Not everyone wants to go through the trouble of building and setting up an HTPC, especially if all they want to do is enjoy some pictures, music, and videos. That's why these versatile little media players are becoming so increasingly popular. The price point, relative to an HTPC, is certainly very appealing too.
One such example is the Uebo M50 Mobile 1080p Media Player. Easily the biggest feature that stands out about this product is its tiny size: it's about the same as a deck of playing cards but in a square. How does this media player stand up against the bigger names in the industry? Let's find out.
Features at a Glance
I thought that the WD TV Live was already small, but it looks like Goliath next to the Uebo M50. They refer to it as a mobile player, given its tiny size, but you will still need to connect it to a power source and an HDTV.
The input and output options have been kept at a minimum to maintain this smaller stature. On the front, you find a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot for loading your media files. On the back, you find the DC power port, an AV out jack, and an HDMI port. Clean and simple, offering almost everything you need. There's no optical audio out, unfortunately, but that's easily forgivable.
The unit itself is wrapped up in a brushed aluminum shell and it is capable of providing true 1080p resolution with HD surround sound. They claim that it will play "all video and audio formats" too, so you won't have to worry about re-encoding your movies and such.
What's in the Box?
You won't find any real surprises here. Aside from the Uebo M50 itself, there is the user manual, a remote control, a power adapter, and a set of AV cables. The AV cables start with a 3.5mm adapter on one end and the standard RCA cables on the other end. Realistically, I don't think you'll be using them anyhow, as there is the HDMI connection there.
The remote for the Uebo M50 is certainly a lot smaller than the one that comes with the Asus O!Play HD2. It's slightly larger than the one that comes with the WDTV, but it also offers more buttons. For instance, there are four additional buttons surrounding the five-way navigator at the top.
All the buttons are straightforward enough to understand, but it did find that they felt very "squishy" when you pressed them. This is a relatively minor quibble, but I prefer buttons that are a little more obvious when you press them.
User Interface and Functionality
Oddly, the device shipped with 480p as the default setting. Given its boast of being a full HD media player, you'd think that it'd at least ship with 720p (if not 1080p) as its default setting. In any case, those options are available. You can also change the system font, activate digital noise reduction, and so forth.
Another strange thing I encountered is that some flash drives would show up in the file manager (and the files would play accordingly), but the media files wouldn't show up under the "movies" menu, for instance. I'm not entirely sure why this is the case, because other flash drives worked just fine.
Actual Media Playing Performance
Everything up until this point had been what I had expected. You get a simple menu, you get loads of format support, and you get an easy setup process. And playing the range of files seemed to be just fine... except for one very important thing.
Under many circumstances, the audio and video were out of sync. It seemed that the video would start playing, there'd be a few moments of silence, and then the audio would kick in. This was true of DivX AVI files, MP4 files, MOV files... I also tried video files that were 480p, 720p, and full 1080p. I tried downscaling in the options to 480p too, but it wouldn't fix the problem.
This is very disheartening, since it renders movie playback into a far from ideal experience. I also found that it would stutter at times with higher quality (1080p) video files. I imagine the horsepower under this tiny hood just couldn't keep up.
MEGATechie Media Maven or MEGATechie Media Moron?
I went in with a decent set of expectations. I wanted to see the pocket sized Uebo M50 Mobile Media Player shine, because I really liked its smaller stature. And everything went according to plan until I tried to play some files. The hope is that this can be fixed with a firmware update, but I'm not so sure.
It's because of experiences like this (and the one I had with generic Android tablet) that I've become hesitant to buy electronics from unfamiliar brands. I think Uebo shows some promise, but even at the $65 price point that you can find the M50, I can't recommend it.
That said, I do have the big brother Uebo M400 in the MEGATechNews labs too and that one can take USB 3.0 and has an internal hard drive bay good for up to 2TB of storage. Hopefully it doesn't suffer from the same issues. Look for that review soon.