If you connect the Air to a wired network that uses DHCP you’ll be able to start browsing your various shared folders and uPNP devices straight away, and if you need to manually set an IP address this can be done in the settings. Meanwhile, connecting to a wireless network is as simple as selecting the SSID from those detected and, if secured, entering the password using a reasonably responsive onscreen keyboard. It can take a little while to browse to the media you want as you can’t set up network drives as you would on a computer – you must instead browse through Workgroup, Device, Folder, etc – but again we don’t think this is too much of a problem. Also, there are no extra network functions like YouTube or last.fm access, or clients for bittorent and Nzb downloads as on some competing devices.
Zoom and pan functions are available when viewing videos and images and there are various slideshow effects available as well, so browsing your family photos is made as easy as possible. Brightness and contrast can also be adjusted for video playback and noise reduction can be set to on or off, though frankly we couldn’t tell what difference it made. Also, we’d leave any such processing up to your TV or AV receiver, anyway, as that’s what they specialise in.
Indeed, that’s really the essence of these digital media players. They can be so simple because all they need to do is decode your video and pass out the digital signal to your other AV equipment. This essentially eliminates any questions of audio and video quality due to poor Digital to Analogue Converters as this part of the decoding process is handled further down the line. Obviously if you use the analogue connections, it’s a different matter but then you’re going to be far more limited by the poor abilities of composite video in general rather than the specifics of how this box handles the media it’s decoding.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that testing the Air on a Dell 2407 WFP monitor we found playback to be excellent with even Full HD video playing smoothly with nary a pause before starting. Image quality was also excellent with all the detail of HD video shown to full affect. Motion was also well handled and colours seemed accurate.
So, all told, the HDP-R3 is a capable if somewhat unsophisticated multimedia player. It certainly plays back all the files we’d hope for and with Wi-Fi, eSATA, USB, and memory card slots, it’s plenty versatile enough in its connectivity. However, its menus are rather crude, its network support rather basic, and price a little high.
Score in detail