Delving Deeper - Chipset & GUI

Styling is merely icing on the cake, the greater question is, does it work? According to Patriot, the Box Office supports the following formats:

Audio:
WMA, MP3, Real Audio (RA)

Images:
JPEG, BMP, PNG

Video:
[MPEG-1] MPG/MPEG/DAT
[MPEG-2] MPG/MPEG/VOB/ISO/TS/TP/M2TS
[MPEG-4] MP4/AVI/MOV, WMV9, FLA
[H.264/AVC] MKV/TS/AVI/MOV/M2TS
[DviX 3/4/5/6, Xvid] AVI/MKV
[Real Video 8/9/10] RM/RMVB

That’s quite the list. The Box Office also states that it will operate at full 1080p resolution thanks to its Realtek RTD1073DD chipset. The RTD1073 is the third generation media processing chipset from Realtek, adding features such as DNR (Digital Noise Reduction), Blu-ray HD including AVCHD and VC-1 at a 1.25X decoding/playback rate to ensure a seamless viewing experience, as well as support for wireless 802.11b/g/n USB adapters. This chipset has been quite popular, and is also utilized by the Mede8er MED500X, and the Ariva HDplayer 110. The RTD1073DD handles all video and audio decoding for the Box Office. It lets Patriot build a fairly capable box without using a powerful CPU.

After I took the time to rip all my movies to my PC, download virtual clone drive, the MyMovies database, purchased an ATI 5000 series video card and Cyberlink PowerDVD 9 to get full Blu-ray playback on my home theater through Windows Media Center without having to change discs or have a massive media rack filled with CDs and DVD/Blu-rays... well, I scoffed at the idea that this little box could work just as well. And I was partially right straight out of the gate, as the Patriot Box Office currently does not support any of the hi-def audio codecs (Dolby True HD or DTS-Master) but support is coming in the form of a firmware update slated for March release.

Patriot was kind enough to send me the wireless 802.11g USB adapter that is normally sold separately. If you’re thinking that you can just throw an old USB wireless adapter into this box, think again. The Realtek RTD1073 chipset is somewhat picky with the chipsets it will recognize. Those Linksys adapters based on Ralink chipsets? They won’t work, so just a heads up there.

Plugging the box into my power strip as well as into the receiver via HDMI, I powered it up for the first time. It has a nice hardware power switch in back to prevent power seepage while in standby. The GUI is much like the product itself with function being emphasized over form, nothing flashy here. A plain black background with simple icons greets the user upon starting up the box. The initial menu is easy enough to understand, displaying only three options. There is the option to transfer files between attached storage devices, browse your media storage for files, or enter setup.

I entered the setup menu and set my display out to 1080p60 and set the audio to HDMI Raw, which will send the audio to my receiver for decoding.

Entering the browser, there are a few options to choose from, including USB, HDD (the internal HDD), UPnP streaming, Net, and playlist. I selected Net first and found my PC promptly displayed. Upon selecting the PC however, no files appeared within! After doing some reading in the forums, it seems a few registry tweaks are needed to facilitate streaming from a windows 7 based system. Again, a sign that this product is not quite ready for the average consumer.

There are three main registry tweaks required to allow this box to stream on a Windows 7 system. First requires the user to go to HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\ and double click on “everyoneincludesanonymous” and set the value from 0 to 1. This adds anonymous users to the “Everyone” sharing group in Windows 7, allowing anonymous users, in this case the Box office to access your shared media folders. Now make sure that when you right click a media folder to share with the Box Office, you set the share group to “everyone”. Next double click on NoLmHash and set it from 1 to 0. Windows 7 does not store a LAN Manger Hash of your user password by default, and the absence of said encypted password prevents proper operation of the Box Office. From here, access HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanManSe and double click on “restrictnullsessaccess” and change the value from 1 to 0. Left at one, Windows 7 limits the shared folders accessible to unauthorized users, in this case the Box Office. These issues with the Patriot Box office being properly recognized are slated to be addressed in the next firmware update for the unit.

I made the necessary adjustments and was off and running. Browsing through the folder structure is okay, if you can remember where you saved various movie files on your system. When a file is selected, a preview opens up in an adjacent window.

Testing - Great Over Wired, Iffy Over Wireless
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  • ajlueke - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    That really seems to be the route the industry is pushing the desktop into. You have a large home server that contains your storage space, and then modular devices to tap into that content, like a media box, and a notebook for productivity etc.
    I don't think Boxes like this are meant to replace an HTPC as the hub of the home entertainment network.
    For me personally, most of these boxes lack enough internal storage space to hold all my movies, music pictures etc, so I need to have a desktop or server for that anyway to stream off of. I really like the 360s capability to stream my media center interface and watch my recorded TV, a feature I think I will use more with the launch of the Ceton cable cards next month. http://cetoncorp.com/products.php">http://cetoncorp.com/products.php
    But it lacks support for .iso and many other popular movie formats. Boxes like the Patriot are able to play just about all of my local content but cannot play my recorded TV. There always seems to be something missing so in the end, I just hook up the desktop directly to my receiver and call it good. The I also have easy access to Hulu, netflix and Boxee on the PC, and if you have an Iphone you can use an app like Hipporemote to control the various programs(love that app!)
    What Boxes like this are useful for, is streaming content for the main home theater to a bedroom television or something of that nature. The living room is currently the center of my home entertainment experience, with movies, music and games ampily supplied by a PC. But for $100 a box like this a great way to get some of that content into the bedroom or a game room etc.
    Reply
  • Pjotr - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - link

    I use Windows Home Server in a smaller ATX box that fits, with an extra 3x5.25" enclosure that fits 4x3.5" HDs, a total of 9 HDs. I buy 1-2 new drives each year and retire the oldest smallest drive at intervals. Windows Home Server is superb in the way you can just keep adding storage seemlessly.

    I use a PS3 to play my media, using the http://ps3mediaserver.blogspot.com/">http://ps3mediaserver.blogspot.com/ to repackage and/or recode on the fly from the WHS based on format. It handles every format I've ever tried (it can also serve XBox, mobile devices etc!). The PS3 sees the WHS/PS3MS as a media server and I just play from there.
    Reply
  • snKorst - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    none of them have VGA or DVI out

    and none of them can at least read if not record DVB-S.

    Why would i need this box, when i need another box playing real time TV and switch for them? Just another useless device built in huge quantities around some new multimedia all-in-one chip.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    Umm, for a media player device HDMI seems to be a perfectly reasonable connection. Reply
  • chdude3 - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    Not to mention that with a physical adapter you can connect HDMI to DVI... Essentially, anything with HDMI *does* support DVI. Reply
  • taltamir - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    I am talking from experience here, wireless g is unacceptable for movie streaming.
    Only wireless N can stream movies.
    wired naturally works well. Although its better to have the files locally.

    This thing could really use an open source OS (which means it will get upgrades even when a newer version comes out) and netflix streaming.
    Reply
  • ajlueke - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    In regards to the open source OS, you can download it here...
    http://patriotmemory.com/products/manuals/boxoffic...">http://patriotmemory.com/products/manuals/boxoffic...
    Reply
  • legoman666 - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    Indeed. I've found that I can stream up to 100mb/s on my wireless N connection, which is more than enough for any HD movie. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    So I have to ask: what sort of router do you use for you 11n network? I've gone through a LinkSys, a D-Link, and now I'm on a TrendNet. Granted, all are "Draft 2.0" 11n routers, but I'm not sure if the finalized spec would help or not. My problem is this:

    From my home, I can see at least five other networks. My local WiFi is the best signal, and the others are secured, but they seem to cause a lot of interference. If I enable the dual-channel 11n support in my router(s), I get regular drop-outs of WiFi, and the only recourse is to reboot the router. So, I've now dropped down to 20MHz 11n/11g and it doesn't crash as much. If I really want it to stay stable, I need to run in 11g only mode.

    Now, with 40MHz dual-channel 11n, I can transfer at up to ~9MB/s (close to 100Mbit Ethernet), but that's only if I'm transferring wired to wireless; transfer between two laptops and the rate drops to about 2-3MB/s.

    In short, 11n WiFi has been hugely disappointing to me. I'm trying to determine if it's my neighborhood, router, or a combination of those. If you've had a lot more success in a neighborhood with several visible WiFi networks, like I said, I'd love to know what router you're using! (And let's not even get into my 2.4GHz wireless landline phone blasting away my network.... Gotta upgrade that for sure!)
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, February 18, 2010 - link

    I use the D-Link DIR-655 and consistently get real-world transfer speeds of 25MB-33MB/sec (megabytes) over the wireless anywhere in the house (two stories) or out in the seperated garage with my N-devices. My G-devices are always maxed out. I even let my next door neighbor leech off me. It sits in the basement under the kitchen floor (centrally located).

    I loved it so much that I bought for my parents and installed it in their house. Same results. We each run Atom 330 Windows Home Servers and use them for backups and streaming. I can stream Blu-Ray rips effortlessly to multiple devices at once.

    It was on sale for $85 on Newegg last week, I think. I highly recommend it.

    Oh! One thing to note, you have to go into the settings and double the rate from 20Hz to 40Hz in order to get the higher speeds. Also, I run mine in mixed mode. Good luck!
    Reply

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