AOpen supplies both S-Video and composite video cables with the MVP Player as well as an audio cable – of course there’s a power adaptor and the aforementioned USB cable, so you’re getting pretty much everything you need in the box. You also get a small screwdriver in the box that comes in handy when you fit the hard disk in the drive enclosure.
The only major problem I encountered when testing the MVP Player was that I didn’t get a picture, but a quick glance in the manual revealed that you have to press the video mode button on the remote control to change to the correct output. This wasn’t apparent and I initially pressed the display button instead, which to me made more sense than the video mode button. It is a shame that the MVP Player can’t auto detect which connector is in use, but then again neither do most DVD players.
Speaking of the manual, AOpen could really do with spending some time getting it translated properly into English as some of the instructions don’t make any real sense. Luckily there are good colour pictures and step by step instructions on how to set everything up.
The user interface could do with some improvement but it’s not terrible. That said, it looks dated and could easily be mistaken for a rip-off version of Windows Media Center Edition. It even goes as far as playing the old Windows startup sound when you switch the unit on.
The remote control is not the best around, but the flat design seems to be the norm with devices such as this. It is functional and gives you access to all of the features of the MVP Player, but something a bit more substantial would have been preferable.
The top of the player itself has controls for starting and stopping playback and for access to the settings menu and the root menu. The play button is part of a four way controller that allows you to move around in the menus as well as skipping through the files being played back. What is lacking is a button to change the output of the player, which really should have been on the main unit rather than solely on the remote control.
The remote control can be confusing to say the least, even though all the buttons have icons on them, it isn’t always clear what the buttons do. Luckily there are text labels above each of the buttons which help decipher the images. AOpen isn’t the first company to make a confusing remote control and after some fiddling about with it and getting used to the functions it is not any harder to use than most other remote controls.
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The menu system is fairly easy to navigate and the MVP Player auto detects the hard drive as well as any memory card that might be inserted and lists the files automatically. You do however have to switch manually between the different memory cards via the memory device button on the remote control. If the hard drive is inserted and you have video files on it, the MVP Player displays thumbnails of the different video files and starts playing back the first of these. Select one of the video files and press play and it opens up in full screen.
If you own a digital camera and want to display the pictures from the memory card on your TV, but have taken them in portrait, the MVP Player allows you to rotate them so that they display properly on the TV. There is also an automatic slideshow function and you can even choose between different transition effects for the slideshow. You could in reality use the MVP Player for presentations, storing your presentation on a memory card in JPEG format and saving yourself the effort of carrying a laptop with you.
The image playback features are fairly gimmicky effects, but nonetheless it shows that AOpen has spent some time and effort on the design and feel. There is also a graphic equaliser for MP3 and WMA files.
There is one limitation to the MVP Player – it lacks support for anamorphic 16:9 widescreen format media. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use it with a widescreen TV, but what it means is that you won’t get a proper 16:9 anamorphic picture, so it can’t compete with a DVD player in this sense, but then again that was never the purpose of the MVP Player.
So, how do you sum a product like this up? It’s not easy and it all comes down to price at the end of the day, as this is more of a gadget than something you really need. But it is a great gadget for anyone that has a lot of digital video files and wants to play them in their living room rather than on their PC.
The MVP Player is priced at £89 inc VAT which makes it more expensive than a cheap DVD player, but it still falls in the affordable gadget category. Sure, you have to add a hard drive to get the most out of it and this brings the total cost up to the £150 region, but I still think that it’s a great buy.
The AOpen MVP Player is the first of a new breed of video playback devices that utilises a hard drive as its main storage medium. It’s a great little box that provides easy playback of digital video on a display device of your choice.
Please note that as this is a new product it might not be available to purchase from PC World Components Centre as yet, but AOpen has assured us that it will carry stock of the MVP Player shortly.