Due to the inevitably small size of the IR sensor on the PicoHD5.1’s front edge, it has to be said that remote control operation can be very unresponsive unless you’re sat at just the right range and height. Not ideal if you’ve got a lot of files to sift through.
The great thing about the PicoHD5.1, though, is that it does exactly what it says on the tin. First, where video is concerned, it handled absolutely everything we threw at it, including an MP4 film trailer, H.264 movies from our HD camcorder, an old bit of footage from a Canon MV700i mini-DV camcorder shoved through iMovie in the m4V format, JPEGs, GIFs, BMPs, MP3s, DivX and Xvid files... even FLAC audio, which often catches out Smart TVs. What’s more, we shoved all of these various file types onto a single USB stick, and the PicoHD5.1 had no trouble separating them all into their proper folders and parsing them ‘on the fly’.
The video from all sources appeared in 1080p (upscaled if necessary) as we’d requested in the PicoHD5.1’s settings box. What’s even more surprising about this is that the upscaling system built into the PicoHD5.1 actually seems to work surprisingly well. Even when unleashed on a really quite ugly bit of standard definition home video, it delivered it at 1080p/50Hz without making it look significantly worse in terms of noise or blurring. And the upscaling is capable of making strong quality sources look slightly sharper without exaggerating noise or making the images look processed. Despite this, in an ideal world the unit might have provided an ‘auto’ or ‘native’ output setting, where the natural resolution of the source was always output. But this is a small niggle, really.
Next, there’s that 5.1 audio to consider. Two of our clips featured 5.1 tracks, one in DTS and one in Dolby Digital 5.1. And with the white lead of the provided RCA cabling connected to the coaxial input of our AV receiver, the 5.1 audio information duly arrived without glitching or lag, and actually sounding rather good.
It was also handy to find that as well as supporting slideshow playback of any photos you feed it, with the option to adjust the interval between photos, the PicoHD5.1 also lets you rotate and zoom in on pictures.
The only issue we had with the unit aside from the narrow angle of remote control reception was that it populated the content lists with curious, unplayable ‘ghost’ secondary versions of the actual files.
At just a penny under £40 the PicoHD5.1 is an absolute steal for a media player with 1080p video and extensive format support. The only player that comes close in terms of value is the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex, which offers networking and more connectivity for just £11 more. Still, if you're after a media player that fits in your pocket, the PicoHD5.1 is an unrivalled option.
Although its remote control problems and ‘ghost’ file issues detract from the cleverness and slickness of everything else about the PicoHD5.1, it’s still a terrifically useful little device. After all, as well as bringing multimedia capabilities to old or cheap TVs, its diddy dimensions also make it a brilliant device to take with you on your travels, allowing you to watch material from a variety of media on the TV in your hotel or holiday cottage.