NeoDigits.com announced on May 22, 2006 the new HELIOS X-Line of HD Network Media Players.
The HELIOS X-Line of HD Network Media Players changes the way you manage, access and enjoy all your multimedia, giving you total freedom to enjoy them in superior audio and high-definition video quality anywhere in (and beyond) your home.
Tim Beloney, Director of Sales for NeoDigits comments, "From digital cameras and camcorders to MP3 players, online content and downloaded movies, digital media is everywhere but rarely connected and easily accessible. The X-Line lets users easily bridge the digital gap from the PC to the living room, and even extend it to the basement or boardroom while maintaining our extreme flexibility and high resolution roots. NeoDigits also takes pride in listening to our customers and providing them with real world solutions they want. Beyond the incredible flexibility and functionality of the X-Line, the HELIOS X5000 is our flagship of quality, high performance, and style."
The HELIOS H4000 HD Upscaling DVD Player is the only player on the market that can bring your home theater images to a stunning 1080p resolution at 50Hz through HDMI, component and even better, 720p and 1080i through VGA/RGB-HV outputs. Its HDMI output even lets you switch between HDMI and DVI mode to improve compatibility with your HDTV. Retailing at US$169.00, the H4000 is available for purchase directly from NeoDigits at www.neodigits.com.
With 10 different resolutions to choose from, the H4000 upscales not only your standard DVD titles and HVDs, but also your "home-made" DVDs, not to mention SRT, SUB and all other MPEG4 formats such as DivX and XviD stored on your CDs and DVDs at up to 4500 kb bit-rate!
VGA/RGB-HV outputs even give you the ability to upscale to 1080i on your projectors! And with a 576i video output via HDMI, the H4000 is ideal for your external video scalers.
The H4000 supports both PAL and NTSC and is capable of playing back just about every popular format available. With a screen saver feature that prevents your plasma screen from burning out, the player also lets you adjust color and display, giving you complete control over image brightness, contrast, black level and tint. To top it all off, the H4000's Smart Play feature lets you skip all those annoying trailers and go straight to the movie - on absolutely any disc that you pop in!
With a slick and sexy design in a compact and lightweight plastic case, the H4000 brings to your home theater a stylish and inexpensive solution to satisfy your high-definition craving.
- Playback format options:
- MPEG4(DivX, Xvid, MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4) video file file playback.
- 1080p support via Component.
- High-definition output options via Component interface in 720p,1080i and 1080p
- High-definition output options via VGA/RGB-HV interface is 640x480,800x600,1024x768, 1280x1024, 480P,720P and 1080i.
- High-definition output options via DVI(via HDMI to DVI cable) interfaces.
- 576i video output via HDMI for external video scalers.
- NTSC 720P/1080i/1080p support at 60hz
- PAL 720P/1080i/1080p support at 50hz
- Output video via HDMI and component simultaneously.
Video Playback formats:
|DVI(via HDMI to DVI converter)
Audio Playback formats:
|5.1 channel audio
|720p/1080i/1080p via component
|720p/1080i/1080p/640x480/800x600/1024x768/1280x1024 via HDMI
|640x480/800x600/1024x768/1280x1024/720p/1080i via VGA/RGB-HV
Recordable media formats:
|CD-R / CD-RW / DVD+R / DVD-R / DVD+RW / DVD-RW
2. The Package
For our tests, NeoDigits supplied us with the retail package of the X4000, which contains:
- The HELIOS H4000 HD Upscaling DVD player
- 1x printed manual
- 1x Audio/ Visual Connector
- 1x Power Cable
- 1x Remote Control
- 1x 5' HDMI Cable
- 2x Batteries
The player is currently listed at the retail price of US$169 and is available for purchase directly from NeoDigits at www.neodigits.com. The player is made of plastic and is very light weight, but it feels very solid.
On the front, there's a LED panel display that shows the basic operations of the player and the CD/DVD loader . On the top surface and towards the front of the player, there are the power on/off switch on the very left and at right a 4 button joypad for Stop/Previous/Play-Pause/Next and a fifth button in the centre for eject. It's an uncommon design for a player, but nonetheless convenient. The only drawback with having the controls and power buttons on the top is if you stack your decks, this unit will have to go on top.
The CD/DVD loader seems to work well. The tray loader when ejected, doesn't fully protrude outwards so you have to be careful when placing and removing discs. On the back, you will find the numerous connections, including:
- Video I/O: Composite video, S-video, Component, HDMI, VGA/RGB-HV and DVI (via HDMI to DVI converter)
- Audio I/O:
Analog stereo, 5.1 channel audio, Optical and Coaxial outputs
Looking at the inside, we can see the board layout. We can identify from left to right the PSU, CD/DVD Loader and main board.
At the top we also have the two small boards that handle the power on/ff and joypad:
The Helios X4000 is powered by the AmLogic AML3433G chip:
There aren't a lot of details about the AML3433G chip so we have to find out for ourselves, its strengths and weaknesses.
The remote control is large with the usual array of functions. Of course you need some time to get used to it, especially with its "big"size.
3. Power up the player
- Power up the player
After connecting the player to the power and a TV, you are ready to go. The first thing you need to do is a basic setup. After turning the player on, the first screen that comes up allows you to play or perform a setup:
Choosing Setup, brings up 5 choices to select from:
The Display settings are most useful. You can select the type of TV image (aspect ratio)
as well as several other options:
The resolutions are many, depending the output method:
More video options are available here:
And of course, choice of language:
The player only has menus and subtitles support for six (6) major languages, so many are missing:
4. Using with the player
- Working with the player
The screenshot below shows what you get when looking at the folders of a data disc:
You navigate through folders with the arrows and enter button. You can view several bits of information about a file, like size, type, bitrate, video codec and resolution:
The bitrate function doesn't seem to work very well, at least with several file types we tried:
In the case of a DivX HD, the file information info was correct:
X264 files are not supported but you do get some information back:
While playing, you can get more information about the file and select subtitles, etc:
Zoom is supported, up to 5X
Unfortunately, the zoom function does not work very well, since in this case it shifted the image to the top, not centered:
More pics from this problem:
Whereas with mpeg files, zoom works perfectly:
5. The Tests
- The Tests
The player has been tested with several test files and different Audio/Video formats. All tests were carried out by connecting the NeoDigits X4000 DVD player to a Samsung 32R51B 32" HDTV with a HDMI cable. By pressing the appropriate button at the top, you can cycle between VGA, HD (HDMI) and Component modes.
Let's now see some basic information about the player's capabilities:
- Disc Compatibility: The player uses a CD/DVD Loader. No problem recognizing any kind of DVD±R/±RW/±R DL discs we used. However... we found that the player won't recognize discs burned with the UDF format! That's a rather unpleasant limitation, since files larger than 2GB cannot be burned in ISO mode...We notified NeoDigits about this problem but so far no workaround has been released. It's possible that this problem can be fixed with a future firmware upgrade.
- GUI issue: In order to get a file view/playback, you have to use the direction arrows, press enter and then the play (>) button. If you select a file and then highlight another and press play, you won't play the highlighted file but the previous one (that had been selected).
- Zooming: The player while upscaling images doesn't "properly" remove the black ribbons for wide screen movies, even when the "zoom" function is used, either for AVI or Mpeg files
- FF/RF: We noticed that the FF function (fast forward) suffers, the player takes too long to respond to commands.
- Eastern European Languages support: The player doesn't support languages other than the six stated earlier, if filenames use for example Greek characters, they are selectable and playable.
- Files: The player will skip (aka not display) non supported file types. In case of a mixed disc (video, audio, pictures), a small menu is displayed where the user can select the corresponding content (Audio, Video, Pictures, Audio+Pictures).
- Audio compatibility: The player recognizes the following formats: MP3 and WMA files. We tried several encoded files with very low bitrates and up to 320Kbit without any problems. There is no way to create a playlist or any other advanced options like equalizer...
The player recognizes the following formats: .MPG, .AVI and .DivX. Our overall impression from the picture quality was good, either with Component or HDMI connection cable.
- AVI uncompressed files: We couldn't test this since all discs in UDF format weren't recognizable (file size was above 2GB).
- DivX: While the player isn't advertised as "DivX certified", it didn't have any problems playing them.
- GMC encoding method is not an issue here, however Qpel encoding mode produces image with blocks, it should be avoided with this player.
- We tried up to 8Mbit encoded files, no playback problems noticed.
- Passing to DivX 6.0 compatibility (.Divx container), Audio and Subtitles are recognizable but the player doesn't seem to be able to switch between different Audio tracks. There is no support for DivX menus, useful for slide show files. Picture slide show files (with .Divx extension), weren't playable also.
- DivX encoded tracks with two Audio tracks (VBR Mp3 and AC3) are also not a problem.
- DivX HD files are not supported, we only got sound, not picture!
- Xvid: As happened with DivX, QPel does not cause any problems. GMC 1WP is playable and while GMC 3Wrap Points can be displayed, playback is choppy so it's not recommended.
- Mpeg: We were satisfied with Mpeg1 and Mpeg2 playback.
Unfortunately, the player didn't recognize our Bitrate Mpeg files (only Video no audio with up to 40Mbit bitrate) so we couldn't see how far the AMLogic chip could go.
- WMV: Windows Media files (WMV) are not supported.
- Nero Digital: Mp4 files are not supported.
- Subtitles: Subtitles are supported, however only in SRT text format. What's rather disappointing is the size of the subtitles. It's too small to be readable from a distance.
With DVD-Video format and DivX, text size was very good, so we assume this can be fixed.
- IFO/Sub subtitles are not working
- Greek and other Eastern European characters are not recognized and are displayed in an incompatible font.
- Pictures: Only JPG files are supported. We tried up to 2272x1704 pixel size files without any problem.
The Helios X4000 player's main advantage is the fact that it offers many output connections (HDMI, Component, VGA) and can playback DVD-Video and Mpeg4 encoded files. The weight and dimensions are small, with a comparatively "low" price and good manufacturing quality. While the whole player is made out of plastic, it's still very sturdy.
The player supports most currently used Video and Audio formats. More-over, it will upscale everything to full 1080p output, even DVD-Video discs with CSS protection. The player is region free out of-the-box, ensuring that you won't have any problem with regional discs. Everything worked perfectly. There is also a component output for users who don't have an HDMI capable HDTV, and of course don't forget VGA output also.
There are some glitches with specific Video/Audio formats. Of course, no player currently sold is perfect. However, we can say that the player needs new firmware to fix those problems. We have explained in depth its overall weakness so take care before purchasing. The player is listed at $169 at the neodigits website (+shipping). For us, we would prefer the X3000 series with much better performance and capabilities, even though the price is twice as much. As always, the choice is yours....
- The Good
- Low price ($169)
- Numerous output connections (HDMI, Component, SVideo, VGA)
- Can playback several Video formats without any problems
- Is region free and upscales even CSS material out of-the-box up to 1080p
- Device is firmware upgradeable
- Supports Subrip (.srt) subtitles, only in specific languages
- The Bad
- Cannot recognize UDF burned DVD discs (!)
- Remote control needs improvement
- Severe playback problems with specific Video files
- Cannot playback Nero Digital Files (despite the fact that they are Mpeg4 compliant)
- Not much information displayed during playback for used files
- No network functions, nor USB ports
- Like To Be Fixed
- Support for more languages
- Support for DVD IFO/Sub subtitles
- Fix/Improve several problems we encountered with specific Audio&Video formats