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Patriot Box Office Media Player Review

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AkG

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Video & Audio Performance

Video Performance


480p.jpg


720p.jpg


1080p.jpg


Due to the fact all three resolutions gave less than perfect, but still generally decent results we feel comfortable giving this unit a Pass but there are some minor issues.

While we gave MKV a pass rating, one thing worth noting is that MKVs with high reference frame rates will result in a failure to play. However, we are giving it a pass since if you encode MKV with a higher than normal amount of frame rates you would have issues playing it on a Blu Ray player or darn near any non PC media appliance. Put another way, the Box Office has the same MKV compatibility as Blu-Ray player in that both appliances support only (up to) Level 4 of H.264 and not the newer Level 5. What this means is that max reference frames is 4 @ 1920×1080 and 9 @ 1280×720.

This unit does NOT like down converting PAL videos however. This is not limited to MKV and regardless of the video format resulted in a downright UGLY picture with horrible aliasing happening on all straight lines. This occurred on both the 480P and 720P televisions but did not occur when using the 1080P television. Turing off sharpening did not help. If we were to theorize why this occurs, it would be because the Box Office’s Realtek chipset is not powerful enough to handle both down converting the resolution AND up-converting from 25 frames per second to 29.97 frames per second. However, there were no audio sync issues and it did play the files, just not anywhere nearly well enough for our liking. This is a minor issue at best, as most people using NTSC TV’s will be using NTSC files.

WMV resulted in a Pass w/ Caveats as only WMV 9 is supported. We are not a fan of WMV formats and to our way of thinking this is not a big deal. If you have a large library of pre WMV 9 files you may want to consider this a “Fail”.

When it came to ISO support, things are spotty at best since the Box Office will play them, but if you start a movie you will not be able to get back to the menu main and if you stop watching you will not be able to resume. The other caveat is your ISO cannot have any DRM attached to it or it will not work.

The reason we gave so many “Pass w/ Caveat” on the 1080P results is due to the fact this unit cannot do any up-converting. As the old saying goes: “Garbage In, Garbage Out”, but this does put the Box Office at a distinct disadvantage when compared to the Western Digital TV Live which can do some basic up-converting. However, the picture quality while not great was still decent when watching 480P files on the 720P television and 720P on the 1080P TV.


Audio Performance


audio.jpg


To be honest, the biggest reason why Patriot’s media player got an overall Pass w/ Caveat has to do with the Patriot Box Office's less than optimal handling of audio when in RAW. While in theory yes, you can set the unit to SPDIF Raw, we did have numerous issues with NO sound unless we set the unit to SPDIF LPCM. It did not seem to make any difference whether the audio stream was 5.1 or stereo sound, as sometimes it just needed to be in LPCM to work. TV series were the worst offenders for this, but even the occasional movie required us to change from RAW to LCPM. Needless to say we are less than blown away by the Box Office’s audio handling capabilities.

With that being said it really does depend on how you plan on using this device. For many of the intended customers its performance will be more than good enough. Let's face it the intended audience is not 5.1 (or 7.1) home theaters setups but more than likely a TV with whatever speakers come attached to it. In that case, you will have absolutely no problems with audio as both LCPM modes and composite audio worked perfectly.
 
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AkG

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5,270
Streaming Video Performance

Streaming Video Performance


Wired


wired_results.jpg


When it comes to streaming video to this unit over a wired Ethernet connection we gave all tests a “Pass w/ Caveat” for two main reasons. The first reason is that the Patriot Box Office is only 10/100 capable. This means large files with high bit rates are going to need a damn near clear network so if your home network is a busy one, things may get down right stuttery and make the video all but unwatchable. As long as you are aware of this concern and make sure loads are light on your network you should be OK.

The second and much more concerning issue is the fact just because you have a network does not mean you have a dedicated NAS or media server. If you try to stream video over your network to your Box Office from a Windows 7 shared folder or drive you are in for some major frustration. This is a known issue with ALL Realtek media players which was partially fixed in a later firmware (Asus is still working on it as some people still report issues with Windows 7 and versions 1.13 and 1.17). Since Patriot has promised a firmware update, we are going to give them a pass; however, this extreme tardiness on the firmware front is troubling.


Streaming Video Wireless


wireless_results.jpg


Wireless streaming is even more of a hit or miss affair with the Box Office than the wired streaming was. Once again there is no insurmountable issue which would justify a “FAIL”, but we did run into the occasional hiccup. These issues are once again two fold, and once again one is an inherent flaw in Patriot’s execution and another is firmware related. The biggest problem we have with wireless streaming and this unit has to do with the USB Wireless adaptor Patriot has chosen to go with. We understand the need for making this accessory as budget friendly as possible, but 802.11G is just not robust enough for large, high bitrate files. In fact since it is only able to do a mediocre 54GB/s (actualy 26 up and 26 down) the stuttering issues we ran into with a busy wired network were even worse on the wireless network.

The second issue has to do with actually getting wireless streaming to work. Basically, you have all the issues of the wired network and Windows 7 but also have the added “joy” of getting the Box Office to even see your network. While it is not great from a security perspective, you WILL need to have your wireless router set to broadcast. Even worse is the fact that you will have to leave the router broadcasting even after setting it up in the Box Office. Every time you turn this unit on it looks and then finds your network, so if you do set it up and then turn off broadcasting in your router, it will only work until the next reboot. This is NOT a good thing for most people. It may only be “security through obscurity” but every bit does help and finding your network is the first step a hacker needs to do before than can break your security. Just remember that before thinking of going this route.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Conclusion

Conclusion


Before we begin we would just like to say that all of the RealTek-based media players on the market offer an amazing bang for your buck and even as little as a year and a half ago the amount of flexibility, performance and value seen here would have been unheard of in the HTPC market. Will any of the various low-priced players on the market give results as good as a properly set up dual core HTPC? No, they simply cannot compete with the image quality, processing power and scalability a $600+ setup can. However, to get all that horsepower a true HTPC needs for is expensive both in terms of power consumption, space, setup time and overall price. For most people, the Patriot Box Office is going to provide results that are perfect for their wants and needs in a package that is truly plug and play. For that alone, this tiny media player deserves a ton of respect.

One of the strongest features the Box Office posses, is its simple and easy to navigate menus which will not be confusing to anyone while offering a straightforward interface that is near-perfect. The learning curve needed to get up and running is not much more than plugging in the drive with your data, setting things up and then sitting back to enjoy. We also love the fact that this unit comes with the possibility for both internal and external data sources. With a good sized hard drive running inside of the enclosure, there is a good chance you will have all your media right at your fingertips after a few USB file transfers.

When it comes to networking abilities, it is hard to beat the Patriot Box Office in its price range as it offers wired and wireless network capabilities. This is tempered by the fact that both wired and wireless implementation leave a lot of room for improvement and the wired capabilities are an add-on feature that will put you back some money. As we saw in the testing phase, only having 10/100GB/s wired or 54GB/s (802.11G) wireless capacities does make for a less than optimal solution to say the least.

However, one of the main weaknesses the Box Office has is its inability to up convert standard definition media to high definition and as such its overall image 1uality does suffer when playing 480P on HDTVs. This does put the Patriot Box Office at a distinct disadvantage when choosing between it and a more powerful (but complex) HTPC setup. However, the Box Office’s abilities to play nearly every possible media CODEC out there and do it without the need to update anything is a powerful argument in its favour over a more complex HTPC. Things are not so clear cut when compared to Western Digital’s latest offering: the WD TV Live, which is also plug and play, similarly priced and can up-convert video in a limited fashion.

With all that being said the Box Office is not going to be the perfect media playback device for everybody and if you are a hard core A/V aficionado you probably won’t be satisfied with its performance. The GUI on the other hand is a no frills approach but there are pauses here and there and it lacks a real sense of responsiveness. However, these small issues we have mentioned can be overlooked since this unit is inexpensive good enough for all but the most demanding user and small enough that will make a wonderful addition to most entertainment centers. For most people, the simplicity of taking a USB drive with video files from their computer and playing them on the Box Office without many issues will be like a dream come true. With this in mind, we are pleased to honor the Patriot Box Office with our Damn Good Value award.


Pros:
- Decent IQ
- Comes with HDMI cable
- Plays everything we could throw at it (except Blu Ray ISOs)
- Metal case
- Internal cooling fan
- Internal storage capable
- Optional Wifi capable
- Easy to use


Cons:
- Internal Fan is louder than a passive cooled chipset
- Full size remote’s layout is overly complicated
- Does not up-convert video
-Slightly behind the competition when it comes to Firmware updates
- Wifi is 802.11G
- GUI can be less than responsive at times
- Odd audio issues requiring it to be in LCPM and not RAW to get audio output


 
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