DVD upscalers are a dime a dozen these days so NeoDigits had to do something to set themselves apart from the rest with their latest crop of players. You may remember our look at their first player, HVD2085, and we found it to be a worthy contender in the vast field of DVD players but the X5000 takes up to a whole new level. Sure, it still has all the upscaling goodness of its older brother but add a pinch of networking and a dash of high-end audio circuitry to create a slick home media device. We agree that it's $499 price tag is a tad harsh for just another upscaling DVD player when HD DVD players can be found for less but it does do a fine job at the whole networking thing. Oh and did we mention that this player can output 1080p over component and HDMI.
The X5000 would look like another other DVD player first to most home theater guys and a networkable player second, but we are here to say that it is quite the opposite. The core of the X5000 is a networkable player and a DVD player happens to be included. The whole system is based off a PC and we have got to be honest here, it's a beast. This isn't a normal CE DVD player here. (i.e. think Toshiba's first-gen HD DVD player but only bigger) It weighs in at an impressive 17lbs and seems to be built solid. There's a massive heat sink on the rear and it gets toasty from what we are assuming a large power supply judging from the PC style power cord.
The front of the unit is rather sparse but it's still functional. Power button aside, the buttons have a good, solid feel to 'em - that is if you are the type to get up from the coach to go hit play. The power button however isn't your normal standby switch and is in fact, a real, live power switch. That is, when it is disengaged, even the power button on the remote will not turn the DVD player on. You need to go up and physical "click" it on. Thankfully, the power button on the remote puts the player in a standby mode so it will play nicely in a remote location via IR extenders.
Normally, we complain about lack of inputs on CE devices but if they're all there, what's there to talk about? The X5000 includes: HDMI, component, composite, S-Video, TOSLINK, dig coax, analog audio, and finally, Ethernet. Nothing missing; so there nothing to talk about besides the wireless support. The X5000 is a network-based device and therefore we are glad to report that it sports both wired and wireless support right out of the box. To be honest, most of these types of players $300 and up have had wireless support built in for some time, but that fact remains that this unit does in fact stream HD videos over a 802.11G network without any issues.
Like we said to start with, this unit isn't a DVD player with a video streaming slapped in; nope, it's a purebred high-def media-supporting device. The initial start screen brings you to a home page that gives you the option of selecting ether the DVD player or choosing one of the multiple media servers on your network. Since this player works on open protocols, a person doesn't have to use the non-OS X friendly software suite but rather choose something a little more open such as TwonkeyVision. But if you do still have a PC lying around (we had to slap one together just for this review) the included software works, but just isn't perfect.
Lets say a person chooses one of the NeoLink servers on the network from the home screen, they will be taken to those servers files via a clean and efficient UI. This side of the software works great. The videos are displayed and can be sorted appropriately, music can be randomly played and pictures can be put to music. It works and it's clean. The PC side however leaves something to be desired.
Server side, the overall look is great but it's very limited. For instance, lets say you have video files spread across several drives, it cannot query multiple locations. There is an option to select more drives, but we couldn't get it to work and we even went as far as reinstalling XP. Nothing. So you are stuck with just one drive for all of your videos. Now the music and photos may be in different locations but they too cannot be spread across multiple drives in their respective categories. You can only imagine how frustrating that may be when you have spent years "collecting" files that you can't access and show all at the same time. This software really looks like it's a beta and thankfully, like we indicated before, the player works on open standards so most media streaming software will work with the unit.
Oh, and talking about that collection of video files, this unit will play 'em. All of them. There wasn't a file our X5000 couldn't play and best of all, those files were up-converted to the native resolution of that Samsung 1080p LED DLP we reviewed a while back and they looked great. Playing back the files is a bit cumbersome however as the unit has to query up the whole file in order to fast forward or rewind which takes up to a minute sometimes. But you know what, the files look great - oh, and they sound good too.
The X5000 is the high-end within Helio's media player lineup partly thanks to its high-end audio components that we are here to tell you, makes a difference. Sometimes this unit can be hard to justify for the high price, but the sound partly makes up for it. If you have a nice home theater setup, this just might tip the scale for you. It really does make those shaky cam vids sound like they weren't recorded with an old JVC camcorder.
We almost forgot. The X5000 has an upscaling DVD player built in along with all the home media options. There isn't much to say about upscaling DVD players these days but the statement still holds true that they do make a difference. How much is questionable, but the player did produce a better image when set to the native resolution of the set verse a standard progressive scan DVD player. The unit has enough resolutions to satisfy just about any home theater setup including 480i, 480p, 576p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p (plus, a whole bunch more). These output resolutions can be sent via component or HDMI; that's right 1080p over component.
So lets round this up: capable media streaming device, sub-pair PC side software, great audio processing, DVD upscaler, and tons of output resolutions all in a $500 built-like-a-rock package. Is it worth the price of a HD DVD player? We don't know but all we can say is that the media streaming capabilities are slightly better then anything we have used before and it did play every media file we threw at it; including high-def files over a wireless network. If it wasn't for the sub-par software that came with the unit, we could give this player a solid recommendation. However, it's just not ready for mainstream. But if you don't mind finding your own software, or already have a server setup, this is a killer media-streaming device.
6 out of 10
Tons of output resolutions
1080p over component
Amazing audio processing
Built like a rock (weighs as much too)
Great client side interface
You can use different server side software
Sub-par server software included
Power button turns off the unit; not standby
Clunky media controls