DViCO has a knack for producing media players with an overstated price tag. Although that inclination hasn't improved by much, they did, however, downsize their former TVIX HD M-7000 into a bite-sized offering. According to DViCO, the TViX HD N1 is strangely dubbed the "Café". Probably for its coffee mug resemblance we reckon?
For starters, we have no qualms about the N1's black and polished brushed-metal looks. What's missing in the N1's case, compared to the M-7000, is an internal hard disk enclosure and fan. At the top of sits an inconspicuous lid which conceals a USB and memory card reader. While the actual power button is housed beneath the flap, you can activate it by pressing on the lid as well.
Connectivity wise, the N1 has just enough I/O ports to stamp its mark as a decent media tank, including a HDMI 1.3a slot and a pair of analog (component and composite) connectors. For streaming, a basic 100Mbps Ethernet port is available, but you'll have to acquire the TViX WLAN-6200C dongle for wireless runs. This is player is entirely dependent on its remote, so keep that stick in sight.
The N1's graphical interface is flavored with a bold red and black theme, with primary tabs such as Movies, Music and IMS (Internet Media Services) displayed on its splash screen. Regrettably, startup was relatively slow at 19 seconds, considering that this unit doesn't house any internal drive. Peek under the IMS option, and it becomes apparent that the Koreans have packed the player with a number of quick media links. Expect to find YouTube and Picasa in its ranks, among a host of other RSS feeds such as weather forecasts and TV streaming locations. A built-in UPnP function also makes it easy to stream content on your home network.
However, navigation on this thing is far from perfect. The N1 can be reactive one moment, and unresponsive the next. To add, hitting the "Return" button doesn't always necessarily return you to the previous screen or level. Instead, we had to press the "Goto" button to wriggle our way out to the main menu.
To be fair, we patched the TViX HD N1's firmware (version 2.0.3) before conducting our analysis. Incidentally, DViCO has switched to a third-generation Realtek RTD1073DD chipset instead of a Sigma offering. Found within media players from the likes of eGear, AC Ryan and ASUS, this chip is highly sought after given its relatively low price and comprehensive video format support, including MKV and RMVB containers.
More importantly, the player is also able to bitstream DTS-MA and Dolby True HD over HDMI with the new 2.0.3 firmware update. The N1 was right at home when tackling video content from a connected USB drive. We ran our own special brew of clips, notably 1080p and 720p videos on various formats and codecs such as WMV (VC1), MP4 (H.264) and MKV. Playback was smooth without any significant stutters, and SUB and SRT subtitle files were easily picked up as well.
On the contrary, the N1 soured like bad coffee when dealing with online media streams. Firstly, it refused to play a large percentage of YouTube clips. Secondly, it crashed on more than one occasion when we tried to stream content from television network sites such as Blip.tv and Beet.tv. If we may add, the same random phenomena occurred whilst we were browsing media files on the connected hard drive as well.
We have to admit we were slightly letdown by DViCO's latest HD "beverage". To be honest, we weren't expecting any extraordinary features given the player's petite size. With a sexy black bod, raw HD audio pass-through, and UPnP features, there's little for us to complain about in those aspects. The N1 was also astute enough to tackle most video content we hurled at it.
Trouble is, this cuppa left a bitter aftertaste when it tried to stream online content. And the occasional hang ups and plodding boot-up time are assuredly irksome attributes. For $199, your money is probably better spent on a more stable platform such as the eGear MiVeo Pro MP-701. They may share similar Realtek chipsets, but at least eGear's interface is less prone to arbitrary crashes. Let's hope a future firmware update will save the "Cafe" from its current dismal disposition.