Tuesday, December 09, 2008

SageTV HD200 Media Player Unboxed

The SageTV HD200 Arrives at GeekTonic!
HD200 FrontTop
 SageTV, one of the leaders in the Home Theater PC market has always been extender-friendly startomg with the first officially supported extender (Hauppauge MediaMVP) and then arguably the most capable HD Extender on the market in 2008, the HD100.  Now SageTV is bringing us the HD200 HD Media Player (See photo above - the HD200 is the box on the top), the successor to the HD100 (on the bottom of the photo above.)

I've seen speculation that the HD200 is just a repackaged HD100 that does standalone mode as well as acting as an extender.  After several hours with the HD200 I can tell you the HD200 is a significant step up from the HD100 in the performance department - that's saying a lot considering the fact that I am very fond of my SageTV HD100 extender.

I have a few more photos below including the Sigma Chip and Board inside the box, but I'll save most of the photos for the full review coming soon.

Unboxing Videos
For now, I have a few short unboxing videos for you (watch all three):

HD200 Unboxing Part 1:

HD200 Unboxing Part 2:

HD200 Unboxing Part 3:

After using the SageTV HD200 HD Media Player, I came away with a few, key points:
  • This thing is small and lightweight.  It is much closer to the size of of a Hauppauge HD-PVR (but not as "tall") than it is to the SageTV HD100 Extender.  It won't work under a Blu-Ray player, but it is small enough to put next to one or on top of one in your Entertainment System.
  • It's fast.  Navigating the User Interface on the HD200 is close to the speed on my Quad-core PC for animations and rendering.  Obviously the processor on the HD200 isn't my quad-core, but it's definitely faster than my HD100 extender.  Some of that may have to do with the additional memory as well.
  • It has front and back USB 2.0 ports that are active.  Plug in many different USB drives, and card readers and the SageTV HD200 detects them. 
  • The HD200 HDMI port is 1.2 (not 1.3) which basically means we won't see bitstream output of Dolby Digital TrueHD or DTS MA.  SageTV reps have said they are working on 7.1 channel PCM audio via  firmware updates but that isn't a sure thing at this point.
  • The SageTV HD Theater's standalone is a secret weapon of SageTV's.  It detects media from shared network drives as well as connected USB drives.  Think this isn't a big deal?  Just check back in a year and we'll talk.  I contend that this is an early entry by SageTV to sneak into the  will be able to play content via the USB ports as a standalone device.  It includes SageTVs entry into UPnP since it can act as a UPnP client for purposes such as PlayOn for Hulu playback etc, the ability to act alone from the server and likely many unique applications that your average SageTV user hasn't yet thought of.  I'll touch on this more in the full review coming soon. 
  • The HD200 has a 300MHz processor and 2 channels of memory (256MBs total) which compares very favorably to the HD100's 200Mhz processor and single channel of memory
  • The HD200 can act as a Placeshifter client and therefore you can take it with you and you can plug it in to an outside ethernet cable in a hotel or other home and placeshift your content from your home to that TV wherever you are.
If your HD200 was just delivered and you're wanting to update the firmware to the latest beta version
Use the remote's number pad to enter the code 2382 ('beta') on the HD200's firmware update menu in order to tell it to look for the beta version. For help about how to update the firmware, see the HD200's manual or this FAQ.

To satisfy the GeekTonic readers need to see the insides, I popped off the top and checked out the board and Sigma chip to see what's inside of the HD200 beast.

In this second photo, we see the Sigma 8635LF (LF means low frequency?) which is the same chip used in the recently released WD HD Player.  Extremely similar to the Sigma 8635 but without the ability to decode DRM (no macrovision support).

More First Looks of the HD200 Across the Web:
  • Missing Remote has another unboxing and even more "naked" shots of the insides, check out the MissingRemote.com Unboxing by John Clabaugh
  • A SageTV Forum Member has posted photos and some videos showing start-up time, standalone mode and more at this SageTV Forum Thread

Pre-Order on December 12th
If you want to pick up a HD200 you'll have to wait a few days since they already sold out of their inital batch of them.  SageTV is projecting to have more in stock by 12/15 and will be taking preorders beginning 12/12.  So if you want one before Christmas you better plan to stop by the SageTV store on December 12th - the HD100s and now HD200s seem to sell like hotcakes and its obvious SageTV orders in relatively small batches so you've been warned.

Stay tuned to GeekTonic for a complete review of the new SageTV HD Theater (HD200) coming soon - and a chance to win the review HD200 also!

Want to learn more about the many add-ons and inner workings of SageTV?  Check out the GeekTonic Ultimate Guide to SageTV which is updated continually.