The Popcorn Hour A-110 doesn't have this problem. It makes navigating through a file easy by having a 30-second skip key, a proper fast-forward system that accurately shows what part of the file you're watching, and some percentage skip buttons. These are activated by pressing one of the number keys, which put you a corresponding percentage of the way through the file -- for example, button 4 takes you 40 per cent of the way through.
As with all these devices, it's necessary to use some software to share media from your PC with the Wyplayer. Windows Media Player is capable of this task, and we downloaded a trial version of TwonkyMedia to see how it makes the process easier.
The good news is that both work perfectly. We don't especially like the sharing component of Windows Media Player, but it does the job. TwonkyMedia, on the other hand, seems to work pretty much perfectly and is flexible in helping you find the media you need.
The A-110 struggles with music playback. It's not that it can't do it -- it's just that the way it works isn't very compelling. Apple TV, however, handles music perfectly and, because of the iTunes integration, makes pretty much every other hardware solution look pretty silly.
Wyplayer, however, seems to have pulled off something of a coup d'état here. Its music playback is actually excellent. What we like most is the ability to build and save a playlist on the fly. This means that, if you want to set up a party playlist, or just have some background music on while you go about your business, you can. It's not especially complicated, lists can be reordered as you go, and you can add tracks to a 'now playing' list by simply selecting them. The Wyplayer will always ask if you want to add a track to the current playlist, or if you want to start playing it straight away.
We were very pleased with the Wyplayer's ability to display photos. Some test shots from a Canon EOS 500D looked incredibly crisp and detailed on our Pioneer TV. It may sound easy to display photos on a TV, but the truth is that media players rarely do a good job with them. The Wyplayer, however, does.
The only caveat we have concerns the speed with which it renders and loads pictures. Shots from the 500D are around 5MB each, and loading them takes a considerable amount of time. Smaller photos would work much better, and we'd suggest a size lower than 1MB for a faster load time.
We tested MKV video at both 720p and 1080p and both played brilliantly. Even from a memory stick we were able to play high data-rate content without any problems. The picture quality is also superb, if slightly softer than the A-110's.
We didn't notice any glitches with playback or any other problems. The sheer number of codecs supported is also a terrific advantage and should make this the ideal device if you have a large amount of video, either shot on camcorders or downloaded. This Wyplayer can pretty much cope with it all, and seems to do so with a great deal of skill.
We love the idea that you can use a media streamer to record live TV in the same way as you would with a PVR. The Wyplayer does a really good job. There's a fully-featured electronic programme guide that allows you to see which programmes are coming up in the near future, and you can also set a manual timed record. This isn't a Freeview+ system, though, so it can't correct over-running shows or late schedule changes.
It is, however, a dual-tuner machine, which means you can watch one channel and record another simultaneously. Because of the processor capabilities, it's not possible to record two channels at once, though. That's a shame but, in practice, it's not a big deal.
The main problem with the TV universe is that it can be painfully slow to respond to your remote-control presses. For example, when you press whichever button it is that brings up the EPG, you might end up waiting 30 seconds for it to appear. This just isn't the same quality experience you get with a regular Freeview PVR.