Wyplay Wyplayer Inverness
The Wyplayer is a set-top box that is both a PVR and a media-streaming device. You can watch and record Freeview broadcasts, stream media from PCs on your home network and play files stored on its built-in hard disk or from removable USB storage devices. It can also access media from a range of internet content providers. This is an impressive set of features given its reasonable price.
Sensibly, Wyplay offers the Wyplayer both with and without a hard disk. This means you can fit a drive of your own, or just use an old one you happen to have spare. It'll take any 3½in hard disk, so you could fit a whopping 1TB disk for as little as £60. Fitting a disk is easy, with just a couple of screws to undo on the bottom of the unit.
Adding a big hard disk may give you plenty of recording space, but the TV interface doesn't live up to the better PVRs available or Windows Media Center. There are two Freeview tuners, but you can record only one programme at a time, which seriously limits its flexibility. The EPG is also sub-standard; we thought its unusual vertical arrangement was less easy to understand than the usual timeline designs, and there's only space onscreen for three channels' schedules at a time. If there's a series of short-running programmes, it actually displays the programme names one over the next, making them unreadable. Like Media Center there's no support for interactive content via the red button. Finally, and unforgivably, there's no series link function, so you have to schedule every episode of your favourite shows manually.
Despite these issues, the interface is logically arranged and the slick-looking menus are easy on the eye. The remote control, however, is a design disaster. Wyplay has opted to keep the number of buttons to a minimum, but combining multiple controls on each button, together with the lack of onscreen prompts, makes for a confusing mess. The directional pad is precise and has good feedback. It also rotates, for navigating through menus and TV shows, but this feels imprecise. The omission of dedicated play, pause, fast forward and rewind buttons is a serious error.
There are some positives, however. The box itself is understated, stylish, compact and quiet. It has only composite and HDMI outputs, but that won't bother most HD TV owners, although the maximum resolution of 1080i is a little disappointing. Stereo phono and optical S/PDIF outputs are provided for audio purposes. There are three USB ports for attaching USB storage devices, plus a fourth for connecting the Wyplayer to a PC as a storage device itself. Only wired networking is provided, so you'll have to connect via Ethernet to your router or to a wireless bridge.
It's an excellent media player, whether you're streaming from a UPnP media server or reading files directly from a storage device or the internal hard disk, which you can copy files to and from, including TV recordings. There's support for all the video, audio and image file formats you'd expect. It played 1080p 24fps Blu-ray quality video flawlessly, and we saw no image issues from any of our test clips. Being able to access RSS news feeds, photo-sharing sites and video providers such as YouTube is a nice extra. However, the lack of an alphanumeric keypad on the remote means that entering search parameters using the onscreen keyboard is painfully slow.
Given its varied capabilities, the Wyplayer seems reasonably priced at first glance. Unfortunately, as a PVR it simply isn't up to the task, with Sky+, Humax's PVRs and Windows Media Center all streets ahead for usability. If you just want a media-streaming device, Syabas's Popcorn Hour A-110 (below) is just as capable and far cheaper, and you can also fit an internal hard disk if desired. Alternatively, you could buy a nettop media centre, such as Acer's Aspire Revo R3600, together with an inexpensive dual USB TV tuner. Such a combination would be superior to the Wyplayer for media file playback, TV viewing and internet access.
Twin digital tuners, stereo phono, optical S/PDIF, HDMI and composite outputs, Ethernet, 3x USB and mass storage USB interfaces, 46x274x240mm, one-year RTB warranty. Supports WMA, AAC, OGG, WAV and MP3 audio, WMV, WMV-HD, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG2 VOB, and MPEG4 (H.264 and MP4) video, BMP, JPEG and TIF images
Power consumption: 15W on, 15W standby
This multimedia Swiss army knife is let down by its poor handling of Freeview broadcasts.
Author: Seth Barton