Verbatim_MediaStation_HD_intro2.jpgImagePredecessor of this device we reviewed in January and mentioned it few times since it was, at that time, one of the best of its kind. We are of course talking about Verbatim MediaStation Pro . At this year’s IFA we saw new MediaStation HD and had high hopes, as it looked like we got improved successor of already very good MediaStation Pro. Well, new MediaStation HD has arrived in our test lab, but this time we have mixed feelings about it.

 

After we unpacked the box, we were pleased with the fact that Verbatim hasn’t changed its policy of providing all necessary cables with its devices. Only cable that is missing is coaxial/optical S/PDIF. As its predecessor, it has hard drive as data storage device. In case of device and model that we got, hard drive has 1TB of free space, but there is also version with 500GB HDD. LAN connection is also present, while wireless is optional and not included. No matter how this sounds irrational at first, it is actually logical since this device supports live streaming of video signal, which, let’s be honest, needs good and stable LAN connection, instead of wireless one. First unpleasant discovery was the fact that this media player supports output resolutions up to 1080i, which is actually, a “downgrade” from 1080p that was supported by MediaStaton Pro. Further inspection revealed another new feature. On the backside are present two antenna connectors: one for input and other for output. Verbatim has packed inside MediaStation HD TV tuner, which supports analog and digital signal. Analog tuner has so-so picture quality, while, unfortunately, we were not in position to test digital tuner. On the other side, time-shift function works perfectly. This function allows you to pause TV program and continue to watch it without any visible difference. While TV program was paused, actual signal was recorded on internal hard drive and played back to you when you press play. This worked flawlessly, and without any significant picture quality deterioration. With support for Programmed Recording of TV program, this is very nice, very useful and significant new feature in Verbatim MediaStation product lineup.

 

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One feature that is very interesting on this new MediaStation HD is presence of small display on the front side. We expected that it will deprive us from usage of OSD and TV in situations when we just want to listen to the music, for example. Well, our expectations were not met, and this display is used to inform us about progress of file copying for example, but it cannot replace OSD menu and user interface displayed on TV set. On the other side, Verbatim provided this MediaStation with mini USB connector so you can connect it directly to PC and copy data directly to it, since it will be detected by Windows as external drive. On the front side, right besides display, is located another USB connector for USB drives (that supports even NTFS formatted drives), memory card slot and few basic buttons in case remote is not around. Thanks to these buttons and display, a procedure, such as, data copying from one drive to another, is very simple. Remote controller is slightly bigger than on MediaStation Pro, because of additional functions that are supported by new MediaStation HD, but still nicely designed. In addition, dimensions of whole device are bigger, but this is still nice looking and functional media player that will blend itself in any living room or interior. LCD display has, not so intense, blue backlight. All this new features came with price in form of increased temperatures that are generated inside the relatively small chassis. Because of this, Verbatim installed a small fan that, unfortunately, doesn’t change its speed according to temperature of device, but instead, operates at maximum RPM all the time. This wouldn’t be a problem if this fan is silent as it is not, so constant, relatively high pitched noise, will be noticeable from time to time.

 

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Since support for MKV file format, along with H.264 codec, was clearly emphasized on the packaging we approached testing of this feature with lot of joy. An external hard drive was connected to MediaStation HD, list of files was loaded, we positioned on first file and pressed play button on remote and … got “File format not supported” message? At that moment, most of us felt like a blown up balloon that was held with fingers for its neck, and then released (followed by distinctive sound). First reaction was that, maybe, MOV file extension isn’t supported so we tried with another file, but the situation remained the same. Simply put, device does not play H.264 coded files. After consulting manual and some investigational journalism on the Net (who reads those anyway before something goes wrong?) we found out that MediaStation HD can play this video material but only if appropriate application on a PC in the same network is installed and video file streamed. This is not elegant solution and very far from comfortable procedure that we expected. What’s more, this doesn’t look like software problem that can be fixed by new firmware, but rather consequence of lacking processing power (CPU) that is used in MediaStation HD. With rest of supported video formats, we didn’t experience any problems, and everything that was not H.264 was reproduced without a hitch. Another problem that we came across is lack of support for non-English characters in subtitles, but this can be corrected in some of the next firmware updates.



Conclusion

Verbatim MediaStation HD DVR, obviously, is not designed to be successor of MediaStation Pro, but rather as another device in same product lineup. As such, it brought small improvements on H.264 support but, in our humble opinion, implementation is not good enough (or user friendly). On the other side, there is increased capacity, analog/digital tuner and very good time-shift function. Unfortunately, these new features resulted in increased retail price compared to MediaStation Pro model. Therefore, you really have to sit down and define what are your priorities and expectation from a media player and decide which solution is best for you. If you are really interested in time-shift function, than, this is one of the best media players on the market today for you. On the other hand, if you are used to play recorded/transcoded (MKV) video (and audio) files you should wait for next MediaStation model or take a look at this media player.  

Verbatim MediaStation HD DVR
Wireless Network Multimedia Recorder
Audio/Video inputs and outputs HDMI/composit, AV/SPDIF optical
TV Tuner Digital/Analog
External Storage USB, NAS, SD/SDHC/MS memory cards
Maximal Video Resolution 1080i
Network Ethernet LAN 100MB
Video Codecs MPEG1/2/4, RM/RMVB, VC-1 and H.264 when streamed from PC
File extensions MP4, MOV, XVID, AVI, DIVX, ASF, WMV, MKV, RM, RMVB, FLV, TS, M2TS, DAT, MPG, VOB
Audio Codecs MP3, AIFF, OGG, WAV/PCM/LPCM, AAC, FLAC, Dolby Digital
SubTitles SRT (UTF-8), SMI, SUB, SSA
Internal Storage HDD 1TB
Dimensions 65mm x 165mm x 210mm
Weight 1600gr
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