The P800 Docking Station does come with nearly every accessory you could need, including a component cable, SCART to dual composite/RCA cable, SCART adapter, aerial cable, three-way aerial adapter, USB cable, power supply and driver CD plus manual. The only thing missing is an HDMI cable, which is yet another black mark against the device.
A highlight, however, is the retail-boxed Gdium 2.5in hard drive that comes with every P800 (in capacities between 160GB and 500GB) and slides smoothly into its drive dock. Unlike the Docking Station itself, the slim 188g drive not only looks good but is well-built too. The top section is constructed using strong, glossy white plastic with a small violet activity LED, while the sides and base are a single piece of black textured metal. In keeping with this luxury there’s a neat black zipped carry case provided, though its rainbow trim won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Unfortunately, turning the Docking Station on doesn’t inspire much confidence either, as we’re greeted by nearly the same uninspired and somewhat clunky interface as found on the Movie Cube S800, which suffered from slow menus and long loading times between. The only difference is that the ‘library’ menu – which scanned for media on the S800’s internal drive only – has now been removed, leaving the somewhat inelegant File Browser as the sole way of getting at your media – though when browsing you can choose between Music, Photos or Movies, which will show the corresponding files. Essentially, all the functionality and lack thereof, menu options and annoyances from the S800 are duplicated here.
In terms of functionality you get a TV tuner, internet radio, limited wired or wireless network connectivity (with the optional Emtec Wi200 Wi-Fi ‘g’ USB adapter) and poor media format support – in fact the feature list is very similar to A.C.Ryan’s Playon! DVR TV.
Video can be set between NTSC/PAL or 720p/1080i resolutions, and does a reasonable job of scaling SD content to HD – however only 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios are supported so if using the P800 with a monitor it should ideally have a 1:1 mode.
The P800’s integrated tuner lets you watch and of course record digital or analogue television, offering a ‘time-shift’ function so that you can pause, fast forward or rewind ‘live’ TV. You can also record from a source over composite, which offers inferior quality but does suffice for transferring over old video tapes or recording a console moment for YouTube. Emtec estimates you can get between 33 and 198hrs of MPEG2 recording on a 160GB hard drive, depending on quality.
Speaking of quality, we were pleasantly surprised with the decent picture the hybrid tuner produced despite the image being scaled. After adjusting both the Docking Station’s brightness and contrast down, colours were left fairly realistic and there was a minimum of noise or other artefacts even in analogue broadcasts. The EPG, meanwhile, is also a cut above most both in presentation and practicality – though unlike many it doesn’t allow you to see the content of the channel you were on when entering it.
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