Summary

Our Score

6/10

Pros

  • Bundled with all cables
  • Decent remote
  • Strong codec support

Cons

  • Ugly search
  • Primitive UI
  • Buggy software

Review Price free/subscription

Key Features: Accepts 3.5in hard drives; Dual-USB ports, eSATA slot plus USB hub; Full 1080p playback inc. high bit-rate MKV; Component and HDMI HD inputs

Manufacturer: Eminent

Eminent hdMEDIA RT EM7080

Streaming services like the BBC iPlayer and LoveFilm's movie offering are starting to be built into more TVs and lounge-bound boxes, but for the hardcore media consumer there's still nothing better than a dedicated media player like the Eminent EM7080. Going head-to-head with similar solutions from A.C. Ryan, Western Digital and Popcorn Hour, the Eminent hdMedia RT EM7080's main aim is to play any video file you can find, however dubious its source may be.


As with any of these media-hungry black boxes, the ability to handle high-quality 1080p content is paramount, and the EM7080's connectivity is up to the task. On the back of the box are component, composite and HDMI v1.3 outputs, plus an optical audio output. There's also a wired LAN socket and a USB host slot to connect the device to your computer - to update the firmware or transfer media directly.

A 3.5-inch hard drive can be installed into the box itself, but there are also two USB slots and an eSATA connection on its front to connect external hard drives, USB sticks or the optional Eminent Wi-Fi adaptor.
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The bundled remote control is larger than that of the previous Eminent EM7075-DTS box, resembling a standard big-name TV remote. It's well laid-out and feels right at home in-hand. The main navigational 4-way pad falls under your thumb naturally, while play/pause and fast forward controls are easily accessible using the same thumb, without much movement involved.

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The lounge may be the perfect place to keep this Eminent box, alongside your HDTV, but with either wires on show, if you use external storage, or gaping USB slots if you opt for an internal hard drive, it's never going to be much of a looker. The sides and top of the EM7080 are made with very shiny black plastic, and while the edges are rounded, there's little sense of design finesse to this workman-like box. This is also the case with many of its main rivals, the Boxee Box being the only well-known alternative with a much more defined sense of style.

Appealing more to power users than style victims though, the codec capabilities of a niche-audience box like this are always going to be more important than its looks. Here the EM7080 comes up trumps, with full 1080p MKV support, RMVB compatibly and DTS-HD downmixing over HDMI to complement the media player standards of AVCHD, H.264, VC-1,MPEG4, M2TS, TS, AVI and MOV, among others. The spread of codecs, both audio and video, is excellent. Here's the full round-up of codecs -

Images: HD JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIF, PNG.
Audio: DTS, AC3, MP2, MP3, OGG Vorbis, PCM, LPCM, MS-ADPCM, LC-AAC, HE-AAC, COOK, RA-lossless, FLAC.
Video Codecs: AVCHD, H.264, VC-1,MPEG1/2/3/4, MKV, M2TS, TS, ISO, AVI, MOV (and others, according to {b}Eminent).
Subtitles: SRT, SMI, SUB, VOB (DVD) & PGS (BluRay).

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