashing unceremoniously at worst.
That's a shame, because it's actually a pretty decent device that's handy for entertaining kids or distracting relatives during the holidays. Its glossy plastic weighs 138g and measures just 121 by 101 by 28mm, so it can be taken from room to room or house to house with contemptuous ease. It even comes with an infrared remote control that, aside from being clunky and unintuitive, works well.
Ultimately, anyone looking for a device that can play high bit-rate movies should look elsewhere, perhaps at the Asus O!Play, but if proper HD isn't a requirement, the £60 VMP30 makes a great stocking filler.