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HD Digitech HDX-1000 review

HD Digitech has taken the humble media player and given it a high-end makeover

HD Digitech HDX-1000
The HDX is one of the best built media streamers you can buy

Our Verdict

A superb media streamer that can play almost everything you can chuck at it

For

  • Excellent build quality
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Wide file support

Against

  • Slow photo browser

The HD Digitech HDX-1000 is probably the nearest thing I've seen yet to a cinephile-grade multimedia streamer.

Unlike practically every other networkable box on the market, its construction is superb. Styled like the Mac Mini, it features a heavy aluminium alloy chassis that inspires confidence and contains hard drive operational noise.

Like others of its ilk, the HDX-1000 is designed to sit on a network and hooks-up directly to your TV, or your AV receiver, via HDMI or legacy connections. It generally ships without a hard drive, but installing one (the box is compatible with 3.5in and 2.5in SATA drives) is a painless operation.

The HDX uses the same Syabas middleware as the Popcorn Hour A-110 and C-200 – and that means identical functionality. This is a very good thing – we loved the usability of the original PCH – but this particular Network Media Tank has the added benefit of really being built like a tank.

Easy setup

If you have media (be it music, video, images) on your home network this puppy will find it. It runs in multiple guises – DLNA, SMB, uPnP – which means it's visible to almost everything you'll have connected. With no effort at all, I could access it via a PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and other clients.

Installation is a breeze. As soon as the HDX goes online it lists available workgroups and attached devices using AutoSMB. As long as your storage device doesn't require a password you should be in; this compares starkly to Manual SMB devices, like the TiVX M-6500A, which tend to be a nightmare to setup and use.

The unit handles most file formats, from MP3s to FLAC as well as common video stuff like MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX and 720p MKVs. A diskless HDX-1000, as tested here, typically sells for around £190.

I popped a Seagate Barracuda 1TB drive into our sample, which allows for an enormous amount of media to be stored locally. There's no need to use a massive drive, though. If you already have a capacious NAS somewhere else, a much smaller housekeeping drive could be installed. In that configuration the HDX-1000 would function more as a streamer.

If you don't want to do the HDD install yourself, you can buy a pre-fitted model for around £270 with 1TB storage, from the UK distributor ripcaster.co.uk.

Online access

One aspect of the Syabas middleware I love is the online access it provides to other stuff. Via the main Media Services portal, you can access YouTube, Flickr, VideoCast, Cranky Geeks and much more.

A community portal (which frankly hasn't been updated for yonks) offers other treats, including access to Apple Movie Trailers and Miro – which in itself is a microcosm of diverse content. There's also extensive podcast access.

In many ways, you could consider the HDX a set-top box for internet TV services – and like Freeview there are no subscriptions to be paid.

Connectivity other than the HDMI includes Ethernet jack, gold-plated component, composite and phono stereo outputs, two USB inputs and a USB slave for hooking up directly to a PC and transferring files. Digital audio is delivered via coaxial and optical.

Overall performance is excellent. Over my wired network, hi-def files streamed smoothly without stuttering. Apparently Blu-ray rips will also play with hi-res audio intact, although this was not tested.

However, while the unit is fine for AV, I found it way too sluggish for photo browsing. Hi-res images take much too long to render. Consequently, I didn't find much use for the front-mounted 3-in 1 card reader (which takes Memory Stick, SDHC and MMC media).

A BitTorrent client is also provided but the implementation is clunky and not really worth pursuing. I'd rate the HDX-1000 as a top-flight jukebox.

Build quality is gorgeous and functionality supreme. If you suffer from media file disorganisation, you'll soon wonder how you ever lived without it.

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Steve May

Home entertainment AV specialist

Steve has been writing about AV and home cinema since the dawn of time, or more accurately, since the glory days of VHS and Betamax. He has strong opinions on the latest TV technology, Hi-Fi and Blu-ray/media players, and likes nothing better than to crank up his ludicrously powerful home theatre system to binge-watch TV shows.