The Mede8er MED1000X3D is a 1080p hi-def media streamer with support for playback of 3D frame-packed Blu-ray ISO’s (which exact Blu-ray disc image files). It also plays the other 3D formats: side-by-side (SBS) and top/bottom.While not the first full 3D streamer to hit the market, the 1000X3D deserves serious consideration as Mede8er is behind it. With their previous streamers, they’ve managed to offer better features, functionality, and user experience at a reasonable price-points that other manufacturers with similar hardware in this space haven’t. Does the 1000X3D continue that tradition with 3D support in the mix? Let’s find out…
Background and Overview
Mede8er’s new 1000X3D media streamer/player is an exciting product if you’re into that sort of thing ;)… that is, streaming hi-def and 3D videos within your home network. I’ve tried many media streamers over the years (honestly lost count) in my home theater (see review gear listed below), ever since I gave up on physical discs (DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs). Instead of racks or walls full of discs, media streamers allow storing content on a home server, a network attached storage (NAS) in my case, and stream that content anywhere in the home. While media streamers make up a niche market for hi-def playback gear, the quality, features and ease of use (to an extent) have evolved a lot since the early days of Popcorn Hour A-110, WD TV, etc. For further control, I sometimes also use a home theater computer (HTPC), but set-top media streamers are more user-friendly (to an extent again, as you need to be into this stuff and bring out your inner tech geek to take full advantage).
For 2D, Popcorn Hour (PCH), Dune and Mede8er rank among the top with enthusiasts for local media playback. Boxee Box, Roku, etc. cater more to streaming Internet content fans. However, they’re less than ideal for local media playback, which is what I’m most interested in. Boxee Box has come close to being that ideal best-of-both-worlds streamer, but unfortunately Boxee has all but abandoned fixing bugs and communicating with its user base. Support, which Mede8er I’ve found to be responsive at, is crucial for media streamers as they are complicated devices, almost mini-computers, that require regular updates to fix bugs and improve/add features and functionality.
What makes Mede8er exciting is not only having the usual solid 2D playback, but also full 3D support, along with jukebox capability (a virtual movie rack or wall, only way better) to let you organize and view your collection of movies and TV shows via a nice graphical user interface (UI), with metadata for searching, sorting by genres, titles, etc.
So, let’s examine the 1000X3D closely…
Build Quality and Features
The Mede8er MED1000X3D itself has an oval spaceship-like design, heavier than you initially expect, and with brushed aluminium.
It definitely doesn’t feel like cheap plastic as other media streamers in the market.
Maybe I’m being boring here, but I still prefer standard black, rectangular boxes for my home theater gear. The 1000X3D’s design isn’t as funky as that of Boxee Box, so it at least blends in better with all your home theater gear. And, at the end of the day, it’s what is inside that counts anyway, basically how well it performs.
The remote looks fairly slick, but does feel like cheap plastic. On the other hand, this also makes it very lightweight. It’s well-designed, with buttons intuitively organized, and it’s backlit for dark home theaters. Note that the remote requires a fairly direct line-of-sight to the 1000X3D in order to control it properly, to avoid having to re-point and re-press buttons. Even off axis somewhat, it wasn’t as responsive. Instead, my Harmony One universal remote did a noticeably better job controlling the streamer. The 1000X3D’s remote is nicer than the 450X2′s if you do plan on using it.
The 1000X3D has the usual connections you would expect in a modern media streamer, namely HDMI 1.4 output and ethernet/LAN, which are the two most important ports. While its LAN supports gigabit connection, I didn’t test 1000X3D’s network speeds directly (rather focusing on streaming actual high bitrate videos). There is also a USB 3.0 port (backwards 2.0 compatible), which is useful for a high-speed connected local USB 3.0 or 2.0 hard drive with media files.When I first turned on the 1000X3D and waited until it booted up to the main menu/UI, I noticed it was quite a bit snappier than my 450X2, the 2D player from Mede8er I got earlier this year (pictured above). The Realtek 1186 chip in the 1000X3D has something to do with this (vs. the 1185 in the 450X2), and the fact that Mede8er wisely opted to nix Android support from its firmware. Android on other 1186-based 3D streamers like HiMedia HD900B, Micca EP600 G2, Xtreamer Prodigy and Sidewinder 3, etc. is mostly a gimmick.You’ll find my thread at AVSForum of HD900B here, which was the first full 3D streamer in the market, and for which I was an early adopter (a.k.a. guinea pig by choice). The main menu/UI on the 1000X3D is simple and well-designed, and obviously influenced by XBMC, which is regarded as the ultimate jukebox for HTPCs. With Mede8er, you can optionally customize its UI via community-built skin packs and custom icons available in the Mede8er support forum.
As for features, the 1000X3D is first and foremost a local media streamer, which you will ideally connect to your media server shares via Samba (SMB) or NFS protocol. You can add your shares to ‘Favorites’ for easy access and to launch/use the jukebox (which I’ll get into later), and even set the streamer to boot to it as opposed to the main UI. The ‘Setup’ section lets you set your video, audio and other settings to best match you display and audio gear.The other two areas from the main UI are the YouTube app and Internet shortcuts that let you access limited Internet content. The 1000X3D has an integrated HTML5 web browser. There is no Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. If online streaming is more important to you, Roku is the ideal choice. If online and local are equally important, with HD audio support (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master), then you’re best served by two streamers for each purpose. If you don’t care about HD audio, then Boxee Box as I noted earlier, is a good both-in-one solution, albeit with support issues I’ve also noted. This is for 2D that is. Many failry recent 2D streamers, Boxee included, can play SBS and top/bottom 3D formats, but not full Blu-ray frame-packed 3D.
Playback and Performance
Smooth, artifact and stutter-free 2D and 3D video streaming quality and performance via a home network is where it really counts for media streamers. Of all the media streamers I’ve owned or tried, PCH A-210/A-300, Dune and Mede8er’s MED450X2 performed the best for 2D hi-def, especially high bitrate Blu-ray rips. They played video smoothly and HD audio without dropouts. (Update 10/2: The exception so far has been with some high bitrate Blu-ray 3D ISO files, namely ‘Titanic’ 3D and ‘The Avengers’ 3D, which both stuttered several times for me. In fact, I had to stop/restart playback a couple of times. I also had HD audio dropouts.) Realtek-based 1185 (like 450X2) and 1186 (like 1000X3D, HiMedia HD900B) streamers do perform even better than Sigma-based (PCH, Dune) in terms of wider variety of formats/codecs, including video chip-punishing 1080p/60 files and less-than-ideally authored files (like improper frame rate or other flaws). These 1185/1186 streamers tend to be more forgiving, which is great if you have a variety of videos like me sourced from all over the place: Blu-ray, cable/satellite/over-the-air (OTA) HDTV captures, Internet downloads, camcorder clips, etc. As expected, Mede8er 1000X3, like its brother 450X2, overall excels at video playback.
As you can tell by this point, my focus is on local video playback, and not on music and photos. The 1000X3D supports the latter, including a jukebox for music, but I’ve rarely used media streamers for music, instead relying on Squeezebox Touch and Radio, which are near-perfect for music streaming. And, you don’t need to fire up a HDTV or projector to navigate to and listen to music. For photos, most media streamers do a decent job of showing off your family poses and adventure shots on a big screen, via a slideshow if you wish. Boxee Box even lets you play a song in the background while running a photo slideshow, with automatic panning and zooming, which is fun. But, I digress…
The video playback tests I did on my 1000X3D were with the latest firmware available at the time, V1.0.3_Aug22_BETA. (Update 10/2: Additional Blu-ray 3D tests were done with V1.0.3_Sept29_BETA.) Since then, newer firmwares have already been released, with one addressing a playback issue with high bitrate MKVs over SMB. I personally haven’t experienced this issue yet with the 1000X3D, and hope I never do. But, Mede8er’s support so far has been terrific, with frequent open beta releases and them taking all community feedback seriously. This kind of support is fairly uncommon in the media streamer world and really welcome, especially with media streamers behaving like mini-computers as I’ve noted.
Specifically, I’ve tested a handful of Blu-ray rips (in MKV and ISO containers), Revision3 and YouTube-downloaded MP4 clips, cable/satellite/OTA TS captures, and camcorder 1080p/60 MTS files. All played smoothly, without stutter, over my cat5e wired SMB home network. With the YouTube MP4 files, I got video, but no audio. I’ll need to re-test by following Mede8er’s suggestion to use ‘Auto’ for my HDMI setting in the 1000X3D. I also had stutter with a satellite 3D SBS (side-by-side) capture of the 2012 London Olympics, but as it also stuttered via my HiMedia HD900B, it’s likely the file itself at fault. I also played around a half-dozen Blu-ray 3D ISO files and all played perfectly (Update 10/2: Some high bitrate ISO’s stutter.) I still need to test many more videos and types in order to better gauge the 1000X3D’s playback and streaming performance, but so far, I’m finding it solid. I’ll update this review as I get to use the streamer more.
Onto more geeky tests. Upon request by a member at AVSForum, I downloaded and tested the Motion Bars test video clips at various framerates. I wasn’t sure exactly what to look for, but played each clip for 15-30 seconds and found the following:
- MotionBars_720p50.000.m2ts: Top two bars stutter as they move from right to left, bottom bar slightly
- MotionBars_720p59.940.m2ts: All bars move smoothly
- MotionBars_720p60.000.m2ts: All bars move smoothly
- MotionBars_1080p23.976.m2ts: All three bars stutter (same result with auto framerate disabled)
- MotionBars_1080p24.000.m2ts: Top two bars stutter, bottom bar slightly
- MotionBars_1080p59.940.m2ts: All bars move smoothly
- MotionBars_1080p60.000.m2ts: All bars move smoothly
- MotionBarsSBS_1080p23.976.m2ts: Top two bars stutter, bottom bar slightly
- MotionBarsSBS_1080p24.000.m2ts: Top two bars stutter, bottom bar slightly
Some media streamers don’t correctly render 23.976 (most Blu-ray movies) and 24.000 framerate (not as common) film-based content exactly at those framerates, and as a result the video will jump/skip frames about every 42 seconds (41.6 to be exact). This can be annoying while watching a 2-hour movie, especially if you’re prone to noticing them. I’ll admit I never paid attention to this issue until recently, and after actually looking for it without trying to blink, I noticed it via my HiMedia HD900B, which suffers from the issue for 3D at 23.976. In my case, I believe my Optoma HD33 projector is doing a really good job masking (or at least minimizing) the issue, because during actual movie watching and not framerate watching ;), I only occasionally notice jumped/skipped frames. Mede8er claims its 1000X3D is the first 1186-based streamer to resolve the framerate issue for NTSC-land (60Hz) and PAL-land (50Hz) users separately, but this particular issue hasn’t bothered me enough yet to worry about.
As a final point on framerate, I watched about 20 minutes of ‘Star Wars: Episode II’, which played without any issues for me, with perfect DTS-HD Master 6.1 audio, and 23.98 (23.976 rounded up) showing for the framerate when I pressed ‘Info’ on the 1000X3D remote. While playing back ‘Avatar’ 3D, it showed an odd 23.99 framerate (should be 23.98 as well), but it too played fine. (Update: Mede8er has now corrected framerate for both 2D and 3D film-based content to output exactly at 23.976.) The video appeared smooth, at least for about 10 minutes I let it play, and again the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio bitstreamed fine via my receiver.
Update 9/12: I just did some tests with the latest V1.03 – 12Sept 2012-BETA firmware. Except for a small issue, it’s an excellent firmware update. Both 2D and 3D film-based movies are now being output properly at exactly 23.976. Previously, it was 23.98 for 2D and 23.99 for 3D. This becomes the first 1186 streamer to get framerates correctly nailed down. Next, the alpha BD ‘Playlist’ functionality: I enabled BD menu and tried ‘Cars 2′ 3D BD-ISO, but got a ‘no 3D display detected’ message. Turned off BD menu, and movie played correctly in 3D. Had to re-enable BD menu after movie started to test ‘Playlist’ functionality. The good news is that it works great. The only issue I notice is that Disney/Pixar 3D ISO’s now play the wrong (Spanish) credits playlist by default, not the correct English as it did prior to this firmware. In other words, you’re now forced to use the playlist function to guess the correct (English) playlist. I’ve made Mede8er aware of this, so it should hopefully be resolved in the next firmware update.
Continuing on with 3D, the primary reason to get the 1000X3D, in addition to ‘Avatar’ 3D, I tested Blu-rays that have multiple playlists and those that have right-eye as the first stream. As most full, frame-packed 3D Blu-rays have left-eye as the first stream, titles like ‘Rio’ 3D and ‘Drive Angry’ 3D, which have right-eye first, look like a jumbled mess if not rendered properly. You can flip your 3D glasses upside down and the 3D effect will looks fine, but obviously no one wants to do that. HiMedia corrected the issue via a firmware update for HD900B and Micca’s 3D streamers (which it actually builds and supports), and I’m happy to report Mede8er’s 1000X3D also has an option to swap L/R-eye for this when you press ‘Menu’ after playback starts.
As for Blu-rays with multiple playlists, HiMedia also addressed that issue later by adding a playlist navigator via the BD-lite menu option. Xtreamer’s 3D streamers didn’t have this option when I had a Sidewinder 3, briefly upon its release.
Mede8er has said they’re working on a similar feature, but contrary to their release notes from 8/10/2012 about an alpha implementation, it hasn’t yet been implemented. However, when I tested the Blu-rays for which the wrong playlist gets selected by default in HD900B, it wasn’t the case in 1000X3D. (Updated 10/2: Mede8er has now implemented this feature and it works well.) Thankfully, the correct playlist played for Disney/Pixar titles like ‘Cars 2′ 3D and ‘Toy Story 3′ 3D, and for ‘Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk’ 3D. For the former, in the HD900B, the Spanish credits (not English) playlist got defaulted to, and for latter, the making-of documentary (not the main feature) got defaulted to. Even though the 1000X3D doesn’t suffer from this issue, a playlist navigator will nonetheless be a welcome feature when it’s added. It will allow selection of alternate playlists, including making-of’s or other featurettes included in a Blu-ray ISO.
Bugs that Need Fixing
The following is a list of key bugs I’m aware of:
High bitrate hi-def MKVs with DTS-HD MA stuttering over SMB (Didn’t experience personally, but the user who flagged the issue to Mede8er claims the latest V1.0.3_29August_BETA firmware fixed the issue. However, this user still has audio dropouts with 3D BD-ISOs over SMB.) ‘Failed’ connection to NFS (Don’t know if it applies to others, but I can’t connect via NFS to my Synology NAS, while I can with Boxee Box and HiMedia HD900B. I plan to keep trying as NFS appears to be a fussy beast in comparison to SMB.) With regard to NFS, a feature I would recommend Mede8er borrow from HiMedia is network discovery of NFS shares. With my HD900B, I was easily able to connect to NFS via this method. These photos show what I mean (Update 10/2: Mede8er has now added this, making NFS setup much easier):
Shares in ‘Favorites’ don’t scan at first (When I turn on my 1000X3D, go into ‘Favorites’, highlight a saved shortcut/share and press ‘Menu’ to scan, I get an ‘Invalid link’ message. If I retry, the same thing happens. But, if I go into the share, back out to the ‘Favorites’ list, and try scanning again, it works fine.)‘Invalid navigation’ error (This appears when the Blu-ray menu feature is enabled after pressing ‘F3′ on the remote. However, I chose ‘Continue’ and playback seemed to go fine, including for 3D titles (with 2D version on the same ISO), and the correct 3D playlist plays.)Zoomed-in main menu UI upon first boot-up (This sometimes occurs, other times not. Instead of the main UI showing up properly scaled as shown several photos above, I get the following. If I switch to another HDMI input on my receiver and switch back, the UI appears fine. This bug has plagued other Realtek 1186 players I’ve tried, and it could be due to them switching from the default 50Hz video output to my 60Hz streamer setting. It’s a minor issue and may only affect some displays, like my Optoma HD33 projector).Other known bugs are listed in Mede8er’s release notes.
Lastly, I’ll focus on Mede8er’s movie and TV jukebox. It isn’t specific to 1000X3D, and is available for 450/500X2 and other Mede8er streamers as well. But, what makes it special in 1000X3D is that it’s the first Realtek 1186 media streamer to have it for any location (local via USB hard drives or via network shares). I’ll clarify: implemented properly for movies, as Xtreamer did have it for its 3D streamers, it way buggy and couldn’t be customized when I had the Sidewinder 3.Mede8er’s implementation of its movie jukebox has been called a hybrid one (or not a true jukebox like those for PCH, Dune, etc.), but I still love it. Let me share two more photos:The reason Mede8er’s movie jukebox solution is called a hybrid is because it doesn’t work across different locations/shares and gel into a single, unified, indexed view of your collection, with the ability to search and sort across them from that single view. In my case, I have my movie shares organized as ‘Movies 2D’, ‘Movies 3D’ and ‘Concerts’. On my computer, I need to set-up an instance of YAMJ-to-Mede8er (Y2M), which is Mede8er’s jukebox generation tool, for each of those shares separately. It’s a bit of an inconvenience to manage and then view via separate shares on the Mede8er streamer, but this drawback is far outweighed by how easy and fun it is to use Y2M. Although based on Yet Another Jukebox (YAMJ), better known as the jukebox tool of choice for PCH media streamers, it’s so much better implemented within Y2M that it’s head-and-shoulders easier to use and manage your movie collection for Mede8er. More than YAMJ by itself for PCH.In Y2M, you specify which share to scan, where to output the jukebox on your computer, then after you visually review the results, finally click a button to generate the necessary poster, fanart/details and metadata files to the actual movie folders in your share(s). Y2M’s UI is clean, intuitive and overall well-designed.
For movies, before running Y2M or any jukebox generating tool, I strongly recommend naming each movie properly. You can Google how, but basically it means housing each movie it in its own folder, and using Ember Media Manager (or something similar) to pre-generate posters, fanart and NFO (metadata) files. When running Y2M, it will pick up your local images and NFOs first, followed by scraping from IMDb for whatever is missing, which gets you near 100% accurate jukebox results. Trust me, I have over 1,300 movie/concert titles :). For the few titles that are either not on IMDb or need some editing, you can easily make the modifications you want by using this XML editor on the output folder XML’s generated on your computer by Y2M. Then, you can copy to Mede8er (or push out) via Y2M the results to the actual movie folders in your share. The final step is on the Mede8er streamer itself, where you need to navigate to and highlight the appropriate shares (one at a time) under ‘Favorites’, press ‘Menu’ and choose ‘Scan Folder’. As a one-time setting, you’ll also need to make sure the you have the jukebox view enabled under ‘Setup’ and that you’ve selected the movie view while inside the share folder itself.Unfortunately, for TV shows, I don’t have kind words for Mede8er’s jukebox solution. It requires using a different tool, ThumbGen, which is clunky in its design and use, and slow to function. Also, the jukebox it generates leaves a lot of to be desired. It looks fine in the main TV shows view, but as you dig into a particular show, it’s ugly. I’ll let the photos below do the talking. Granted, I have other files ThumbGen doesn’t need and Mede8er shouldn’t see, like episodename.tbn videoimages for Boxee and XBMC, but unfortunately all files get shown when in jukebox view for TV, unlike for Movies. Also, there may be ways to make the results look cleaner, but as I didn’t care for ThumbGen or really even the ideally generated TV jukebox touted in Mede8er’s promotional video, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with it.My hope is Mede8er makes this one of its top priorities and extends the support of Y2M for TV in the same way it works for movies. Until then, if TV shows are your main interest, I’d look at PCH, Dune and Boxee Box instead. Their solutions are more elegant and overall just better to use.
Overall, as you know by now, I’m a fan of Mede8er and its MED1000X3D streamer. It’s a solid local 2D and 3D video streamer with a nice movie jukebox solution. (Update 10/2: The only caveat is the stuttering I’m find with high bitrate Blu-ray 3D ISO files.) User support is first-rate, with quick firmware fixes flowing in and a helpful forum. (Update 10/2: I’m looking forward to Popcorn Hour’s upcoming A-400 3D streamer to compare. Dune also plans to release 3D streamers by year’s end.) At present though, the bottom line is that if you want the best full 3D-capable media streamer available, I’ll recommend the 1000X3D without hesitation. Even with the bug fixes and performance tweaks underway, it’s a solid player for what it’s designed to do.
My Review Gear
- MED1000X3D, set to 1080p/24, auto frame rate, RAW 7.1 audio
- No internal hard disk; streaming from Synology DS1812+/DX512 combo NAS via SMB
- Networked via CAT5e throughout home
- Optoma HD33 full 1080p 3D projector with 119″ 16×9 Da-lite High Power screen
- Audio connection via HDMI to Onkyo TX-SR609 receiver
- Audio output to Infinity 7.2 channel floor-standing speaker system
- Additional networked equipment: Popcorn Hour A-300, HiMedia HD900B, (3x) Boxee Box, HTPC with XBMC, PS3, (2x) Squeezebox devices, desktop, laptop, iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire