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PlayOn

PlayOn is a commercial subscription service that is designed to allow you to view "premium" content on your multimedia device. To get it going, you'll need to install a server on a co-located Windows PC (sorry Mac users!) and then that server will stream content to your M400.

Once this is up and going, you can view your Netflix content and Hulu, CBS, ESPN, Netflix, CNN plus a couple of dozen others. Prices for Playon start at $5 a month. Figure 16 shows the main Playon screen as seen from M400.

Playon Menu

Figure 17: uebo M400 PlayOn Menu

If you look closely at the menu, you can see that the PlayOn content is served up through the UPnP capabilities of the box. And like other UPnP sources, navigation through the tree of content was usable, but a bit cumbersome when you're trying to find a particular movie or episode of a TV show.

As far as content, it was a bit hit and miss with only select episodes available from the various providers. This type of service might be the future, but just like Tim, I don't think I'll be canceling my TV service just yet.

Under the Covers

If you're interested in seeing what powers this box, we'll have to dig in a bit. Figure 17 shows the mainboard of the M400.

Main Board

Figure 17: uebo M400 Main Board

The main processor is a highly integrated SoC by RealTek in the RTD11 family. You can also see that the WIFI support is provided by a RealTek in the form of a RTL8188CE 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 GHz band only) mini card.

To see what software was running on the box, I had to do a little bit of investigation. One of the first things I do when I get a new device on my network is scan for open ports. In the case of the M400, one I noticed off the bat was a Telnet port.

I first tried and failed to log in using the account I had set up for FTP access. Since this known account didn't work, I wasn't sure how I would get in. But then I tried the obvious "root" account, and got it - no password required. Oops. If you're worried about protecting your content on the M400, be aware as the root user can read and write anything.

Once I logged in and started poking around, I found a fairly typical embedded box. The M400 was running a Linux 2.6.12.6 kernel. The Linux kernel reported the device system-type to be a "Realtek DMP/Jupiter" with a MIPS processor. There was 256 MB of RAM installed and the basic utilities were based on busybox. The UPnP server was MediaTomb.

Closing Thoughts

If you want to take the plunge and invest in a networked media player for your home, the M400 isn't a bad choice. I appreciated its ability to play both ripped DVDs and Blu-rays with support for the extras such as alternate audio and subtitles. I enjoyed the nice slideshow capabilities and could see myself turning it loose on a big directory full of photos while simultaneously playing a carefully chosen music soundtrack.

For connectivity, the built-in 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi will be appreciated for those people who don't have Ethernet handy in their entertainment centers. And the many supported file transfer protocols will ensure that you can get your content to the box some way.

But as noted in the review, there are downsides. The noisy fan was a definite problem for me and the metadata problems would make easing this box into the family room a tough sell to your non-technically inclined significant-others. Given the popularity of Netfix streaming, a deal-breaker for many people is going to be the lack of a native client. If you're into Netflix, and want to use the M400, be prepared to run a separate server and pony up some cash for PlayOn on top of what you're already paying Netflix. This is in contrast to a similarly-priced multimedia player I reviewed awhile back, the WD TV Live Hub.

Comparing the two, along with the native Netflix client, the WD TV Live Hub also included a 1TB drive. Wi-Fi for the WD was an add-on, however. So depending on your needs, the prices could even out. Another plus for the WD was better support for metadata. For sure, there were definite flaws in the WD's implementation. But at least there was an attempt to bring in movie artwork and additional data such as synopsis, actors, director, etc.

In the end, neither of these players were terribly polished. But given my own usage patterns, if I had to choose between the two, the WD Live Hub would be the one sitting in my entertainment center.

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