Review Price free/subscription
Eminent hdMEDIA RT EM7080 - Performance and Web Streaming
The Eminent EM7080 is powered by the Realtek RTD1073DD chipset, which is capable of playing back Full-HD 1080p content without a hitch. We were very impressed with the box's performance across the board, with no apparent slow-down or signs of struggle in almost all of our tests. We played-back 1080p content on two similar Dell 24-inch monitors, one powered by the EM7080 and the other by a Core 2 Duo desktop running the QuickTime media player, and found the Eminent's playback to be far smoother - much easier on the eye. The only lag we noticed was with a very challenging 42MBit 1080p MKV clip, taken from an extremely detailed BBC nature series scene, played over USB. This box really can play just about anything.
SD upscaling is excellent, with digital artefacts significantly reduced with the impressive DNR (digital noise reduction) option enabled. If you're in the market for a media streamer like this, it's likely you're going to want to watch HD content whenever possible, but the upscaler makes even very low quality content watchable on a 1080p screen.
When we reviewed the last Eminent EM7075-DTS media player box in February 2010, it didn't feature any Internet streaming services, even though rivals like the WD TV HD Live were already paid-up members of the Internet streaming club. Eminent has patched-up this disparity with the EM7080, packing-in a roster of video streaming services.
YouTube content is available, including playback of full 1080p videos, and there are also channels for Gametrailers, Vimeo and blip.tv on top of photo services Flickr and Picasa, plus a handful of news reader channels. Patchy performance and holes in this line-up mean that the Eminent still falls some way behind the pack though.
Unlike the D-Link Boxee Box, there's no BBC iPlayer, no 4OD and no Demand Five. You can scour YouTube for clips of your favourite shows, but it's no replacement for access to a full catch-up service. We're not surprised that the Dutch Eminent has left out these entirely UK-centric services, when much of the EM7080's audience is overseas, but it does mean this isn't the all-powerful one-box entertainment solution some little islanders may be after. Other boxes also not equipped with these services, like the Popcorn Hour A-210, tend to offer more content channels - although we'll grant that without the UK TV channels, YouTube's the biggest draw.
Performance within the EM7080's Internet streaming apps is inconsistent. With the latest firmware installed (126.96.36.199) - by no means the first iteration of the EM7080 software - parts of interface text remain un-translated from the Dutch original, video content occasionally refuses to play and some features are not implemented.
HD 1080p YouTube clips that don't suffer from the mysterious non-playing effect are rendered as brilliantly as content played through a USB stick or hard drive though. With a decent connection, playback is impressively smooth.
The box becomes warm to the touch shortly after being put to work, and there's a fan on the box's side to regulate temperature. This means that its operation is not entirely silent - there's a constant buzz, but it's a very low-level noise that shouldn't prove distracting, or even audible, in most lounge setups.