A whole lot of users are happy to just use a compact media player seated beside their TV, as long as it can play most types of multimedia formats. They are computer savvy of course, with movies and music being played off a hard disk drive or pendrive seeming more natural than having to use CD/DVD discs that hold far lesser data. With optical discs losing audience even as Home Theatres gain currency, manufacturers are only too happy to help.
The Compro VideoMate Network Media Center 950 (model 2GBM3032E06) is a second generation product, in the media player space. This one goes slightly further than its compatriots, making every effort it can to render building your own HTPC device seem unnecessary. If such a small device can output 1080p Full-HD video to your Television besides doing so many other things, building a specialized HTPC does become redundant for all except the most demanding.
Relatively higher-priced media player, but the connectivity and playback offered make the NMC950 worth it.
The Compro NMC950 bears some resemblance from the outside, to the WDTV Live and to an external 3.5-inch HDD. That is not accidental, as you will see while reading this review. The unit we received was colored black, with a brushed-aluminium body and glossy acrylic front panel. The front has only LED indicators (for USB/HDD/LAN/Power), IR receiver for remote and a USB port. No control buttons are present, perhaps in a bid to give off a cleaner look.
At the rear, are most of the connectivity ports. Besides these ports, two facilities we liked were the rear exhaust vent and fan (good for cooling off an internal hard drive) and the power on/off switch (no need to leave media player in a power-sipping pseudo-off mode anymore).
Designed to be placed horizontally, there are rubber feet on the horizontal base. It is also possible to stand it up vertically, though there will be no rubber feet at the base that way. There is space inside for mounting a 3.5-inch (desktop HDD) or 2.5-inch (laptop HDD) SATA drive. Once formatted by the player, you can use this internal HDD for media playback, LAN file sharing, and Torrent downloading.
Like all media players thus far, the Compro NMC950 is also used through a remote control. Though it is somewhat thin and uses two AAA size batteries, the vertical size of it brings it closer to that of a TV than a DVD Player. Buttons on the remote control including basic operations and hotkeys are well labelled and intuitive, though the sheer number of buttons might make you have to think first for a day or two.
Vital Details At A Glance
Multimedia formats decoding support are as below. Crucial input/ouput and connectivity details are also present in this section.
Image/Photo - JPG, BMP, PNG
Audio/Music - MP3, WAV, FLAC, OGG, Dolby digital AC3 and DTS (5.1 / 7.1 channel)
Video/Movie - MOV, WMV9, MKV, AVI, MPEG-1/2/4, TS/M2TS/TP, ISO, IFO, VOB, DAT, H.264, AVC (up to 1080p Full HD)
Sub-titles - SMI, SRT, SUB, SSA (multi-language support)
Output Interfaces - HDMI 1.3, Composite and Component Video, S/PDIF optical audio, mini-USB
Input Ports - Two USB and one internal SATA for storage (3.5 or 2.5-inch HDD upto 2TB)
Network Connectivity - 10/100Mbps RJ45 LAN port, support for USB WiFi dongle
Setting up the player at first launch and using its features is made easy by the user guide on the accompanying CD. Navigating through the interface with the remote provided was quite intuitive and not a chore at all. The layout and menu system was very usable at both, 720p and 1080p. As with other media players that invest significantly in the UI, the very aspect of navigation that helps provide selected video file information was also the one that wasted a couple of seconds for each file while scrolling through a list.
We tested media file playback over HDMI at 1080p resolution. Playback of Full-HD high-bitrate MKV files without jitters on this player is worth giving it credit. Upscaling of lower resolution videos and photos was on par with any other media player tested at PCW India. Output quality of videos streamed from the web was on par with what is expected from the source resolution. Heavy FLAC audio files managed to play just fine.
Package contents of the Compro VideoMate NMC950 include a CD, startup guide, RCA A/V cable, screws-n-brackets for mounting a 2.5-inch HDD internally, and a power cable/adapter combo that gives a (DC) power brick as large as that of a laptop charging cable. A mini-USB port to USB port cable is provided for connecting the media player up to a PC, to be able to read/write to the embedded HDD inside the player (if you put one in). If your TV supports HDMI, get a HDMI cable and use that instead of the composite video cables given.
This media player is quite light when weighed without a HDD inside, barely 800 grams. A one year warranty accompanies the Compro VideoMate Network Media Center 950.
The Compro NMC is quite a normal media player for today actually. That it does not particularly miss a beat while playing back media formats is not a surprise anymore. But the non-proprietary nature of it is what makes for an appealing bundle, you can use just any internal HDD or any WiFi dongle you feel like.
While the MRP of this player is Rs. 9,000 you could actually buy it for Rs. 7,000 which is a good price for such an expandable device.
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