Mvix MX-760HD Media Player
First off, all useful links to more information are at the bottom of this page.
Secondly, if you're considering buying an Mvix MX-760HD or any other media player based on the same Sigma Designs EM86XX chip at this point in time, then plain forget it. The firmware is ancient and the hardware is even older. The new generation of players based around the newer Sigma Designs SMP8634/8635 are popping up all over the net. HDMI 1080p output, decodes MPEG4/H.264, WMV9, VC-1 and a lot of other stuff the older generation just can't do. As for Mvix, I've given up all hope of them ever fixing even some of the glaring problems the 760 has. Last firmware release was over nine(!) months ago, and the next release has been "imminent" for the past six months. The beta of the next release has now reached revision nine, but judging by the reviews not much has been fixed so nothing to get excited about. Even to forum is dying out. Textbook example on how not to treat your customers unless you have a monopoly.
Mvix too probably have an SMP8635 based player in the pipeline (MX-800HD due out soon), but considering their lack of commitment to the current player I looked elsewhere for the next purchase. You only get one chance these days, and they definitely blew theirs. One of the first out of the block looks to be Popcorn Hour, http://www.popcornhour.com/. They sell branded players OEM'ed from Syabas, http://www.syabas.com/, and even though they claim to be different companies it certainly doesn't look that way. They share both products and street address (at least used to according to whois, now conveniently changed) and when I purchased from Popcornhour I got billed from Syabas. Anyway, it's dirt cheap and could be the Next Somewhat Big Thing[TM] in media players. Although look out for a bundle of nearly identical players based on the new Sigma chip being released by everyone and their mother. I bought mine, check out the review available from the menu on the right. Also, Mvix has released an MX-780HD. Only news appear to be internal SATA support and HDMI out.
Now back to your scheduled Mvix-program.
There are a few pages out there with information about the Mvix MX-760HD media player, but I figured I'd add my own since I bought the thing and intend to play around with it for a while. At the time of writing, April 2007, there are quite a few media players on the market and with a few new ones coming out this summer. The state of the art seem to be small, quiet appliances that get audio/video from your local network and display it on your TV in High Definition. Most are based around some kind of Sigma Design chipset like the EM86XX, and subsequently they all more or less support the same codecs. The main difference seem to lie in the usability and flexibility of the user interface, and what shortcuts they've made along the way to keep the price down. I.e. wireless and/or wired, DVI or HDMI, internal storage or not, built-in dvd-player or not, etc etc.
The 760 is using a Sigma Designs SEM8621L which has an embedded 200MHz ARM processor, running uClinux 2.4.26, busybox 1.0, unknown GUI and a whole host of Sigma Design code to play your audio/video. It has room for an internal 3.5" IDE hard disk, dual USB 2.0 connectors for external hard drives and DVD players and has both wireless 802.11a/g and 10/100 wired Ethernet. Over the network it understands Windows Shares, but getting stuff from Linux Samba shares work fine. Allegedly, NFS-support is in the works and already now you can NFS mount external shares if you modify your firmware slightly. See link below for more information.
Video connections include Composite, S-Video, Component and DVI, the latter two with upscaling to 720p and possibly also 1080i/p. All the documentation is a bit vague on the full HD part and I don't have the TV to test it on. Audio is well catered for with both analog 2.0/5.1 and coaxial/optical digital. Note the lack of HDMI.
Upgrading the firmware is a matter of downloading the new firmware from MvixUSA, copying it over onto the internal disk or some USB-type storage device you connect to the player. Upgrading over the net is possible, but not recommended because more things can go wrong doing it that way. I used my cell phone, as it has USB-support and a 2 gig memory card. Worked great.
The main CPU of the player is embedded in the Sigma Designs EM8621L, and is a 200MHz ARM. That's not really enough to do something useful like transferring a full HD file across the network while playing it. Which is why you'll see video degradation, and sometimes loss of sound, when you view 720p++ across the net. Transferring to the local hard drive and then watching will give you a better picture. I've had about 7mbit/sec transfer speeds using wget on the actual media player, and that maxed out the CPU according to the built-in top command. 720p over NFS is much better, almost on par with local storage. Probably due to nfs being a simpler protocol and handled by the kernel compared to the userland CIFS handling.
According to the USA reseller web pages, it supports the following formats: DivX® (3/4/5), AVI, Xvid, MPEG, MPG, VCD(DAT), DVD(VOB, IFO), ISO, WMV(WMV-9), ASF(WMV-9), TP, TS, TRP, MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG, PCM, AC3, DTS decoding including down-mixing, DTS pass through, BMP, JPEG/JPG and PNG. Phew! The most notable format missing apart from GIF (likely due to the old Unisys patent issues) is H.264, aka MPEG-4 Part 10 or AVC. Not widely adopted yet, but bound to be "the next big thing" in video compression seeing that it is a mandatory requirement in all HD-DVD and BlueRay equipment and quite a few TV services also use it for their HD broadcasts. Note that the 760 will never be able to decode H.264 as the chipset doesn't support it and it doesn't have the cpu to do it in software. Another format missing is FLAC, but that may or may not be available in a later firmware release since the Sigma chipset/libraries apparently supports it already.
In reality, you can expect some failures when it comes to the codecs. Especially the Xvid one is a few features short of a full show even though I have't been able to track down the exact features it does not handle. QPEL and 3 point GMC are among the suspects, as hardly any hardware decoders have support for that in Xvid. Overall it ranks a "pretty good" on assorted divx/xvid/wmv/mp3/ogg's so far, but I haven't tried the vcd/dvd/iso/wmv/dts possibilities at all. Other things to try includes an USB DVD player, apparently people at the AVSForum has at least partial success on that.
There is already a reasonably large community of people trying to learn as much as they can about their 760, including taking the firmware apart and seeing what's inside. Not a lot of progress so far, as the gui and player is located inside one big binary, but telnet has been enabled and with a recompiled firmware image you can log into your media player:
$ telnet 10.0.0.14
Connected to 10.0.0.14.
Escape character is '^]'.
way login: root
way:~# cat /proc/cpuinfo
Processor : ARM pt110 rev 0 (v4l)
BogoMIPS : 81.51
Hardware : EM86XX
Revision : 0000
Serial : 0000000000000000
Not blindingly useful at first glance, but coupled with the fact that there is a wget binary installed and that the latest firmware supports the Linux Ext3 file system on the internal hard drive we can log in and grab files off the net. The NTFS support was read-only, so if you want to use wget you need ext3. No more having to disconnect the media player from the TV and carry it over to the PC to fill the internal drive with audio and video files. It also has built-in NFS support once you get this far, so once telnetted in you can also mount external NFS shares. There are a few gotchas here tho, so follow the link at the bottom of this page for a detailed description.
Playing around with the firmware like this is likely to temporarily brick your player more than once though. Luckily it has an almost brilliant recovery method, whereby you hold in a couple of buttons when you switch it on and it will grab a rescue image over TFTP from a fixed IP-number and install that. If that sounded greek to you, you should probably not be attempting any non-supported firmware modifications of your own. You can also perform a Factory Reset, but that will clear your preferences as well. Note that the reset method described in the documentation is wrong...
The main limitation is the feature set of the user interface. It's okayish for the video part and useless for the audio part. And there are quite a few issues that needs to be resolved before you can use the player for serious viewing. Including:
* Connecting it to a PC using USB is the ONLY official way of getting content onto the internal HD. And you need to disconnect the 760 from the TV before you can do this.
* The "jukebox" feature is pretty much a joke for people with more than two songs available in their audio archive. The feature is so bad you can forget it even has one. If you wish to play songs, it's "play all the songs in this directory" or "play this particular song". Do not buy this media player if you in any way want to use it for music.
* The current firmware, 1.1.25, has some really nasty video resize problems, where the video is off center and cropped most of the time.
* Other than that I have about 10-15 issues of varying importance reported to their support department. They've been very friendly so far, but we'll see if they can go from helpful to actually fixing the bugs as well. This is where most companies fall over.
I'll update that list as new firmware gets released.
- Note that this link will fail when my Mvix is switched off, please try again later.
- Note also that what you will be able to browse is the entire file system on the Mvix.