HT Review: Mediagate MG-35

Temptation finally got the better of me and I picked up a Mediagate MG-35 yesterday. It’s a small, cheap media player that can be fitted with a hard drive and can also stream media from a network PC.

First impressions were positive, the HDD was easy to install and the array of outputs on the back was impressive — Component, S-Video, Composite, Optical and Coaxial Digital Audio, Analog Audio. Booting it up showed a simple, clean interface.

So far so good, then came the first snag: the MG-35 doesn’t allow you to choose the username/password combination it uses to connect to network shares (Windows/Samba). So, you need to fiddle around making sure its default Guest account can access your chosen shares, which isn’t really ideal.

After having gone through that, I gave it a thorough testing on the various video files I have around the place. It wasn’t a good start — probably around 50% of the media I had was unsupported. Modern Xvid files seem to perform the best, along with DVD rips (IFO).

Another downer was file transfer. There’s no FTP or SMB server on the unit itself, so data needs to be transferred to the local disk via USB (it mounts as a standard USB Mass Storage Device) or via NDAS. Using NDAS (Windows only) let’s you access (Read/Write) the disk as if it was attached locally (it shows itself to Windows as a SCSI controller). The major caveat with this method is speed — only 10MB/Sec is supported. You’re looking at 1 hour plus to transfer a DVD rip.

So, that’s the negatives. There are positives too:
– It does play the media it supports very well indeed.
– It supports 480p/720p/1080i video output (via Component).
– It can output DTS via the Digital Audio outputs and even upmixed audio sounds terrific.

All in all, it’s a decent little unit, but it won’t enable me to move my Media PC out of the Living Room just yet. There are promising signs on the horizon, with some enterprising people creating their own firmware to extend the MG-35’s functionality. It must be said, there are ways around the file incompatibility problems, there are several free tools for converting media, but this is a fairly substantial inconvenience.

Overall Rating 3/5.

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