The fact that the unit supports 5.1 audio output provides a hint of just how wide-ranging its file compatibility is. After all, multimedia file formats that support 5.1 audio aren’t particularly plentiful yet. For the record - and because it is actually rather important! - here is an exhaustive list of the files Crystal Audio says its PicoHD5.1 can handle. We’ll repeat these in a spec box at the end of the review too, for easy reference.
First, it’s compatible with both PAL and NTSC TVs. When it comes to video codecs, you can use H.264, H.263, MLV, RM/RMVB, WMV9, MPEG 1/2/4, Xvid DivX, and FLV. So far as video containers are concerned, the little unit can take MKV, TS, M2TS, TP, WMV, VOB, AVI, MPG, MP4, M4V, MOV, RM, RMVB, WMV9, FLV and PMP. Supported video input resolutions run up to 1920x1080p at 30fps.
If you fancy playing music files into your TV, AV receiver or any hi-fi with a stereo audio input, meanwhile, files supported are MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC, APE, AAC, Dolby Digital and DTS to stereo or 5.1 outputs.
A particularly popular use for the PicoHD5.1 is likely to be as a conduit for getting digital photos to appear on older TVs that don’t have USB or SD inputs on them. So it’s nice to find that as well as the usual JPEG/JPG support, the PicoHD5.1 can also handle BMP (bitmap), PNG and GIF file formats.
The obvious limitation here is that the PicoHD5.1 can’t stream via cable or wi-fi directly from your PC. You have to transfer files stored on your PC to USB sticks or external hard drives first. But frankly, adding full networking (especially wi-fi) to the PicoHD5.1 would have essentially put it into a totally different - and much more expensive - product category.
As we started actually using the PicoHD5.1, the first thing we had to do was a firmware update. But thankfully this was impressively easy; we just downloaded a .img file from Crystal Audio’s website, transferred it to a FAT32 USB drive, slotted the USB drive into the USB port on the PicoHD5.1, and chose the update file from the onscreen file list.
The update apparently adds a subtitle synchronisation feature to the unit, in case you were wondering, as well as sorting an issue that stopped the digital audio output from working with some AV receivers.
The onscreen menus referred to back there consist of a rather attractively designed set of folders allowing you to search through video, music, or picture files, ‘Explore’ sources for other types of file (like the .img one used to update the firmware), or fiddle with the unit’s Settings. Not surprisingly, the PicoHD5.1 ships with a little remote control with which to navigate the onscreen menus.