Vivadi is actually working on a version of the Media Server – the MM300 – with a built-in Blu-ray and HD DVD deck (apparently it’s going through third-party codec checking right now, as Blu-ray is not currently part of the standard Vista spec). But for me, it just doesn’t feel right for a product as otherwise home cinema savvy as the MM200 not to be better geared up for the HD age. After all, Blu-ray players are far from the megabucks bits of kit they used to be.
I should add here that I’m not necessarily saying that the MM200 should be able to rip Blu-rays to its HDD; such a process would require huge memory capacity and likely lead to a pretty enormous price hike. Lewis’ MSB Series HD server system, for instance, costs the small matter of £23,000. But I certainly feel that basic Blu-ray playback and HD loop-through would have been nice.
Leaving our HD obsession behind for a while, it’s high time we tried to get more of a handle on just what the MM200 CAN do. Which is actually a heck of a lot; starting with its abilities as an AV server. No sooner has a DVD or CD been popped into the MM200’s tray, it asks you if you want to burn the contents of the disc to the built-in 1TB HDD – a storage task it handles reasonably quickly and very effectively, storing all the extra features and menu structures on DVDs as well as the film itself.
If you’re hooked up to the internet the M200 will also look up details on the film or music disc you’ve just put in, and add any data it finds – cover art, synopsis, track listing, etc – to the ‘profile’ for each new additional element on its hard disk.
The MM200 is also, as we said earlier, a fully-functioning PVR. What’s more, it should be a good one, since when recording digital Freeview broadcasts it actually stores the incoming digital broadcast stream rather than putting it through any potentially quality-reducing analogue conversion process. It’s a boon, too, to find the MM200 offering a 14-day electronic programme guide where such ‘long-range forecasting’ is supported by channels, rather than the 8-day effort found on most standard PVR machines.
Next, the MM200 is nothing short of exemplary when it comes to accessing, storing and playing back multimedia files – as you’d expect of a device that’s arguably more of a Windows Vista PC than a straightforward AV player. It handles devices attached to all of its multimedia inputs expertly (it took us an eternity to scrape together enough USB, Firewire and memory cards to fill even the majority of the available slots simultaneously!), and plays back all file types that one can reasonably expect with zero fuss.