Review: Mediagate MG-350HD Wireless HD Media Player

September 26, 2007

Mediagate MG-350HD

Interested in a HTPC for media playback but not interested in the hassle associated with building and maintaining one? If so a networked media player (also called media receivers, streamers and a myriad of other things) may be just what the doctor ordered. These devices come in all shapes, sizes and feature-sets but for our purposes (home theater) you’ll want at bare minimum, component video and some form of digital audio outputs. Some media players offer HDMI and even HDMI audio, the Tomarco limHD200i comes to mind but I digress.

The Mediagate MG-350HD supports MPEG 1, 2, 4 (MPG, MPEG, AVI, M2V, DAT, VOB, etc) DivX and XviD video codec’s and MP3, OGG Vorbis, WMA on the audio front, as well as Dolby digital and DTS through the units coaxial and optical output. The unit features LAN and Wi-Fi connections, an internal (not supplied) hard drive and outputs video at resolutions up to 1920x1080p via its DVI connection, and 1920x1080i via its component video output. In addition to these features the MG-350HD can also operate as a Networked Attached Storage (NAS) device facilitating easy file sharing and streaming.

Setup and General Observations: I found the 350HD fairly easy to setup and use; provided you feel comfortable with installing a hard drive and understand basic GUI operations in a computer environment it should be a snap. I installed an older 80GB ATA hard drive I had laying around, attached the player to my network and fired it up, from there I updated to firmware revision 1.1.7 (as easy as clicking on the file from any networked drive) and was on my way. The display used for this review was a JVC DLA-HD1 projector and 1080p via HDMI was my preferred resolution. Audio was handled through a Denon AVR- 4806 connected via the player’s coaxial digital connection.

The players on-screen GUI was relatively easy to navigate, just a matter of select and click. One thing to keep in mind is when navigating through different networked drives you may experience a little lag but the response inside that drive is much quicker. The supplied remote handles transport functions, volume, direct media access, book marking, repeat functions, and an assortment of other useful shortcuts. The “TV Out” function cycles through different output methods and resolutions, ensuring that you’ll be able to get the player operating from scratch on a new or different display (very handy if your away from home, at work or over at a friends with the unit).

I used both component and the DVI video outputs at various resolutions throughout my time with the unit and both appeared to offer good video performance. Of course as the resolution increases, the on-screen text becomes easier to read so I gravitated toward 1080p through the players DVI output the majority of the time. So with the player’s specifics out of the way it was time to see how well it performed.

Video Performance: The first file I fired up with the MG-350HD was a 1080i recording of ‘Back to the Future II’ (Dolby digital 5.1) with an average video bit-rate hovering in the mid teens. From the get-go the file looked very nice streaming off the 350HD, it was detailed and the color was fully saturated. This spot-on color saturation is worth noting as some media players are notorious for under-saturated, almost anemic color reproduction. I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case here.

Keeping with the MPEG2 theme I wanted to try out another 1080i MEPG2 file on the drive, this time a recent recording of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ again in 1080i. Just as with Back to the Future, the color saturation, detail and overall solidity (for lack of a better term) of the image was spot on. One thing to keep in mind however is that using the internal hard drive is the best way to ensure maximum throughput, followed closely by the wired Ethernet port. I did have success with the Wi-Fi connection as well but streaming a file of this size and bit-rate may not always provide the best results wirelessly, smaller file sizes shouldn’t provide any challenge whatsoever for the 350HD’s 802.11g connection.

In addition to the MPEG2 test clips I used I tried out various DiVX and Xvid clips as well, both in standard definition and high definition. The clips originated from several different sources including personal encodes as well as movie trailers from stage6.divx.com and.divx-digest.com. One clip in particular was a H.264 encoded 720p teaser trailer for ‘The Dark Knight’, that would not play (no H.264 support) but another file ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Teaser Trailer’ encoded with Xvid played just fine and looked very nice to boot.

Moving onto DVD playback I queued up a few DVD file folders and gave them a whirl. First up was the Criterion release of ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ which I have to say looked fantastic. In all honesty I was hard pressed to discern any difference from the file playback with the MG-350HD versus my “standard” DVD player, I suppose conventional would be a better term. Navigation was relatively easy as well, I simply selected the uppermost file in the navigation tree and DVD playback started. The supplied remote has most of the functions any DVD user would be familiar with and even non-technically inclined family members should be able to get the hang of operating the unit.

HQV Benchmark Results: As you can see below the Mediagate MG-350HD scored a 106 out of a possible 130 with the HQV benchmark disc, nothing remarkable about the scores but more than passable for a device of this type. The Mediagate’s Sigma Design EM8621 processor performed admirably with the bulk of the HD content I viewed throughout my time with the player.

•Color Bar/Vertical Detail: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Jaggies Pattern 1: Pass – Score 3 of 5
•Jaggies Pattern 2: Pass – Score 3 of 5
•Flag: Pass – Score 5 of 10
•Picture Detail: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Noise Reduction: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Motion Adaptive Noise Reduction: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•3:2 Detection: Fail – Score 0 of 10
•Film Cadence: Pass – Score (Combined) 40 of 40
•Mixed 3:2 Film, Horizontal Text Crawl: Pass – Score 5 of 10
•Mixed 3:2 Film, Vertical Text Crawl: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Total Score:106 out of a possible 130.

Summary: In addition to the obvious benefits of the Mediagate MG-350HD (HD file playback over wired and wireless networks as well as its optional internal hard drive) the players easy to use GUI makes browsing those files elementary and while it may not play every audio/video codec known to man, it does play the most commonly used codec’s without breaking a sweat. Another handy feature incorporated into the 350HD is internet radio. I’m actually listening to one of the pre-programmed stations right now and the audio quality through the player is quite good, for internet radio that is.

At as little as $219.00 (on-line retailers can be found through Mediagate’s site) the 350HD is well worth the asking price in my estimation with a few caveats: obviously a Media Player can’t offer the functionality that a full fledged HTPC can but at just over $200 this Media Player can handle HD file playback at less than one quarter of what a comparable HTPC would cost you to build. If you’re interested in video file-playback in your home theater but aren’t quite ready to jump into the world of home theater PC’s, the Mediagate MG-350HD Wireless HD Media Player is well worth a look.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Media Servers, Reviews


Comments

  • Dave M

    B, what did you base your decision on for the Mediagate over other players (Tvix, Eureka, etc)?
    Cheers, Dave M

  • Dave M

    B, what did you base your decision on for the Mediagate over other players (Tvix, Eureka, etc)?
    Cheers, Dave M

  • Pareed

    Have you tested the .ts file playback?
    What is the result?

  • Pareed

    Have you tested the .ts file playback?
    What is the result?

  • B.Greenway

    Joe, nothing along those lines, just the internet radio abilities.

  • B.Greenway

    Joe, nothing along those lines, just the internet radio abilities.

  • Joe

    Does it offer any web capabilities? Web video streaming? I’m interested to hear how this stacks up against XBMC. Any plugin/scripting capabilities?

  • Joe

    Does it offer any web capabilities? Web video streaming? I’m interested to hear how this stacks up against XBMC. Any plugin/scripting capabilities?

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Josh, if you have a sample file in one of those formats I’d be happy to test them. My hunch is that the player would see and play .ts as a valid MPEG2 file but I’ll have to try and find one to verify that, thinking the same would be true of the .264 files as well. Most of the stuff I’m testing right now is straight XvID, DiVX and MPEG2 files however.

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Josh, if you have a sample file in one of those formats I’d be happy to test them. My hunch is that the player would see and play .ts as a valid MPEG2 file but I’ll have to try and find one to verify that, thinking the same would be true of the .264 files as well. Most of the stuff I’m testing right now is straight XvID, DiVX and MPEG2 files however.

  • Josh

    Will it play videos in the .mvk and .ts format? How about high def x.264 rips that are common these days?

  • Josh

    Will it play videos in the .mvk and .ts format? How about high def x.264 rips that are common these days?