Helios Labs X3000
- Fantastic DVD upscaling, great media streaming support
- Frustratingly difficult interface to operate
The X3000 is a powerful media streamer, but ultimately a frustrating one at the same time. Performance is excellent, but offset by a difficult interface.
Price$ 695.00 (AUD)
The Helios X3000 is simultaneously one of the best and worst devices we've ever seen. Its performance is outstanding, delivering some of the most well implemented features we've seen. At the same time, however, it's also, at times, almost impossible to control. The player seems to have a mind of its own, and is frustratingly difficult to operate, a problem compounded by its remote. Nevertheless, in the end this is a problem that can be negated with a few weeks' practice learning the various tricks of the player. The X3000's features, including wired and wireless media streaming and DVD upscaling, are of a caliber that's sure to make it a valued product for a long time to come.
Media streaming on the Helios, as with most of the features, is somewhat difficult to set up. After a few hours of playing around with configurations and setups, we were finally able to get the Helios connected to our network, the software installed and configured on a PC, and media streaming to the Helios. Additionally, we were also able to update the firmware, which helped to remove a lot of the problems we had when trying to operate the X3000. Once it was all done, we found ourselves rather impressed with the results. The process worked smoothly, and we were able to view videos and photos or listen to music from the PC on our TV. Fairly standard media centre functionality, but it worked very well during our tests, without any hiccups or problems to speak of.
The DVD player is one of the X3000's best features. With the firmware updated we were able to quickly and easily configure the player's output settings to 1080i HDMI, upscaling the DVD's image. The results were stunning. Hands down the best implementation of upscaling technology that we've seen to date, we sat through three full movies, awestruck at the quality of the upscaling and the incredible smoothness of the transition. After playing over five hours of upscaled video on the Helios, we could count the number of times we saw display faults on one hand.
Perhaps one of the more interesting features on the X3000 is its ability to browse the internet. While this is actually quite useful for firmware updates, we found it to be rather impractical for anything else. The Helios Media Portal website contains several links to things such as online TV, music, radio, news and podcasts. Unfortunately, however, we couldn't actually get most of these to work. Some simply timed out, others buffered for several minutes then gave error messages, and others just returned "Page not found" error messages. News generally worked well, taking you to a list of 10 or so stories from international news sites such as CNN and BBC. However, the resolution of our screen wasn't able to fit the entire website, so we were forced to try and scroll through the text - a frustrating and, at times, impossible exercise thanks to the way navigation worked. To be fair though, you're never going to get an entirely easy or pleasant experience when trying to surf the internet with a remote control. If you're yearning to browse the web on your television, a media centre PC might be a better choice.
Physically, the X3000 is very well designed. It's solid and sturdy, in a black case, and generally quite well laid out. The back sports a wide and all-inclusive array of connection options, including Ethernet, USB, HDMI, Component, Composite and both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. Unfortunately, however, the interface is a little more complex with complex menus and a need to constantly change video output settings by cycling through over a dozen different options (although this is largely removed with firmware updates) make getting to actual video playback a bit of a headache at times. An unresponsive remote control exacerbates this, adding an extra layer of frustration to our attempts to get the player working.
Overall, the X3000 is a great networked media player, which delivers exceptional performance when it works. Getting the player to work is a struggle at times, especially before updating the firmware, however in the end it's not a critical problem, and nothing that a few weeks of getting used to the device won't solve. If you're looking for a solidly functional media streamer with great upscaling DVD support, and are willing to work around its interface, then the Helios X3000 is a great choice.
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