Looks and design: The Ellion HMR 350H is a sleek, simple looking hard drive casing with functions that will make you forget all the video players and recorders you have used till now. It can store all your audio and video files and play them directly on your TV or your home theater system. It can record in compressed format from any input source, and its immense flexibility and a range of connectivity options can change the way you watch TV.
The Ellion HMR 350H has a glossy black hard plastic front panel which consists of a display screen. When powered ON, the device springs to life and the display screen shows all the functions available.
The device weighs around 900 grams excluding the weight of the hard drive installed. Any 3.5 inch SATA hard drive up to 1 TB in size is compatible with the device. The hard drive does not come with the device package. The question is, why Ellion HMR 350H, and why not any DivX compatible DVD player which has a USB port for connecting an external hard drive? The answer is that the incredible flexibility of HMR 350H takes you one step ahead by allowing you to record your favorite TV shows even when you are away, and the recorded video is as good as its original version. All the ports are in the back panel of the device, which also includes a cooling fan.
The device consumes only 45-50 watts of power when in use and only 3 watts in standby mode. The front panel contains only two buttons and a joystick. All of the rest of the functions can be accessed by a remote control that comes with the device.
Setup and features: HMR 350H can be configured in only 15 minutes including the time taken to install and format the hard drive installed. The device is connected to your TV just like any input source, like your DVD player or a Set Top Box. You can connect it to your TV in three ways, composite output, component output, or the HDMI. All Plasma and LCD TVs have these three options. Sadly video input can be accessed only in the composite format.
For audio output, you have a choice of stereo analog and coaxial digital outputs for 5.1 home theatre systems. The HMR 350H can be used as a Juke Box also to store your favorite songs. It can also display JPEG files, which makes it a Digital Photo Viewer. The device upscales your movie files and TV input from the regular standard definition to 1080i High Definition. Other options such as 480p, 576p, and 720p are also included. The best feature, however, still is the ability of this device to record all your favorite shows while you are away. It uses the time shifting option to pause LIVE TV, so you can pause and record TV at your free will. The device also supports firmware updates which are very easy to install by plugging any pen drive into the USB port of the device. Updating the firmware provides you with additional options such as prescheduled recording. So set the time, date, period and quality of the TV broadcast you want to record and leave the rest to HMR 350H.
The menu interface is quite easy and impressive. A single click on the Guide button on the remote control brings up the home screen, which include BROWSER (used to browse files on the hard drive, USB storage or the network), REC list (to view recorded files), COPY (used to copy files between the drive, USB and the network), A/V in (for A/V signal input via A/V in), and SETUP (to configure the device). However the browsing is painfully slow and tiring, also operating the system via the remote control is more sluggish. The on screen display while copying or formatting the files is a real turn off.
Plus Features and options: The device can be easily connected to a home network via the 10/100 Ethernet port and the USB interface can be used to transfer files. No software is needed to detect the HMR 350H, as it is auto detectable like any other external drive. You can connect a Wi-Fi USB dongle to the USB port of the device and make the device Wi-Fi compatible. HMR 350H can also be connected to your car stereo so you have access to your hard drive while you are traveling in your car. The device has a mini FireWire (IEEE 1934) port to connect any compatible video camera to view, edit or record your own videos.
Along with the device you get a utility CD which contains the Transcode server. Installing this software on your computer which is connected to the HMR 350H via the same network, allows you to play the files in any format, even in formats that HMR 350H can not play (for example MKV files and other formats whose codecs are not yet built into the system). But if your computer has that codec, the software can use that to actually play the file, while streaming the output video to the HMR 350H over your network.
Final verdict: Full credit can be given to HMR 350H for being a well built player for most of the multimedia applications. The networking, time shifting and recording features give the device an upper edge over other available multimedia hard drive enclosures. However browsing the files is a turn off and the cost can be a little heavy on your pocket (US dollar 294.35), but if you can afford it you get hands on the most innovative and useful device we have seen in a long time. So if you are willing to spend that kind of premium, go for it.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Video: TS, TP, AVI, DAT, MPEG, MOV, VOB, IFO, MKV.
Audio: DD, AC3, WMA, AAC, OGG, WAV.
Picture: JPEG, BMP.
This post is part of the series: New Hardware on the Block
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