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HD media player speeds up

Sep 30, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Qnap Systems announced a new version of its NAS-like, 1080p-ready IP set-top box and media player. The NMP-1000P Network Multimedia Player features a faster, Sigma Designs system-on-chip (SoC) than the previous model, running the 667MHz SMP8643, and adds twice as much RAM (512MB), four times the flash memory (256MB), enhanced Wolfson audio, and a eSATA Host port.

It was almost exactly a year ago that Qnap launched the NMP-1000, a DLNA-ready media player billed as a cross between a set-top box (STB) and a network-attached storage (NAS) server. The new "P" version of the device uses the same 8.0 x 6.9 x 2.4-inch (204 x 176.4 x 62mm), 1.5-pound (0.7 kg) chassis, but beefs it up with a faster processor, more memory, and improved audio and external storage support.

Qnap did not listed the embedded operating system of either system, but considering that the software is said to be based on Qnap's Linux-based Turbo NAS server stack, a tuxy foundation appears more than likely for the NMP-1000P.

Qnap NMP-1000P
(Click to enlarge)

The main draw here is the Sigma Designs SMP8643 SoC, which offers a clock rate more twice that of the earlier, 300MHz Sigma Designs SMP8635. Qnap does not list a clock rate, but the SMP8643, also found in Syabas Technology's somewhat similar Popbox IP STB, is known to offer a 667MHz MIPS core. The SoC also integrates a 2D graphics processor, three 333MHz audio DSPs (digital signal processors), and a dedicated 333MHz security processor (MIPS 4KEc IPU).

The NMP-1000P model, meanwhile, doubles DDR2 RAM to 512MB, and offers 256MB of internal flash memory, or quadruple the amount of the previous model, says Qnap.

So if the old NMP-1000 was claimed to play back 1080p HD video, one can imagine that the new one plays it back with far more panache. In fact, Qnap says that the new system offers "ultra realistic full HD movies," and notes 24 frames per second playback at 1080p, a claim not made with the earlier model.

File transfers are also faster, apparently. According to figures supplied by Qnap, the NMP-1000P transferred 600MB test files via SAMBA at speeds more than twice as fast as the earlier model. (See link at the end of the article for more details.)

NMP-1000P rear ports
(Click to enlarge)

Another major enhancement appears to be the addition of a Wolfson WM8524 stereo DAC. This "high performance" audio chip delivers "crystal clear next-generation Dolby and DTS multi-channel surround sound, high-quality lossless music," says the company. In addition, the P version is said to add an HD audio passthrough feature.

Storage expansion has also been improved. Whereas the NMP-1000 offers an eSATA target port that attaches to a PC, the new model adds an eSATA Host port. In addition, maximum remote disk connections have jumped to 32 from the earlier six connections. As before, the system ships with a 3.5-inch SATA hard disk drive (HDD) bay.

Otherwise, the only hardware differences appear to be the removal of two A/V ports that have apparently been deemed vestigial. The NMP-1000P lacks the earlier version's S-Video and coaxial digital audio port, getting by on HDMI, component video, composite audio and video, and optical digital audio ports.


NMP-1000P detail

As before, there are two USB 2.0 Host ports and one USB 2.0 device port, as well as an optional 802.11/b/g/n USB adapter. An Ethernet port is also said to be standard issue, and although Qnap doesn't mention its speed, we would be surprised if this had reverted from the previously used gigabit Ethernet to Fast Ethernet.

The NMP-1000P also retains the 40mm fan, LED indicators, and a nine-character alphanumeric display, says Qnap. Maxed out with a 2TB HDD drive, power consumption appears to have crept up slightly to 16 Watts in operation and nine Watts in standby.

Other touted new capabilities include music CD ripping, as well as USB CD/DVD/BD drive support for playback of user-authored discs. The P version now supports USB keyboard for text entry, and supports auto-totation of photos based on EXIF, says the company.

The software stack, which is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops, has also been upgraded for the P version, says Qnap. The system now offers a more advanced menu navigation for features such as its pre-existing DLNA support, making it easier to "discover and catalog content from any connected storage device or network drives," says Qnap.

The NMP-1000P retains the earlier Turbo NAS functionality for backup of all networked computers. The new software is touted for its cross-platform file sharing among desktops, as well as its multiple user accounts and access right management. Also noted is the ability to remotely access media files with the Web File Manager and FTP app.

The NMP-1000P can stream TV shows, news, podcasts, music, photos, and other content from Mediafly, Apple Movie Trailers, CNN, SHOUTcast, Internet radio service, Flickr, Picasa, and other services, says the company.

Stated Jason Hsu, product manager of Qnap Systems, Inc., "NMP-1000P is the culmination of QNAP's extensive experience in developing network appliances and software applications which can satisfy the consumers' need to get the content they want from virtually any source, and play it with the best video and audio quality on the living room TV using a single networked device."

Availability

The NMP-1000P is available now, says Qnap. More information, including datasheets and links to sales, may be found here. However, none of the U.S. sales locations appeared to list the product at presstime.


This article was originally published on LinuxDevices.com and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.



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