Competition in the media player market is really heating up. Where once features like H.264 playback were exceptions and you were lucky if the device had an HDMI port, nowadays true 1080p playback and support for containers like MKV is fast becoming the rule. Join us as we find out if new entrant ViewSonic's VMP30 holds its own against the likes of Western Digital's WD TV and Asus' O!Play HDP-R1.
Things certainly start of well with the media player itself. While not as tiny as the WD TV Mini, this is not some cut-back device. Going by the spec-sheet it's easily as powerful as the O!Play HDP-R1 yet measures just 121 x 101 x 27.5mm while weighing a mere 138g.
Build quality is another area where it exceeds expectations. The solid main body is constructed using lovely soft-touch plastic and the top is glossy black aluminium. This does of course pick up finger-prints, but unlike plastic equivalents won't scratch as easily. The VMP30's only remotely unattractive feature is an admittedly unobtrusive green LED behind a chequered panel on the front.
Unlike most diskless media players we've seen recently, the VMP30 has a full set of controls on the device itself so you can manage it fully without the included remote. However, while visually unobtrusive, the silver buttons are the one exception to the otherwise excellent build quality, as they're loose and clicky.
Connectivity, all of which is found at the unit's back, is minimal. ViewSonic has gone completely digital, with HDMI for video/audio and a proprietary co-axial digital audio output that requires the provided adapter cable to plug into your equipment.
While perfectly adequate if you're using the VMP30 with a modern television, the lack of analogue audio outputs will be a real problem for those looking to use this media player with a DVI-only monitor (DVI can take an HDMI video signal with a cheap adapter, but doesn't carry audio) and owners of older televisions lacking digital connectivity are also out of luck. At least ViewSonic does provide a decent quality wire-braided HDMI cable with gold-plated connectors.
One unusual but welcome touch is the VMP30's integrated card reader, which can take the usual assortment of SD/SDHC, MMC and MS/MS Pro. It's handy being able to slot a memory card straight in to view your photos and movies, though we would probably have preferred a second USB port.