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Introduction

ioBox 100HD

At a Glance
Product DragonTech ioBox-100HD Networked Media Tank
Summary Compact, fanless "Media tank" style player with wide video format support
Pros • Supports Wide variety of video formats up to 1080p
• Plays ripped DVDs w/ menu
• Supports UPnP AV
• Active Developer Community
Cons • Some bugs
• Bland user interface

Every since I hacked my AppleTV a couple of years back, it's been the primary multimedia player in my house. With my hacks in place, the AppleTV can access files from the various NASes on my LAN and play back all my ripped and H.264-encoded DVDs with a very slick user interface that allows me to quickly sort through the hundreds of movies in my collection via metadata such as genre, actor, director, etc.

It's slick, but as cool as it is, it hasn't been the answer for all of my media. When it comes to high definition movies, the AppleTV just doesn't have the horsepower to handle anything higher than very specifically encoded 720p videos. If you want to play 1080p movies on your home network, you're going to have to look elsewhere.

One HD-capable media player that I've heard good things about is the Popcorn Hour by Syabas. Word is, the PH could play just about any video format in use and could also handle 1080p movies with ease. I hadn't had a chance to try the PH myself and they are a bit hard to come by.

But now Sybase is acting as an OEM for other manufactures wanting to build their own players. They have branded their OEM solution, the "Network Media Tank" (NMT) and now there are several manufacturers producing boxes based on this platform. In this review, I'll check out one of those products, the Dragontech ioBox-100HD.

Physically, the ioBox isn't much bigger than a VHS videocassette (for those of you who remember what those are). The aluminum case feels solid and comes with easy-open thumbscrews so you can install an optional 2.5" or 3.5" SATA disk, which you'll likely want to do since the ioB ox comes without one. (You can run it diskless but you'll lose some functionality).

The front panel (seen above) has a couple of USB ports for plugging in external drives (FAT or NTFS supported) and also a slave port for direct attach to your PC for high-speed file transfers. If you want to do a direct-connect, however, you'll need to have ext3 drivers installed to handle the Linux disk format used by the ioBox internally. It's nice to have the USB connectors on the front panel for easy access, but if you want to permanently hook up a USB drive, you'll be stuck seeing a cable hanging off the front panel.

The back panel (Figure 1) has a full suite of connectors for both HD and standard-def use.

Back Panel

Figure 1: Back Panel

The only thing missing for standard-def users is an S-Video connector. Otherwise, from left to right you can see component connectors, composite A/V connectors, coax and optical audio connectors, HDMI port, 10/100 Ethernet, power and an on-off switch. Note that if you don't have Ethernet available where you want to use it, the ioBox supports a USB dongle. But once again, you'll have to have it hanging off the front panel. Note also that this unit doesn't have a fan, so it's silent in operation. As far as power-draw, I measured the box to draw about 12 W when active and 11 W when idle.

Figure 2 shows the ioBox remote.

iobox Remote

Figure 2: iobox Remote

The remote is full featured and worked well enough, but it's not backlit. So if you like watching your videos in a darkened room, you may want to have a flashlight handy.

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