Portable media players like the Datexx Pavio Portable Digital Theater or the Sony HMP-A1 Hard Disk Multi Player are great for on the road audio and video viewing. But when you’re home and want to share your media content with your family and friends, passing around a small screened device isn’t the most convenient. That’s where the Porta Cinema from SnaZio can come in handy. The Porta Cinema is a paperback book sized device with media card slots and a hard drive dock that can connect to your TV to play your favorite audio, images, and video files.
Display output: TV(PAL, NTSC), Composite, S-Video, YUV (optional)
Audio output: Stereo
Power adapter: input ~100-240V, 50-60Hz, output DC +5V, Max 1.4A
USB 2.0 interface
UltraDMA 100/66 IDE interface
Supported video formats: MPEG-1 (VCD, SVCD, .DAT), MPEG-2 (DVD), DivX, Motion Jpeg
Supported audio formats: MP3, WMA
Supported image formats: jpg
Supported storage card formats: CF Type I, CF Type II, MD, MMC, MS, SD, SM
SnaZio Porta Cinema Player
SnaZio Disk Cinema HD enclosure (does not include a hard drive)
The Porta Cinema comes with everything you need to hook it up to your TV. Using the supplied RCA jack and S-Video cables, I quickly connected it to my 65″ Mitsubishi HDTV. I didn’t have any problems until I went to plug in the AC adapter. That’s when I saw that the included adapter was made for European outlets. The prongs are thin and round, not flat blades like US AC adapters. A quick email to the folks at SnaZio and I learned that this is the way all the Porta Cinema packages will ship. No included converter. Poo… Luckily, I already had a converter in my stash o’gear, so I snapped it on the adapter and powered on the device.
The device isn’t overly large (6.5 x 4.5 x 1 inch) or heavy, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding space for it on top of your TV. The top of the Porta Cinema has 3 buttons, a joystick, and and the hard drive slot. The buttons are mapped to the Home screen, Setup screen, and Stop function. The joystick allows you to navigate through settings and lists. Pressing the joystick in will select the highlighted setting or list item.
The front of the player has the IR window and card slots. The supported card formats are: CF Type I, CF Type II, MD, MMC, MS, SD, and SM.
All the connection ports are on the back of the player, along with the power switch and NTSC / PAL switch.
The Porta Cinema comes with one Disk Cinema 2.5 inch aluminum hard drive shell. The hard drive is not included, so if you want to take advantage of this feature, you’ll have to go out and buy a 2.5in drive on your own. The only thing you need to be aware of is that the drive has to be formated using the FAT32 file system. It’s also important to note that the player will only recognize the first partition on the drive. You can buy additional shells, so that you can have music on one and video on another.
Using the included screwdriver, you remove 4 small screws that allow you to remove the connector end of the enclosure.
A standard 2.5 inch hard drive (notebook sized) can then plug into the connector end of the enclosure. Slide the drive into the shell, replace the screws, and you’re good to go.
The drive then plugs into the slot on the top of the Porta Cinema. You can also plug the included USB cable into the drive and connect it directly into your PC or Mac as an external drive. That’s actually what you have to do to copy your audio and video files to the drive for viewing through the Porta Cinema. It’s strange that the Porta Cinema doesn’t have a USB connector, so that it could be used as a card reader for the built in card slots.
A plastic membrane style remote is included with the player. Although you can access most functions using the joystick on the top of the player, using the remote is certainly more convenient.
After connection the Porta Cinema to your TV and powering it on, you will see the screen in the picture above, if you have more than one storage device connected. Be it 2 flash cards, or the Disk Cinema and a flash card, or 2 cards and the Disk Cinema as was my test during the review. Using the remote or the buttons on the top of the player, you select the storage device that you want to access.
After you select the storage device, you are then presented with 4 options. You can view Photos, listen to Music, watch Videos, or go into File mode.
If you select the Photo option, thumbnails of all the .jpg images stored on that card / HDD will fill the screen. GIF and BMP files are not supported.
Clicking on an image will load the full sized image and will then start the slideshow program. The display quality will depend on the resolution of the images, and the resolution / size of your TV. The display quality on my TV was be pretty good. These 8 megapixel shots looked just a little fuzzy on my 65″ TV.
You can supposedly play music in the background of the slideshow. I’ve yet to figure out how to do this…
Choosing the Music option from the main menu will display a listing of all the MP3 and WMA files on the selected storage device. The audio files can be stored in individual folders. Sorry, you can’t search music for specific songs, artists, etc. You also can not create playlists.
Selecting a song will start playback. Audio quality is surprisingly good. Even through my built-in speakers. Using the remote to select the EQ function will popup a live graph.
In Video mode, you’ll see thumbnails of all the compatible video files stored on the selected storage device. Highlighting one of the thumbnails will cause the movie to start playing in the tiny window. Pressing Play will go to full screen mode.
Here’s a snapshot of the an upcoming animated movie. Looks pretty good doesn’t it? I downloaded DivX and Mpeg movies to test out. I didn’t have a problem with the display quality, but did have some other playback problems which I’ll talk about in a bit.
Pressing the Display button on the remote will popup some info on the currently playing video.
In file mode, you can navigate a file manager style layout to view all the different supported media files on the selected storage device.
In this mode, you also can see information about the selected file. Info such as bit rate and song length.
There are some basic settings that you can fiddle with in the Setup menus. As you can see, it looks like the software that powers the Porta Cinema hasn’t been updated in over a year… Thing is that the software reallllly needs to be updated.
Why do I say that the software needs updated? Basically because this player is buggy as heck. I had problems with video files freezing the player, audio files stuttering, and display problems as seen below.
At first I attributed the problems to the possibility of a flakey hard drive. But unplugging the hard drive and playing the files from flash cards didn’t yield better results. I even tried several different flash cards. Same results. The problems I encountered didn’t seem to be triggered by any specific actions on my part. Often times I’d be watching a video clip only to have it freeze and lock up the player during a random point in the video. I’d be forced to reset the device by toggling the power switch. Sometimes I would try to play an MP3 file and the song would play for 5 seconds or so and then pause and play the next 5 seconds and so on. To cure this problem, a power toggle would be required.
Although the Porta Cinema a good idea for a product, this one misses the mark as far as reliability. It is possible that I just received a dud. So I’d be curious to hear from any other Porta Cinema owners out there about their experiences. Until I hear from someone that has been results than I have, I can’t recommend this product.