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As you saw in Figure 4, there were four basic options for multimedia: videos, pictures, music and radio. The first option I experimented with was video since this is the hardest feature for these devices to get right. There are many different video formats in use today, and most devices can only handle a few. With this low-cost unit, Hauppauge has taken the approach of supporting only two video formats in hardware: MPEG1 and MPEG2.

DivX videos are supported via transcoding in software on the server side. This means that you'll need a bit of horsepower to accomplish the conversion. Hauppauge recommends at least a 1.8 GHz CPU for the server.

Hauppauge advertises that up to 12 MediaMVP devices can be used on the same LAN talking to the same server, but only device at a time can play transcoded video. So if you want to have a houseful of MediaMVPs, you'll have to settle for MPEG1 or MPEG2 video.

Playing video consists of navigating through the directories previously identified on your PC to find the desired movie. Figure 5 shows the basic navigation screen.

Figure 5: Video Selection Screen

Figure 5: Video Selection Screen

My tests showed that both MPEG1 and standard-definition MPEG2 videos worked well. But I was not able to play a VOB file even though VOB files contain mostly MPEG2 data. I was able to play a number of my standard-definition DivX videos without problem, but when I attempted to play a high-def DivX video, I received an error message that said: "Data server CPU not fast enough for transcoding media."

Attempting to play an unsupported video format would give a cryptic error of: "Failed to Connect AVI Source to Splitter." I suspect that error might cause a bit of head-scratching in some households. Fast-forward and reverse modes were available when watching videos, but the overall effect was a bit slow and ragged. And to top if off, Hauppauge documents that loss of audio/video sync may occur after using fast-forward and reverse.

Each time a video started up, the banner shown in Figure 6 would display for several seconds. With short videos it became annoying, so I would have preferred to have an option to not bring it up, but I couldn't find one.

Figure 6: Annoying banner in video playback

Figure 6: Annoying banner in video playback

I ran into another annoyance when navigating through the menus with the remote. The basic remote functions (Figure 7) worked well enough but Hauppauge defined a special key for exiting menus.

Figure 7: MediaMVP Remote

Figure 7: MediaMVP Remote (click to enlarge)

I can't tell you how many times I hit the "back" arrow instead of this special key to leave a sub-directory, only to get an "Undefined" error as shown Figure 8. Note that the remote is not back-lit, so if you're used to watching your videos in a darkened room, you might have a bit of trouble.

Figure 8: Undefined Key Error

Figure 8: Undefined Key Error

One nice feature was a resume/restart pop-up menu that appeared whenever I started to play a video that I had previously started but hadn't finished. This is a feature I wished some of the other boxes I've used had. It's nice to be able to stop a long movie and then return to it later without having to fast-forward to where I left off.

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