Uebo M400 Review
1080p Media Player, $190
I've reviewed a few network media players - those little black boxes that can read and playback photos, music or videos stored on your computer and also stream Internet content. They loosely fall into two categories.
Devices like the Sony SMP-N100 basically furnish access to all the high profile Internet content providers like Netflix, YouTube, Vudu that you would expect to find with a new Blu-ray player. Of course, the SMP-100 can't play Blu-ray DVDs, but it also costs less.
The Uebo M400 falls into the other media player camp. Even though it includes access to Internet content heavyweights like YouTube and Pandora, it does not offer direct links to movie streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand.
What the M400 does offer are advanced networking capabilities like an FTP client, a uPnP/DLNA Server and perhaps more importantly to those living on the edge, its built-in BitTorrent Client allows you to download your latest torrent files. (I'll discuss BitTorrent [BT] later.)
Of course, you will need somewhere to store those files and the M400 is equipped with the connections and the space to add an SATAII hard drive up to 3TB in size with up to 3 Gb/s per second playback speed.
Last year, I reviewed the Nixeus Fusion HD media player with a similar form factor and features. The Uebo M400 has new and improved specifications. For example, one of its USB ports supports the speedier 3.0 file transfers. And it Realtek RTD1185 media processor handles high-speed gigabit Ethernet connections.
To round out the M400 package, an 802.11n compatible Wi-Fi adapter is built in. Though if you plan on downloading big video files, I would suggest that you stick with the speed and reliability of the wired gigabit connection.
Now, if your eyes glaze over when you read acronyms like FTP, uPnP and DLNA, then I suggest that you shop for a less geek-centric media player like the SMP-100.
But if your peepers get as wide dinner plates when you see BT features, then the Uebo M400 is a worthy paramour for your torrid torrent lust.
Out of the Box
When you look at the rather spacious M400, you must remember that almost half of its interior space is an empty 3.5" HDD bay - reserved for a SATAII hard drive that you can purchase separately and install.
The box sports a glossy black upper and a brushed silver surfaced lower. The Uebo designers kept the front uncluttered with only a blue LED lit display and a Power light.
On the right side are three USB ports. Two are the more common USB 2.0 type that can be used to connect external HDD enclosures, flash drives, mice or keyboards to the unit. The third is the higher speed 3.0 capable.
Also on this side is a memory card slot (SD / SDHC / MMC / MS / MS Pro compatible) which is useful for quickly accessing content from devices like a digital camera or a recording device.
On the back, the M400 furnishes one Component Video Out (Y/Pb/Pr) with stereo analog audio outputs that are shared with one Composite Video Out.
Next is an HDMI out, which can send HD video and pass through Dolby True HD and DTS HD audio. In addition, there are optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, which can also carry these audio formats, which must be decoded by compatible equipment like an A/V receiver.
Finally, the gangly antenna attaches to the integrated Wi-Fi adapter. If you are placing the M400 in tight quarters, the antenna can be rotated horizontally.
Many of the buttons on the non-backlit remote control are smallish and tightly clustered. Though I like the big Home button and the labels are fairly easy to read.
One of the features of the M400 is a web browser, which I found a little sluggish. But more importantly, the remote control is not a great navigation nor data entry tool.
As I mentioned, you can plug in a USB mouse or keyboard to facilitate those tasks.
Even then, my experience was spotty. And the browser does not seem capable of playing Flash. Let's just say that the web browser functionality could be improved.
But the browser is only one of seven options on the Main Menu. The first is the Files Manager, where you can access all the network services that you may have activated.
Basically, this function is very good at tapping any file on your computer or media server.
I prefer this method because then I can organize my content where I want and point to where it's located.
To make this work, you need to indicate on your PC which files you wish to share. And you will have to grant sharing privileges to the M400.
The next three icons are the direct links to your Movie, Music and Photo Libraries.
If you click on the blue globe icon (Internet Media), you hit the mother lode of streaming content.
Beyond the googles of videos in YouTube and the multitude of radio channels in SHOUTcast, perhaps the widest variety of choices can be found in the Video and Audio Podcast selections.
The offerings of each is sorted into categories, World News, US News, Technology, Entertainment and Sports. I found some of the offerings in World News out-dated or non-existent. I had much better luck with a topic like Technology.
And with the most recent update of the M400, Pandora Radio has been activated.
Of note, if you go to the Uebo website, one of the bullet points for the M400 is that you can "Watch Internet TV Channels Such As ESPN, NetFlix, CNN, TED w/PlayOn TV." The key to that statement is "w/PlayOn TV."
Content providers like Netflix, ESPN and Amazon Video on Demand are not native apps on the M400. You must purchase PlayOn (currently $40 annually) and load it on to your PC. And the M400 must be networked to your PC with the PlayOn server running. Then you can stream Netflix (if you are a subscriber) through the M400.
It works, but it's a kludge. If this still sounds like a viable option, the M400 manual spends a few pages on using PlayOn.
If you are really a fan of these content providers that you would need to run through PlayOn, I suggest that you purchase a media player or Blu-ray player that has them as native apps.
I enjoy viewing my photos on my TV and I like that the M400 can playback BMP, GIF, PNG and TIFF formats as well as the more common JPEG. Also its slideshow interface is much more robust than other media players.
Uebo supplies eight transition effects and eight slide times from 2 seconds to 2 minutes. You can also add background music to the slideshow.
Finally, I must mention BT or BitTorrent. For some of you, this might be the M400's killer app. For others, and I fall into this camp, I'm hesitant to venture into this territory.
BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer (P2P) communications protocol for transferring large files, which sounds innocuous enough, except often those big files are copyrighted movies and TV programs.
Not surprisingly, those holding the copyrights are not too keen about this notion of open sharing. Some popular BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay have either closed down or reinvented themselves to avoid legal prosecution.
With that said, the BitTorrent process, in and of itself, is not illegal.
Normally, I attempt to try out every feature of a product that I review. In this case, I decided not to dip my toe into the torrent. And in a related matter, I did not try to install a hard drive in the M400.
The basic setup of the M400 is fairly painless. Mostly, it is a process of dealing with a few settings in the Setup menu. Even connecting to your home network can be almost automatic.
You will want to check if the M400 has the most recent firmware because Uebo adds features like Pandora with these updates.
Oddly, for a networked connected device, you have to download the update from your computer and transfer it to a USB flash drive that you attach to the M400. The manual gives two options of uploading the software.
I couldn't get the menu driven one to respond, but the process using the Upgrade button on the back of the device worked quickly.
To obtain full value from the M400, you will need to deal with the likes of uPnP servers and BitTorrent Clients. It's not a task for the fainthearted.
If you personally don't fit Uebo's description of the M400, "Sleek outside. Geek inside." you better find someone who does.
I just watched Jon Favreau on YouTube talking about Cowboys and Aliens. The videos were professionally produced and the Picture Quality (PQ) displayed by the M400 looked gorgeous on the Samsung 51" Plasma that I'm reviewing.
The Realtek RTD1185 media processor can upgrade standard definition video to 1080p resolution, but with some of the gnarly video available in the Video Podcast section, the M400 simply cannot improve the blocky PQ.
Like a good doctor, the M400 first does no harm. When it plays high quality video, it maintains the PQ. With less pristine material, it does its best to heal the warts, but some video just can't be saved.
Not surprisingly, consistent audio output can be a problem with a media player considering the range of content that it has to handle. I found myself adjusting the volume as I jumped from source to source. But I always felt that the M400 provided enough headroom to play with.
Also, even though Uebo posts a long list of compatible video and audio formats, some of your favorite content simply might not match exact compatibility requirements.
At an MSRP of $190, the Uebo M400 is competitively priced with other media players with similar features. But remember that to attain full use of the Uebo, you will need to buy a large hard drive and a subscription to PlayOn.
If you are looking for BitTorrent functionality, the M400 is definitely a worthy candidate. If all you want is a device to stream movies from Netflix and Vudu on your HDTV, then I suggest that you look at less expensive alternatives like the LG ST600 SmartTV upgrader box.
With the M400, Uebo has improved on last year's class of network media players by adding a high-speed gigabit Ethernet connection and a USB 3.0 port. But the real attraction is its built-in BitTorrent Client and a space to add an internal SATAII hard drive to store all those P2P files.