Basically this is a videoplayer. No more, no less. But it is a very advanced videoplayer. For starters, you can connect it to your PC or Mac and stream audio, video or photo content to your TV or flatscreen. You can also use an internal harddisk or connect a USB drive. What's more, you can access the contents of the HDX and its connected USB disks from a network-connected computer. Or connect the HDX straight to a USB port on your PC and use it just as you would an external slave disk. And it has access to online video databases such as YouTube and many others. The best thing though is that it contains hardware that is capable of upscaling and playback of 1080P material in Blu-Ray quality.
This device is very small and pretty cheap yet it performs the functions of many separates.
Positively tiny but comprehensive in functionality.
Picture-wise it is a match for the Sony BDB350 Blu Ray player, as long as your downloads are native 720 or 1080. But even when upscaling DVD material it still betters my Denon DVD2910 DVD player that has an excellent upscaler on board.
But it offers so much more than just amazing picture quality.
I don't want to get into this too deep as I am just more concerned with quality than explaining how to connect things up and you can find all you need to know elsewhere but in this case I'll do some more explaining because the HDX is much more interesting than you might think.
You need to have some computer skills
For starters here's a warning: if you're not computer-savvy you may not want to get involved with the HDX because it is not plug and play. You will need to install software, make settings and get used to the menu structure without having a proper manual. Sure you'll get 2 pages of info but they are more along the lines of "here's where you plug in the power connector" and such. But there are many forums on the net covering everything you need to know. You'll just have to do some digging before you'll find what you need.
If that didn't scare you, here's why you need to buy the HDX
Now that's out of the way what I like most about the HDX is that it plays almost any format you care to throw at it. MKV: check. DVD-ISO: check. H264 and X264: doublecheck. And the list goes on and on. Seriously, I haven't been denied one single file that I tried to play, except some obscure format that an LG phone uses for making movies. But I forget which that was. But what I need to stress is that most harddrives with built in video support only a handful of formats and most of them don't output video in the quality that the HDX does. Before I bought the HDX I compared all available competition and the HDX has a format compatibility list that is without exaggeration 4 times as long as most of the competition. And it plays everything natively. So for example it won't need to unpack an ISO, instead it plays it rightaway. It works just as though you had inserted a DVD. But faster because there are no optical disk seek times.
Even when playing a DVD ISO file (which it plays instantaneously, without having to unpack) and upscaling it to 1080P, it still looks better than what my trusted Denon DVD2910 put out using its built-in scaler. And that's quite an achievement. There's no juddering or dropped frames. Just crispy sharp, smooth flowing images. But wait until you play back native 720 or 1080 material. Even in 720, upscaled to 1080P you'll see an amazing improvement which makes you question whether you'll need Blu Ray at all. When playing back native 1080 material the results are sometimes even better. Comparing straight to my Sony BDP350 Blu Ray player, the HDX is just as sharply detailed, just as smooth and just as judder-free.
Alas, this is a computer product and there are operational issues. For example when using frame for frame too long it may freeze up. When fast forwarding too long it may drop audio. But both these examples are fixed by just stopping the file and restarting it. In the case of all formats except ISO, it remembers where you were and just restarts from where you left off. Rebooting is seldomly needed. If you do need to reboot it takes about just as long as starting Windows XP. There are more strange behavioural things such as depending on the format you cannot use the rewind button. But there's always the option of using the arrow back to skip 30 seconds at a time, or a multitude of that when pressing multiple times.
The remote takes some getting used to but really, all functionality that you could wish for is here:
various display functions, audio track selection (for dual audio files), all transport functionality, even go to 20%, 30% etc by pressing the numerical buttons, all menu settings and access to the files from various locations, all you need to do in the directory of the internal harddrive, subtitle options such as position and language etc etc.
It has all connections you need: LAN, USB in, USB slave (out to a PC), Component and Composite video, optical and coaxial digital audio (capable of RAW and native), analog audio out. The adapter is external.
What about audio?
Oh yeah, I almost forget: it also plays and streams photos and audiofiles. So you could have your library on a NAS, USB disk or on a network-attached PC and access the files from where the HDX is. You could even buy more than one HDX and have the comfort of accessing your files anywhere in your room! Regarding the audio, strange as it may sound for an audio guy, I haven't tried this. I know that it works but for me this isn't what I would use it for. For audio there are much more convenient solutions from Sonos and Logitech.
In general, I hate buggy equipment, but the HDX is so good and convenient that I gladly endure the issues it sometimes has. Really, trust you me: this device outputs splendid quality video. For this review I used a Samsung LE786 LED-LCD TV. Also you should know that I work professionally as a video editor so that should say something. So, if you're not afraid to learn new ways and do some digging in forums, I promise that you won't be disappointed by the HDX. Oh, and it costs about 250 euro!
The thing you could hold against it is that there is no hard drive included, you'll have to buy it separately. But it functions fine without it, as long as you use it with an external USB drive. For network capability you'll need to install software on an internal drive. The software is available online and the HDX can find it without problem.
Want the best quality, a pretty face and lots of supported formats?
Get the HDX
Afraid of typical computer/network setup issues and want instant plug and play capability?