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.
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.
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’.