UPnP AV Server and USB Device Support
Since the 510 uses the standard UPnP AV protocol, it is possible to use it with servers other than the bundled Nero MediaHome. Figure 11 shows the server selection screen of the 510 where you can see the other UPnP AV servers available on my network.
Figure 11: UPnP Server Selection
My tests showed that the device worked well with off-the-shelf severs like Twonkyvision or Microsoft Windows Media Connect. I could even connect to Internet radio stations via the Twonkvision server.
In general, I like to run UPnP servers on my Network Storage devices, so I can play back my files without having to run a full-fledged computer. So generic UPnP AV support is important for the way I use these types of devices. But one drawback of using a standard UPnP server with the 510 is that you don't get the transcoding needed for video playback.
Since the 510 has limited hardware video decoding capability, a number of my movies were grayed out in the menus telling me that they weren't supported. But these same movies were playable on the 520 when talking to the same server. The 510 documentation states that it can only communicate with one server at a time, but I found this not to be the case. In many cases I found items from several servers in a menu such as the photo selection screen.
The 510 also has the capability to play back media stored on a USB drive. There's only a single port, located on the front panel. So if you want a drive permanently attached, you'll have to put up with a cable dangling off the front of the box.
Figure 12: USB Drive Browsing
Once the drive is attached, you can navigate through its menu structure and play back media (Figure 12). When using a USB drive, since there is no server involved, there is no transcoding either. I thought that this would severely limit the types of movie files playable, but I was able to play an assortment of DivX, XviD, MPEG 2, and MPEG 4 files from my thumb-drive!
Interestingly enough, some of the files I was able to play from the USB device would not play when served from a UPnP AV server. This may mean that there is some level of disconnect between what the server is telling the 510, and what the 510 is able to play. One benefit of playing from a USB device is that there isn't a network involved. So fast-forward and reverse worked a bit more smoothly.