Review Price £49.99
The onscreen menus look terrific, boasting a clean, uncluttered layout. Hit the Home button on the remote and you’re presented with five options, each one denoted by a full colour icon that animates when highlighted. The options are Netflix, YouTube, USB, Internet Services and Setup.
The Netflix interface looks great, with full-colour cover art for each movie on the left, broken down into their respective genres, and a synopsis on the right. Select one and it takes around ten seconds to load up. You can easily scan through movies during playback (using a thumbnail timeline) plus you can resume playing ones you started watching earlier. There’s a useful search tool, as well as options to rate movies and share titles you’ve watched on Facebook.
YouTube is also nicely laid out, using a stripped-down navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. You can search for a video using the virtual keyboard or browse recommended clips. Thumbnails of your choices appear in a row, allowing you to scroll through them.
The rest of the internet services are located in the, er, Internet Services menu. The USB playback displays are easy to follow too, breaking down your content into Movies, Music and Photo. Content is displayed in a list on the left, with a useful preview screen on the right – below which are the file’s properties.
So it looks great then, but sadly day-to-day operation is a bit of a chore. There’s a general sluggishness about the software that makes it an arduous task simply getting from A to B, and button presses sometimes don’t register. This is particularly frustrating when entering text into the virtual keyboard on Netflix or YouTube.
Most of the blame lies at the feet of the remote, which is one of those small, slim zappers with blister buttons, which anyone with hands larger than a child will struggle to operate comfortably. On the plus side, there’s a big red button that takes you straight to Netflix.
Although there are no new movies on Netflix, there’s a decent amount of older content to choose from and naturally we headed straight for Paul Blart: Mall Cop. For all the unit’s operational hesitancy, the viewing experience is a smooth one. The box streamed the movie in HD all the way through without a single drop out, which is what you expect but still worth mentioning. Picture quality is also impressive, offering a sharp, natural-looking picture that’s virtually free from artefacts, even when blown up on a 55in TV. The box deserves similar props for its smooth YouTube playback (although the quality varies dramatically).
We loaded up a USB flash drive packed with movies, music and photos and the HMP2000 handled most without grumbling. As expected it skipped over our DivX and XviD clips but displayed AVCHD, MKV, WMV and MPEG-1. However, one of our MKV clips was encoded with DTS audio, and because the HMP2000 can’t decode it the clip was silent (although it does support Dolby Digital). Something to watch out for.
If you fancy getting into Netflix and want a simple way of watching it on your living room TV then you might consider the HMP2000 money well spent, especially as its movie selection will get much better with time. YouTube and USB media playback are also welcome, particularly if these otherwise ubiquitous features are lacking from your existing AV gear.
But with such a limited range of other online content, anyone with greater connected ambitions should check out the step up models or maybe stick with their laptop. It’s also a shame that Philips couldn’t stretch to DivX and DTS support on this entry-level box.
A bigger problem however is the sluggish operation and clunky remote, which turns what should have been a slick user experience into an often frustrating one. A neat idea then at an alluring price, but we recommend checking out the competition before taking the plunge.
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