Intel has seen a sudden surge in demand for its CE41xx chips in the media streaming set top box market. Boxee was the first to bring a device based on the CE4100 to the market in the Boxee Box. At CES 2011, Syabas announced that the future generation of NMTs would be based on the CE41xx series. Boxee also made its way into some CE4100 based products such as the Iomega NAS boxes and some Viewsonic TV models. In the meanwhile, A.C.Ryan also announced their Fluxx media streaming STB based on the highest end product in the CE41xx lineup, the CE4150.

The main advantage of the CE4150 over its lesser cousins is the overclocked PowerVR SGX535 graphics engine which chugs along at 400 MHz compared to the 200 MHz of the CE4100 and CE4130. In addition, it also has an AV input which the CE4100 doesn't have.

The AV input in the CE4150 translates to a HDMI-In port on the Fluxx. This port serves two purposes. On one hand, users may opt to record the raw video coming over the link (as long as it is not HDCP protected). This, however, is not something of much interest to most users as the raw video is usually of very high bandwidth ( > 1 Gbps for 1080p30 video ) and it would take up too much disk space. That said, it does duplicate some of the functionality currently existing in products like Blackmagic Design's Intensity Shuttle (which itself is targeted towards professional video editors). The second functionality of the HDMI-In port is similar to the feature available in the Logitech Revue (acting as a passthrough / PiP functionality). This would also make it an interesting feature for game and widget developers who can dream up more fun / functional apps.

The CE4150 is the same chip which is being used in the Logitech Revue (Google TV) box. However, the markets targeted by these two products have very little overlap. A.C.Ryan is hoping for a premium set top box experience, with more frills added to the experience provided by the PlayOn! HD series. After having looked at both the Boxee Box and the Fluxx in operation, it is evident that the premium graphics engine in the Fluxx does lead to snappier and more pleasing UI.

There are features in the Fluxx which make it a 'social connected media player', but, thankfully, those features can be turned off. Facebook and Twitter widgets aren't ones I would particularly like on my media player / streamer, but I would definitely like to hear from readers as to whether it is a feature they would want. The processing power of the Atom SoC also makes it possible to have in-built scraping for media libraries and a Flash enabled web browser. Support for multiple DRM methods should make content providers happy.

Priced at $249 for the model without storage, it can't be categorized as an impulse buy. However, if it is able to get the capabilities of the Roku boxes while also delivering the local media capabilities of the Dune series, the Fluxx might well turn out to be worth the cost. A.C.Ryan tells us that they have a tie up with Samsung to provide drives for the internal hard drive included models without any markup. The 500 GB model comes in at $279, while the 1 TB, 1.5 TB and 2 TB models are priced at $299, $319 and $339 respectively.

A point to note is that A.C.Ryan doesn't believe in saddling consumers with the cost of 3D capable STBs. We completely agree with their decision, considering that 3D has really not been able to take off as a mainstream feature yet. There are lots of features which are yet to be perfected by media streamers in the 2D world itself!

The Fluxx model comes in at 200x190x62 mm, and is definitely an imposing player. It was much bigger at first glance than I expected it to be. The top of the streamer is made of aluminium, and acts as a heat sink. The motherboard itself is passively cooled, as can be seen in the picture below.

The system, however, still has a low RPM fan in order to facilitate air movement and apparently needs to be kept on even if no hard disk is placed inside the unit.

The Fluxx has all the oft-request features from media streamer users such as auto frame rate, extensive codec and subtitle support and an interface which can rival XBMC in usability as well as appearance. It has NFS/SMB/AFP and FTP support. DLNA and uPnP are also supported in client and server forms. The full spec list is linked here for your convenience. The backlit QWERTY IR remote also has an exhaustive set of dedicated buttons for various media control functions. We also have support for USB keyboards and mice.

Over the last few months, we have found that media streamer manufacturers are very willing to listen to user feedback (particularly, feedback from us at AnandTech). A.C.Ryan has a positive history of listening to users, and we believe any software features requested / issues reported by users will be attended to promptly.

We do have some concerns about the Fluxx product for the US market. The main problem is that none of the premium content providers have been linked to it. Netflix is slated to come in sometime after the launch in March 2011. Talks are ongoing with the other content providers. Our other concern is the absence of full BD menu support in the product. Given the price point, we would have liked full BD support like what is present in the Netgear NTV550. Without that, we would have gladly given up AACS / protected commercial BD playback if we could get full BD-ISO menu support for unprotected images. Full BD-ISO menu support apparently doesn't require a BDA / AACS license, but only a Java license for the BD-J implementation. We believe most media streamer users don't care for BD-Live, and would gladly give that up as long as they have BD-J menus working properly. However, the Fluxx doesn't have a Java license as of now. A.C.Ryan tells me that they are exploring the possibility of getting some of the above licenses, but they are not planned as part of the product right now.

In essence, A.C.Ryan is betting upon premium video services to entice users rather than providing advanced local media capabilities. Right now, it looks like they have a lot of work left to do. We will be keeping a close watch as the product nears the launch date (March 2011).

A.C.Ryan's Plans for the US Market A.C.Ryan PlayOn! Series
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  • adiposity - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Well, I got a ceton 4 channel card about 3 months ago. What's your problem?
  • ap90033 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Well I got 3 Dual HD Homerun Tuner so I can record 6 shows OTA at the same time, I use comskip to skip commercials and anything not OTA I get with Hulu or Boxee/Zinc. It works pretty well...
  • Activate: AMD - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    The Ceton exists, but is only available through a couple distributors, its $400, and the backorder is something like 3 months. I've been waiting for mine since i ordered on 11/20.

    I agree that having more 3rd party STB's or HTPC's with cablecard acess should be easier. People see my HTPC (with the ATI cableCARD tuner which is no longer sold new) and are amazed. Going back to the standard Comcast STB my parents have is absolute torture. But until more people start yelling for it , the cablecos will fight against it tooth-and-nail, because that 15/mo or whatever they charge for a DVR is a healthy profit for them. People aren't willing to vote with their wallets because right now there are no true alternatives besides TiVo and they just settle for the garbage UI's and sub-par features of their cableco DVRs.

    Unfortunately, your point that cable companies need to make a case for their services is something that will not turn out to be true. They'll just lock their content down even harder and digital services won't have anything to play. Youtube on my TV is cool and all.. but its not exactly a cable replacement. What I'd love to see is a move to more of an open system where you can pick and choose channels rather than bundles where you only watch 5 of the 120 channels you pay for.
  • ckryan - Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - link

    What if... the cable companies made the device? I know they never would, but I think the capabilities of an HTPC that could record your HD cable content wouldn't be an obscure product. If mainstream users knew it was possible, and there was a price competitive option, I think it would do well here. The market just needs one product acting as the tip of the spear. I feel like I'm only a year or two away from ditching cable entirely. The amount of free or low cost HD content I have at my disposal is already considerable. Bolstered with an OTA antenna and tuner, I'd have the ability to watch the local networks in my area as well. I already have Netflix and Hulu. With over the air HD content in the mix, I am to the point where I am seriously considering ditching my super expensive cable. I know some of the cable companies are trying to get in the middle of content prodution, but right now service providers need to make a more compelling case for their not inexpensive product. They know some people are starting to consider cutting them out. They will have to protect the market they have, and I don't know if they're going to do it by providing a better service. I believe that the cable companies providing internet services are going to try to screw Netflix and their customers.
  • casteve - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    I read the headline and was very happy. Then I read this:

    "In addition to the above models, A.C.Ryan has also lined up a media streamer / DVR combo with support for dual DVB-T digital tuners (simultaneous watching and recording). This is based on the Realtek 1283C+ chipset. The DVR model will not be sold in the US due to lack of market interest."

    Crap. What will it take for a third party to enter and be successful in the tuner+DVR space? I really don't want a PC acting as a DVR nor do I want to be handcuffed to Comcast/TiVo/etc...
  • Activate: AMD - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Thats because DVB-T is not a standard used in the US. They would have to design one with ATSC for OTA tuning, and ClearQAM and/or CableCARD for cable channels. This is a lot of redesign work, not just a mater of not bringing it to the US
  • SlyNine - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    How will this handle my media library, will I be able to make playlists, Will it remember my password to my media shares so my not so swavy roommates can watch movies.

    How it builds and links to the library is one of the most important aspects of a media streamer thats made to site in the living room and be usable by grandma, or a 5 yo.
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    reminds me of one of the aliens from an early take on Space Invaders (Galaxian?) which I remember from my dim and distant school days

    Like many I really wish cable companies would get off their high horse and provide plug in cards to allow us to use an HTPC in place of the cable set top box.

    Come on AMD fusion looks perfect for a low power HTPC
  • rickcain2320 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    They're afraid that techies like us will steal their programming and upload it everywhere, which is why you will never see a plug in cable card tuned to their programming.
  • s44 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    At $250, why wouldn't you buy a Playstation? Some of its streaming is hack-y, but because of the huge installed base new premium services will continue to target the platform. Plus it plays Blu-Ray and games...

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