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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  • GokieKS - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    Can you test to see what's the subtitle support (SRT/SSA/ASS) like?

    The thing looks pretty cheap (the power switch being tilted is quite jarring), but that's a minor issue. The working bits seem solid, and if subtitle support is good, could be just what I'm looking for.
    Reply
  • ajlueke - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    I'll take a look at it this evening and post the results back here. Reply
  • ajlueke - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    ART and SSA are definitely supported, and switching is actually quite easy, same goes for the audio. I didn't have anything available with ASS subtitles. But browsing through the manual I saw the following...Box Office supports srt, sub, smi, idx+sub, ssa, ass. So it looks like you should be covered Reply
  • Director - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    A couple of media streaming boxes (ahem Netgear) won't stream from W7 machines, something to do with the way Samba shares work on windows 7. How did this box go?

    Cheers
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    Umm, that is made pretty clear both in the text and the conclusion that a few registry tweaks are necessary on the Win7 machine for streaming to work. Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    This Patriot media device doesn't sound up to par with the Popcorn Hour line of media players or even the WD TV Live. I'd go with one of those before going with this thing.


    With the D-Link Boxee Box and Sybas Popbox coming out soon, this Patriot media box is dead in the water. It seems like 2010 is the year of stand alone digital media players, I wonder which one will come out on top.

    If Microsoft and Sony would have made the X-Box 360 and PS3 into true digital media players, there would be no market for stand alone players like Popcorn Hour, WD TV Live, and all these others coming out. It would have been great if I could have filled up a portable hard drive with movies in several different codecs and just plugged it into a USB slot on my X-Box 360 and have it play everything back perfectly, but the X-Box 360 doesn't even support movies that have 5.1 audio, FAIL!

    Microsoft and Sony could have really made their console systems great and gave people another reason to purchase them. I wonder why they don't add a plethora of video codec/audio support? All they need to do is send out an update to add the support, imagine being able to play back every digital file you have through your game console and not have to buy a separate box just to do that, come on Microsoft and Sony, what is stopping them?
    Reply
  • chdude3 - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    OK dude, look at the price of a Popcorn versus a WDTV or the Patriot. Different class of player and not a fair comparison.

    And I think one big selling point that was overlooked is the fact that the Patriot box fully supports DVD Menus for your ripped movies (and I think for Blu Ray as well - if not right now then with the coming firmware). I don't think ANY of the WD units do that.
    Reply
  • Suntan - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    If they can get full BR menus and/or HDA bitstreaming with a firmware update, I’d be extremely impressed. They aren’t the first company to use this chipset (it’s all over out there) and they aren’t the first company to have their customers ask for menu support and HDA bitstreaming.

    That said, they also wouldn’t be unique if they promised new features would be added with a future firmware update only to string their customers along for months on end… (PCH I’m looking right at you….)

    -Suntan
    Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, February 27, 2010 - link

    Popcorn Hour C-200 supports retail (encrypted) BD's and DVD's. Thus also menus. But I'm sure Patriot will not release anything of the sort. Simple BD is possible though I guess. Reply
  • ajlueke - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    I think Realtek deserves a lot of credit here. Bringing out a multimedia decoding chipset with this kind of capability at this price? A year ago, to get HDA on the PC required the purchase of $100 blu-ray software, and then a $200 soundcard. Reply

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