With the proliferation of Smart TVs, some might question the longevity of media players. However, not all of us own Smart TVs, or have TVs that can playback movies on USB drives. As opposed to dropping serious cash and spending enormous amount of time building a top-range HTPC, an off-the-shelf media player is without doubt the most economical alternative. Yet, in the current media market, there are so many brands and models to choose from. You've those priced on a budget and aimed at casual users who just want to playback a file they've downloaded from the Internet, to those decked with high-end components and designed to satisfy home theater enthusiasts.
AVerMedia, a company known for producing TV tuner cards and PC-to-TV converters, is certainly no stranger to the digital media scene. What we've here is the AVerLife HD Studio, a 1080p-capable network media player. Besides media playback, it also boosts Flickr, Picasa and Internet radio support. Let's take a closer look at what else it's capable of.
The AVerLife HD Studio sports a predictable boxy chassis, but is covered in a rather nice-looking brushed metal finish. While it might not blend in with your black A/V setup on the rack, it definitely won’t stick out like a sore thumb either. We like the matte surface too as that means less wiping and cleaning of dust and fingerprints. But on the other hand, the construction didn't feel particularly sturdy to us; it gave us a flimsy plastic feel. This is something that the Patriot Box Office didn't suffer from.
One thing that struck us when we unboxed the HD Studio was its size; it's probably one of the smallest media players we've come across in recent memory. Dimensions-wise, it's 12cm wide, 10cm long and 2.5cm tall. And since the HD Studio has no internal storage of its own, it is very light. Because of its small size, it doesn't come with a lot of I/O ports. But AVerMedia did manage to squeeze in a multi-card reader (for MS and SD/MMC cards).
The rear of the player sports a single HDMI port for digital video output and an optical jack (S/PDIF) for digital audio output. Due to the lack of space, instead of separate RCA jacks for composite video and analog audio, there's a single A/V jack. A quick check confirms that an AV cable comes supplied in the box.
While the small size of the player did garner a positive response, the small size of the remote control however, hindered the overall experience. To be more specific, the small size of the remote means that the buttons have to be placed very close to one another. It also doesn't help that you need to exert a fair bit of pressure on the buttons to get them to register your presses. Also, we had to point the remote directly at the player for it to work.