Testing - Great Over Wired, Iffy Over Wireless

For me, the holy grail for this type of box is to be able to stream the full uncompressed video and audio from a Blu-ray movie. I have a vast DVD and a growing blu-ray collection as I imagine many home theater enthusiasts do. The amount of storage needed to house these movies cannot be found on a single 2.5” drive, nor on an external USB drive. With that in mind, I decided to look at files in a few different formats and bitrates to see what the maximum bitrate was I could play over each type of connection supported by the Patriot Box Office (Wirelss, Wired 10/100, USB and SATA).

I started by producing an .mkv of The Dark Knight including the unaltered VC-1 (a Microsoft developed WM9 derivative) movie and Dolby digital core audio only. I also made an .mkv of Zombieland containing only the untouched AVCHD video which is a high def H.264 encode and the DTS core audio. These will be my highest quality videos, weighing in with an average bitrate of around 26 Mbps. I now have two .mkv files containing the two most common Blu-ray video types and core audio types. From here, I encoded these into smaller files and tested to see where the video playback began to stutter based on connection type to the Patriot Box Office. During the encoding I used .avi, mpeg2, m2ts, and WM9 formats.

Before testing these files I also attempted playing back a small .m4v file from iTunes and a few .vob DVD rips, as well as music from my mp3 collection and looking at jpeg, .png, and .bmp files from my camera. All files types were streamed over wireless and played without difficulty. Even both my high end .mkv files and subsequent encodes were recognized and displayed on my TV. The Patriot Box Office did, as advertised, play back everything I threw at it, and with impressive picture quality, although not always without issues as I will discuss in the next section. Below is a picture of the full bitrate Dark Knight .mkv played off my external USB drive. Nice!

Over the wireless G connection I maxed out at an 8.5 Mbps file before the video playback began to stutter. It even stutters a slight bit during .vob playback of ripped DVDs. That's not the most encouraging result. I was only able to pass 30% of the bitrate needed to play back a full Blu-ray movie. Your mileage may vary depending on the state of your wireless network. In this case the Box Office was a mere 5 feet away from the D-Link DIR-825 access point.

As long as both my source PC and the Box Office were on wired ethernet I could play full bitrate Blu-ray on the Box Office over the network. However with my PC on wireless in the other room I noticed some stuttering. Given the high bitrates of most 1080p content you'll want to consider how robust your wireless setup is before relying on it for any sort of HD streaming.

Over a USB external HDD or an internal HDD all files played without stutter. I also tried playing back an .iso of The Dark Knight and was rewarded with seamless playback by the Box Office. Not that the .iso has a higher bitrate, it should be the same as the .mkv I made, I just wanted to ensure an .iso would be recognized for those who like their Blu-ray rips complete with all the extras. Switching the audio track during .iso playback with the remote to the True-HD track gave an Unknown Format message. But it was easy to switch between audio formats and subtitles with the included remote. That March firmware update adding hi-def audio support would add even more value to this device.

So this device will stream my music, videos, pictures and standard def movies over the network, as well as 720p encodes of Blu-rays for $100. It will even play the uncompressed Blu-ray movies if I put them on the device’s hard drive or on an external USB drive. What else could I want? What about the ever growing area of internet based media content you say? Is there any help there?

It does support a bittorrent client which allows you to download torrents to the local (internal) HDD of the Box Office only. You’ll have to add the seed via PC, similar to the function of NAS bittorrent solutions. It also supports UPnP, which can be used with programs like TVersity to stream content from Hulu or Youtube onto the Box Office, which is great. Again, you’ll need a PC to set up the media server. This whole process can take a bit of tweaking to get working, but it can be done. In testing out the UPnP it can take a bit of time for TVersity to prepare some of the Hulu queue files for playback, making watching internet based content feel quite sluggish.

Delving Deeper - Chipset & GUI Final Words
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  • The0ne - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - link

    I am also very interested in a comparison write-up. I would save me time and effort to do what you guys would do more properly and timely. Please keep us inform.
  • ProDigit - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    "Multi terrabyte harddrives"?
    It's hard for me to believe you actually stuffed them with legal info, unless it's raw VOB or bluray rips!

    A search engine is not necessary if you know how to organize your video's. I have anime series all organized like this:
    - Anime
    + good
    ++ Anime 1
    ++ Anime 2
    ++ ....
    + Completed
    ++ Anime 3
    ++ Anime 4
    ++ ....
    + Uncompleted
    ++ ....
    + Bad
    ++ ....
    + Abandoned / Uncompleted
    ++ ....
    - Disney
    + ....
    - Movies
    + 1999-2000
    ++ ....
    + 2001-2004
    ++ ....

    And regardless of what movie, I always remember where to find my data, because I arranged it, and I have seen it all (unlike some individuals who plug their pc into the net, and start downloading 24/7 until they have nothing more to download, and not know they actually are downloading each movie twice or trice; not even knowing if the movie they downloaded is the correct one).

    When someone says to me they have "several 1TB harddrives full of movies" I seriously question the legitimacy of their actions.
    It would take all the video's I've ever owned, purchased, or watched in my lifetime to fill 1TB of space (if they are around 700MB/1,5hrs movie). That'd translate to over 1400 movies, and not even my local movie rentals has that many in their store!
  • ThePooBurner - Thursday, February 18, 2010 - link

    My cousin owns 1400 DVDs. And since this is a HD streaming unit, i highly doubt that they are talking about crappy quality 700mb rips.
  • ajlueke - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    I actually have ripped all my regular DVDs and blu-rays as .VOBs and .iso's respectively. If you take into account that each blu-ray movie is about 40 GB on a disc, then within 25 movies you have used up 1 TB of space. Even if you rip just the video file and main HD audio file to an .mkv, your still looking at almost 20 GB per movie, so you'd get to 50 High def movies before you fill a TB drive. So yes, I have multiple terabyte drives. I could probably compress them down to 720p .mkvs with the HD audio track and not lose much quality, but I would rather just watch the .iso file and be done with it as I do watch the extras a fair amount.
    As for the folder structure, I typically watch movies using PowerDVD 9 and My movies 3 in windows media center. Since you point My Movies 3 to the .iso file or .vob file for each movie, I have no reason to remember which drive I saved a specific movie too. I can simply load Windows Media Center, select My Movies, and pick a film as they are all displayed in alphabetical order with their cover art. When I add a new movie I simply add it to My Movies 3 and point the database to the file, and then I don't have to think about it again.
  • pomatoso - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    I have a question.
    I have a lot of DVD .iso images.
    Does the Patriot allow to navigating menù without uncoding DVD in ifo/vob files?
    I'm not talking about BR, just traditional DVD.
    Thank you.
  • Voo - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    Am I the only one who has problems with the needed "fixes" to stream media from a Win7 system? If you're using LM hashes to store your password you can forgo anypassword immediatly, it's not as if that would stop anyone. Also what's with users who use passwords with more than 14 characters? LM Hashes don't work for those.

    Probably not a big problem in a home environment, but nevertheless a bad solution..
  • vshah - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    The interface is strikingly similar, even identical in certain places, to the Asus O!Play HDP-R1, which has similar capabilities. I wonder if the products are somehow related.
  • spacemonkey211 - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    This really isn't that new of a category. There are at least 5 players in this ~$100 price point...

    Roku player, WD TV (gen 1, 2 and Live), Prodigi Player, ASUS O!Play, CinemaTube, etc...

    In fact most reviews that I have read show that the Patriot Box is really mediocre compared to the competition.
  • mcnabney - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    So which player is best for me?

    I have/need:

    Stream .VOBs in folders off of a WHS
    Tune-in TV from HDHomeRun
    Can connect to an oldish HDTV through DVI (probably w/ adapter) that only supports 1080i.
    Hulu, NetFlix streaming
    Perhaps even 'lite' browsing for in-a-pinch situations
    I run gigabit ethernet and wireless
    Play lossless WMA audio off WHS
    Search/display/slideshow .JPGs off WHS
  • KoVaR - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    I find it disappointment that it only supports 100Mb Ethernet

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