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Crystal Acoustics PicoHD5.1 review

John Archer

By

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

1 of 5

PicoHD5.1 Front Connectivity
  • PicoHD5.1 Front Connectivity
  • PicoHD5.1 GUI
  • PicoHD5.1 In Hand
  • PicoHD5.1 Rear Connectivity
  • PicoHD5.1 Remote and Device

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Well built
  • Extremely portable
  • Superb file flexibility
  • 5.1 audio output

Cons

  • Remote only works over a very limited angle
  • File lists contain unplayable ‘ghost’ duplicate files
  • No automatic native format playback option

Key Features

  • Great file flexibility
  • Aluminium body
  • Remarkably small unit
  • USB and Memory Card support
  • Digital 5.1 audio output
  • Manufacturer: Crystal Acoustics
  • Review Price: £40.00

If 2010 was the year of 3D in AV terms, 2011 is arguably the year of the smart TV. For while not everyone digs the idea of turning their TV into a multimedia-savvy home entertainment centre, many ‘ordinary people’ might well appreciate anything that lets them harness Internet video and multimedia files on the biggest screen in the house without having to go near a PC.

However, the catch with the Smart TV revolution is that you have to buy a new TV, right? Wrong. LG, for instance, is still intending to launch its rather groovy external smart TV set top box at some point. But also you can get so-called ‘bridge’ products that can convert multimedia files into something that even old TVs can understand. The Crystal Acoustics PicoHD5.1 is one of these 'bridging' products. But it’s a rather unusual one on a number of levels.

PicoHD5.1 In Hand

First and most strikingly, it’s remarkably small: just 7.5cm x 6.5cm x 1.5cm to be precise. And it weighs a mere 60g, despite being made from a surprisingly robust aluminium enclosure. The build quality is all the more unexpected when you consider that this potentially very handy little chap sells for the princely sum of £39.99.

Having said it’s handy, we’d better get on with laying out exactly what it does. Its connections provide a strong clue, comprising as they do a USB input, an SD/MMC card input, an HDMI output, and a mini jack output for a provided AV RCA adaptor.

At its most basic level, what happens with the PicoHD5.1 is that you stick multimedia files from FAT/FAT32 USB storage or SD/MMC cards in at one end, and they magically emerge from the other in a telly-friendly format - up to 1080p, no less - ready to be output via either the supplied composite video/stereo audio cable or HDMI.

What’s more, the 1080p output applies for all movie and photo files, whereas some rival equally-sized devices only output 1080p for photos and drop down to 720p for movie files.

PicoHD5.1 Remote and Device

The PicoHD5.1’s most intriguing feature, though, is its 5.1 audio output (ah, so that explains the 5.1 bit of its name, then!). In fact, the PicoHD5.1 is, at the time of writing, the only product of its sort that supports 5.1 output, courtesy of a proprietary Crystal Acoustics technology that can deliver 5.1 digital signals via the white RCA cable that’s part of the supplied cable package. Couple this multi-channel digital audio with the full 1080p video support and you can see why Crystal Acoustics likes to refer to the PicoHD5.1 as a ‘home theatre that fits in the palm of your hand’.

Carnex

May 12, 2011, 5:47 pm

Impressively packed device by any standard. But i would like to point out a small but hilarious typo in specifications

Physical Specifications
Weight 60kg

ChaosDefinesOrder

May 13, 2011, 1:22 pm

How do you power this thing? I can see a DC input on the back, but there is no mention here on whether this device needs this input or not (It would appear to be obvious that it does, but I hope you can see what I mean)

Related to this, please could you put up a photograph of the power brick next to the media player. It's all well and good saying the media player fits in the palm of your hand and is portable, but if the power brick and cable is twice the size or more of the main unit, that detracts somewhat from the portability!

Not even the official website/product page for this device has any pictures of the power supply which causes alarm bells for me...

Crystal Acoustics

May 13, 2011, 4:07 pm

Hi there!

Well, you are right indeed! We have taken care of this anyway... :-)

You can see the photo by copying and pasting this link in your browser's address field: http://www.crystalaudio.gr/LightBox/LightBox.ashx?id=5db51d1e-6d44-4e70-a71d-25cc08c84059&doc=true&popupbox=true

It has been added in the photo gallery, under the main product picture.

Many thanks for your feedback!

Best regards,

Crystal Acoustics

simon jackson

May 13, 2011, 9:19 pm

There's one thing i don't really get about devices like this. Do there exist websites from which one can legally purchase and download movies or tv programmes in full HD (and in 5.1), without DRM which I'm guessing would be a no-no on this device, to then copy onto usb sticks or memory cards or the like? Because otherwise, I'm not really sure where they envisage the content coming from (other than the obvious and unmentionable :P).

Despite being a massive computer nerd, i've never really looked for services like the one i describe. I still watch most of my home movies on dvd/blu ray, or streamed via something like love-film's online service. Next week im travelling, so i actually looked for legal movie download services so i could stick something on my laptop to watch on the plane (its an ultra portable without a dvd drive), but the best i could find was something like blinkbox, which is only SD, which costs a few quid per "rental" and which does indeed feature DRM (the files are WMV files which acquire a licence which lasts until the end of the rental period when you try and play them, thus one can attempt to play the file before getting on the aircraft then it has a valid licence for the next 24 hours).

If there are other HD movie download services where one can legally get hold of a DRM-free standalone file, i would definitely be interested to use them....

ChaosDefinesOrder

May 13, 2011, 10:19 pm

The simple answer to that is "archiving".

Whenever I buy a CD, the first thing I do is rip it to FLAC and store the CD somewhere. The convenience of just double clicking a file is incomparable to finding the CD, loading it and playing.

Now, extend that to DVDs, and you'll notice that this little box being reviewed supports VOB containers, meaning that you can rip the entire contents of your DVDs to a large external storage drive so that whenever you want to watch a film you double click the file.

Obviously you get some people who then sell the DVD or share the rip online, but not everyone.

America has a personal backup clause that legally permits this sort of archiving, however the UK does not. Technically in the UK, if you buy a CD, you must pay for a second copy of the songs to have MP3s on your PC. You must then also legally pay for a THIRD copy of the song to put on your MP3 player.

Anyway, short version: The purpose of this media device is to play personal backups of your hard-copy media in whatever format you happened to back it up in. Some countries have legal provisions that allow this, others do not.

betelgeus

May 14, 2011, 10:41 pm

surely this is just a rebadged sumvision cyclone micro 2 that goes for £20 less.i guess that would make it an 11 out of 10.

Spawny76

May 14, 2011, 11:59 pm

This is a rebadged Sumvision Micro 2 which is £10 cheaper

betelgeus

May 15, 2011, 12:21 pm

oddly enough we discussed this on another forum,the audio options are weak,connect it to a pj and your stumped it really needs phono.

garbage shr

May 15, 2011, 3:43 pm

i was lookin for an external harddrive mayb 1 tb or 2tb i know i may b askin a stupid question but can these ultraportable media players be used as an external harddrive to store files and to hook up onto a pc?? or do u hav to hav a proper tele? and if you can store files what about the capacity?? how many gigs

Crystal Acoustics

May 16, 2011, 6:07 pm

Hi all!

After reading all your valuable and much appreciated feedback, we should make the same clarifications that were needed on many other posts regarding the PicoHD5.1.

It is true that there are some counterfeit products in the market that although similar in looks, are not equally capable in terms of hardware performance and file compatibility. The main feature, unique to the PicoHD5.1 that many of you fail to notice, is its ability to output the exact digital stream of Dolby AC3 and DTS soundtracks from movie files, thanks to a COAXIAL AUDIO-OUT feature, designed exclusively by Crystal Acoustics. This allows you to enjoy true 5.1 audio from your Home Theater system (through your A/V Receiver, HTIB e.t.c)

This is a feature that no other "similar" player can offer at the moment. It of course is capable to downmix any Dolby or DTS track down to two channels as well (stereo downmix). On the other hand, Crystal Acoustics has ensured that the PicoHD5.1 does not have the file limitations of "similar" products. As a result, it can output FullHD 1080p video even from the most demanding video files, including .mkv. For the rest of its extensive file compatibility, please scan through its technical specs. You will easily conclude it far exceeds any competitor in its category.

Don't hesitate to contact us for further info!

Best regards,

CRYSTAL ACOUSTICS

justin steggles

May 24, 2011, 12:14 am

Shame you can't buy it anywhere. Could have used this on my Hols next week....

chrismbroome

June 12, 2011, 5:05 pm

I been useing this device for a few days now and one thing that gets on my back is the juttering playback with MKV formats. For some reason the video playback is a bit stuttery. I am using HDMI connection at full setting through a hard disk. I might try a USB stick or flash SDHC card and see if that sorts it out.

Chris

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