The Mvix MX-780HD is one of a new breed of HDMI-equipped, 1080p-capable media streamers designed to shuttle high-def content from your computer to your HDTV. It can draw video directly from a PC, or from an attached hard drive, internal or external. The Mvix box accepts both IDE and SATA drives, so you can easily recycle an old disk. Many users cite the convenience of archiving their DVD collections on it, and BitTorrent download capability is rumored to be coming via a future firmware update. It has a complete set of video and audio outputs, including component, composite, and S-video, plus RCA, coax, and optical audio. And an LCD panel on the front lets you know what source is playing.
With a drive installed, the Mvix can also attach to your PC via USB, making it easy to copy over folders full of media files. You can also connect to it over a network as if it were a NAS device and copy files that way, using the included NDAS software. This is slow compared with USB, but you can use Windows Scheduled Tasks to sync folders, such as a Torrent download folder, to the player's internal drive.
What you can't do is play pretty much anything from the Web, as you can with Popcorn Hour. That means no YouTube, Flickr, CNN News, or other Internet sources. Photo viewing is also rudimentary compared with the polished interfaces of Vista Media Center and Apple TV--we found pictures blurry and slow to load. And none of the streamers in this class can handle DRM-protected files. However, Internet radio is preprogrammed with a huge list of genres and works well.
More troublesome is the setup and user experience, which we found seriously wanting. Despite being the only streamer with a built-in LCD panel for setup, the MX-780HD, once connected to the TV, brings up an interface that is low-resolution, almost cell-phone-like, and it took us several go-rounds with tech support to get Vista permissions set properly so that we could stream from the PC. The Mvix has both wired and wireless networking, but as with other streamers tested, we found 802.11g wireless inadequate for high-def video streaming.
The Mvix MX-760HD (US$329), reviewed last year, has very similar capabilities, but provides DVI output instead of HDMI, and no SATA support. Both boxes are priced about $100 higher than comparable products, with fewer features. The Mvix may improve with further interface development and firmware updates, but for now, it lags behind the competition.