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Helios X5000 Network Media Player - Helios X5000
Taking a look at the rear of the device reveals a decent range of connection options too. For HD video output there are HDMI and component connections, coaxial and optical digital audio outputs for multichannel sound output to a home theatre receiver, and analogue stereo phono outputs. There's also a couple of standard definition video outputs in S-Video and composite provided, though if you're using these you'll be missing out on the X5000's upscaling and high definition capabilities. More interesting is the presence of a couple of USB ports - one at the rear and one on the side - which can be used to add hard disk storage or connect an MP3 player or flash drive.
Its list of capabilities is also pretty good. There's support for most types of video file - MPEG1, 2 and 4, TS and TS HD, VOB, WMV9 (including HD), plus SD and HD DivX files - with the only major omission being H.264. On the audio side, the player supports everything you could possibly want: MP3, WMV, Ogg Vorbis, AAC and - a bonus - the open source FLAC codec, which lets you compress your CDs and store them on a hard drive with no loss of quality over the original. What you can't do for this money, of course, is watch HD-DVD or Blu-ray discs on it, which is hardly a surprise.
Of course, in addition to DVDs and CDs, the X5000 is designed to access shared media on your home network and it does this out of the box using Helios' own Neolink server software. This is fairly basic, but I liked the fact that it syncs your web browser's bookmarks (IE or Firefox), which you can take advantage of via the built-in web browser. The good news is that other media server options are supported, including iTunes and UPnP, so you can use pretty much whatever you fancy. Network connection is achieved using either the onboard Wi-Fi 802.11g or 10/100 Ethernet adaptors.
It's a capable machine, clearly, with a lot of features stuffed in for your money - but the rose-tinted glow that surrounds the X5000's spec sheet, soon fades to a dismal grey once you turn it on. The main problems with it are twofold. First, it's a right royal pain to set up. I couldn't get a wireless connection at all with it until I realised that it only operates on channel 11 - and with no indication of this in the menus or manual, it took a good root around on the website to find out what the problem was.