I was stoked to find an external hard drive enclosure that doubled as a movie player I could connect to my TV and watch divx, xvid, wmv, mp4, etc etc.
The player is a Midte MDT-PM368HS, its a cheap and nasty chinese box from ebay but it came with a 1tb western digital hard drive pre installed and was dirt cheap. The drive alone was worth more to buy seperately so I snapped it up thinking "how bad can it really be" ?
Well... there's the good, the bad and the ugly with this player but I'm still persevering with it because I love a challenge.
If you've got your hands on one of these like me then you'll want to read on, alot of the ground work is already done for you and we'll get to the core of the problems and discover solutions that actually work.
Well... its dirt cheap for starters and it will play Divx and Xvid movies and play them pretty well. It will also play MP3 collections and do photo slideshows. The unit can also act as an external hard drive enclosure for backing up your files. I've got mine set up with RCA cords going to a big ass old CRT television for video and my surround amp for audio. USB connectivity to a PC is good at USB 2.0 speeds and I initially dumped over 500 vids onto it. The vids were many and varied in their sizes, file formats and audio streams, allowing me to come to some pretty solid conclusions regarding what the unit will play and what it can't.
I quickly discovered that other folk were having major drama with their players if the hard drive installed in it was not formatted to FAT32. This is a problem for big hard drives and windows cannot format them to FAT 32 by itself. Folk are reporting success by using a third party formatting software called swiss knife. Get it here: http://www.compuapps.com/Download/swissknife/swissknife.htm
Remember that using the FAT 32 platform, individual file sizes are restricted to 4gb. Any larger and they will not transfer to the drive.
All thats left to do now is to transfer your video files to the unit. Use the USB port on the rear that is far more square looking than the other regular USB port. I used an old USB printer cable that had the square type fitting on one end.
Remember we are talking about playback via RCA patch cords here, others have reported better success using the HDMI output to a Hi definition TV, especially for viewing DVD files.
-WMV's wont work, period. I've tried both version 8 and 9 encoded vids and the player only picks them up as wma audio files, can't play them if you try to.
-MP4's wont work unless they are inside an AVI container. Anything with an MP4 file extension will not even be recognised by the player.
-Files inside a folder... the player will not recognise any more then 8 files in a folder, any extra ones will not show up in the menu.
-DVD's ... DVD file playback from native vob files is really sketchy to say the least. Occasionally I'll get one to work (one of the star wars ones does) but 95% of them either won't play or if they do playback, you will get no sound.
-Audio... the player is touchy with encoded audio in a video stream. It will play mp3's up to about 224kbs but does far worse with AC3 where 128kbs is the limit. Any video stream with higher bit rate audio than those will not output sound on my unit. Also it seems that the player can only handle some kinds of AC3 codec. Some of my 128 AC3 sound in vids works fine, yet other vids encoded at the same audio bit rate will not work. CBR audio plays back smoother then VBR on the midte, regardless of format, stick with 44.1 or 48 khz and 2 channel as encoding options.
-video... I deal mainly with Divx and Xvid encoded files. Playback will start to get choppy and I experience audio synch problems at bitrates higher than about 1100kbs for divx and about 750 kbs for Xvid. The bigger the resolution of the file (for the same given bit rate) the more pronounced the problem becomes. Any divx or xvid encoded around 1500kbs or higher pretty much just refuses to play at all and the player can't handle files encoded under divx 6.... stick with divx 5 or older and you'll be fine.
-USB... I cannot discern any playback difference between the same file on the midte's hard drive or a USB stick. This makes it a whole lot faster to test files by just chucking them on a thumb drive. If you have a file on the thumb drive that the player cannot play it will not even show up, you will only see the "root drive" folder. Also the midte will default to a thumb drive over the hard drive if one is plugged in. You can still easily access the hard drive files even with a USB stick plugged in by hitting the menu button on your remote. The USB stick connection is only USB 1.1 speeds so it has bandwidth problems for bigger video files.
-Video file size... any video file bigger than 1gb and the player starts to get a bit sketchy about if it will play the file or not. Anything over 1.3gb will not play.
-The system fan in the back of the player growls for a few seconds when you first power the unit on. Sounds like a cheapo bushed design PC fan. Looks like I'll have to crack out the soldering iron at a later date and put in a decent ball bearing fan.
I got up one morning and the unit would no longer output a display to the TV screen when I turned it on. I suspect my darling 10 year old daughter was messing around with it after I went to sleep but hey.. kids love to play with technology and they are a great acid test for how robust things are... in this case the technology lost to a kid.
I found some instructions on the net by a fellow called speed racer and followed his blind reset instructions using the remote. This will reset the unit to factory default.
Factory reset (going in blind :-)
Still no output on my machine... bummer.
Next I flashed the firmware with a thumb drive and that worked, I had visual ouput again! I'll also add that my players LCD display became scrambled after flashing the firmware. My player is a Version 1.3
You need to pull the unit apart and look under the hard drive for the version number. Pain in the arse.
Once you have the version number of your unit you can rock along to midte's site and download the new firmware... or you could ... up until last week when they pulled all the downloads off their site.. Grrrrrrrr !
Never fear readers.... I just happen to have the version 1.3 firmware versions right here on dudeworld if you need it.
Download the MDT-PM368HS firmware RIGHT HERE. This download contains 2 firmware files, one called midte.rom and one called upgrade.rom
Grab a USB stick drive and delete everything off it. Copy the upgrade.rom file over to it and rename it midte.rom... power off the player and insert the USB stick into the rear of it. Turn the player on and wait for it to complete flashing its firmware (takes a couple of minutes). The TV screen will go blank when it is finished. Turn the player off, remove the USB stick and turn the player back on. You will be greeted with the revised operating system. You will see a different background picture with 3 white circles down the bottom on the main menu page if you have the latest firmware flashed successfully.
If you do not have much success with the new firmware you can always copy across the original midte.rom file from the firmware download to your USB stick and use that to re-flash your player back to the original firmware.
Next I tried flashing the firmware again back to the older version to get back greater file compatability and to hopefully unscramble my LCD.. it was only partially successful. I got the original operating system back but the LCD is still gibberish. It also had the weird side effect of scrambling the alphabetical order my files used to be in and I still can't get that back. The video file index is still all over the place. Today I flashed back to the latest firmware and I'll test drive that for a while and see how it goes.
Man I tried just about everything out there in my attempts to back up my DVDs to a file that would give smooth playback on the midte. I've been experimenting with it for 8 weeks straight now and tried a plethora of different software in my quest for a file that had smooth motion, TV like picture quality and audio that was in synch. It was no mean feat to make that work on the midte let me tell you but I'd like to share my unbiased findings now I've got it sussed.
-software... I tried many, many different commercial and open source encoding programs with minimal success. I'll state that I did not try gordian knot or autoGK because Every time I've ever installed that software over the past 5 years it messed up my computers so bad they needed a widows reinstallation shortly afterwards, I'm definitely not a fan of their products.
The only thing that worked for me was an AWESOME little piece of open source software called StaxRip. Its an integrated front end that scripts a dozen or so freely available open source encoding engines and has a brilliant module manager. The module manager analyses your system and if you need a particular codec or encoding engine it can download and install the right one for you with just a couple of mouse clicks, all from within the program itself. Simple and elegant.
You can find StaxRip here: http://staxrip.en.softonic.com
Settings that work: I have the most success using Xvid at 600 to 700kbs for video and its imperative to resize the video stream slightly smaller than the DVD standard resolution of 720 x 576 (otherwise it gets ugly or choppy or both).
Use these paths in staxrip to set up your rip:
profiles > container > AVI
profiles > encoder > xvid > exact file size
profiles > audio > mp3 > 128kbs
Set the target output folder to where you want the new video file created.
Use the "source" link to locate your DVD files on your hard drive. Staxrip can join together VOBs to output the entire movie as a single file.
Staxrip now analyses the dvd files.
When its finished have a look at the DAR parameter, this appears to be the most important figure when resizing vids. Next tick the resize checkbox in the filters window and drag the resizing slider down the scale a little until you find the smaller resolution with a DAR figure as close to the original file as you can. This will be you new video res for this movie, most of mine end up with a width betwen 640 and 688 pixels.
Change the bitrate figure to 600-700 kbs
Click the next button on the bottom right a few times until you get the add a job dialog box. Click start and then wander off and knock the top off a couple of cold beers for the next couple of hours while staxrip does its thing.
I get around this problem by re-encoding the file using a free program called Super. The Super download site is a bitch to find the download link but its way worth it. Its one powerful mutha of a program... get Super here:
Use the small text link right down the bottom of the page, you will have to step through a couple of other pages to find the downloadable file.
Fire up super on your PC after it is installed, follow these instructions:
Drag the video file into the job window down the bottom. Now double click on the job file and you'll see a popup window with all the encoding info for that file... this helps you set up the re-encode parameters to get a good rip.
Right click on a blank part of the Super window for the power options. Choose output file saving management option and configure where you want the finished file to go.
Check the info pane you called up 2 steps ago. stay with the same encoding file format, ie. if its already a divx then we'll keep it a divx, same applies for a xvid file.
Cheap arse Chinese piece of shit thats worth the effort only if you have tech skills or want to learn some.
My reasoning is thus: the 1 terrabyte hard drive that shipped with the unit was worth more than I payed for the drive + player bundle. That alone makes it a good buy and lets face it... if you were to totally stuff the player by messing around with it its no great loss.
To date I've got over 700 working files on it now and although its definitely got some quirks the Midte does the job. I'll add to this review when I get some testing done with the Hi definition side of the player... stay tuned.
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Enjoy this article ? The site ? Would you buy me a beer for my efforts?