Xtreamly appealing

This do-it-all device will certainly find fans amongst the technorati

From one extreme to another; no fewer than thirty-six PicoHD5.1s could fit into the glossily-finished slab that is the Linux-powered iXtreamer.

Most sane people, were they to fit anything, would instead plump for a SATA hard drive. Do so, and you’ll have a self-contained media player. It’s then just a case of plugging the iXtreamer into any available AV system or TV.

A wide range of connectors is provided for the purpose. In addition to the 1080p24-capable HDMI port are component, composite, stereo analogue and optical/coaxial digital. It’s just a pity that you don’t get S-video or RGB Scart (even with adaptors) for the best results from standard-def TVs.

Not that the iXtreamer is limited to playback from an on-board hard drive. It can pull compatible content off a network, courtesy of Ethernet (a Wi-Fi USB ‘dongle’ is optional). Then there are the two ‘host-mode’ USB ports, for playback of content from external storage. With an optical-drive connected here, the iXtreamer will behave like an upscaling DVD player. A third (‘slave-mode’) USB port is only of use if you’ve installed a HDD. This allows the iXtreamer to act as an external drive; files can then be copied to it for playback later.With a HDD, the iXtreamer can itself act as a network server (with uPnP facilities).

And as if all of this wasn’t enough, a top-mounted panel slides back to reveal an iPod/iPad/iPhone dock. Plug your iThing into here, and AV content can be accessed from the iXtreamer’s menus. Some, but not all, Apple products can be charged in situ, too.

Net radio stations are accessible with this unit – a continually evolving Xtreamering portal boosts the online content to include weather, video (YouTube), newsfeeds and other goodies. Note that Xtreamering has to be manually installed firs, and while the download may only be 5MB, it can only be used if an HDD is internally fitted. Ridiculously, you cannot specify USB storage instead. Even without Xtreamering, though, there’s plenty this player can do.

The user interface is attractive with its stunning ship-themed background, but fundamentally it’s the same sort of text-based list we met on board the PicoHD5.1.

Some of the handset’s buttons are dedicated to the iPod. In the middle is a joypad, which is essential for navigating menus and content lists. The menus are reasonably responsive and organised, which is perhaps just as well considering all the facilities on offer. For instance, a comprehensive set of installation menus cover various parameters – audio/video output mode, aspect ratio, photo-slideshow transitions and video adjustments (including noise reduction). However, AV-sync isn’t an option, although resyncing subtitles is a handset function.

In terms of multimedia support, the iXtreamer cannot be beaten. It can handle practically anything you can throw in its direction, including Flash video files and Blu-ray/DVD image files. High-definition (and for that matter, regular) multichannel soundtracks can be routed via HDMI to your AVR. Photos are presented in high-def, with selected music. Sound and picture quality, via HDMI and component, is generally strong.

So, aside from my gripes about installing the Xtreamering function, there’s little not to love about the iXtreamer. It’s a powerful media player, but capable of doing much more than that.


HCC VERDICT

iXtreamer
Price:
£160 Approx

Highs: Plenty of features; network support; can be upgraded with internal HDD
Lows: HDD necessary for Xtreamering portal
Performance: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 5/5
Overall: 5/5


Specifications

Video file support: MKV, DIVX, XVID, WMV, FLV, MPEG1, MPEG2, MP4,TS (off-air), VOB (DVD files), ISO (disc image)
Audio file support: MP3, FLAC, WAV, AAC, M4A, WMA, Dolby Digital (analogue decode), Dolby Digital (bitstream), DTS (analogue decode), DTS (bitstream), Dolby TrueHD
Image file support: JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG
Connections: Component, composite, HDMI, coaxial and optical digital audio, USB, iPod dock
Dimensions: 242(w) x 66(h) x 251(d)mm
Weight: 1kg
Features: DLNA/uPnP support; file-sharing support; screensaver; subtitle support; playlist support; time-search bar; 1080p/24 support; photo slideshow; internet content