HD Media players as they are commonly called, are good easy-to-setup and easy-to-use devices if you're fond of watching movies, listening to music and viewing photos. Of course, an HTPC is too complicated a setup so one needs to look at simpler options and that's where HD media players come in. Fortunately, there are plenty of them in the market, primarily from mainstream storage solution manufacturers. We agree they offer very refined products but they're often limited by the number of features. Xtreamer is a brand that deals primarily in HD media players and they have a line of products ranging across different price brackets. The latest to hit the market is the Xtreamer Sidewinder 3, that has some more features bundled in. Let's take a closer look at these changes.

Design and build quality

Out of the box, the Xtreamer SideWinder 3 isn't the best-looking HD media player in the market. It's made of metal, but is coated with a black, glossy finish, which gives it a somewhat crude look in comparison to some of the other products such as the WD TV, Seagate’s GoFlex TV, etc.

WiFI connectivity, using a USB dongle

WiFI connectivity, using a USB dongle

The player can be opened on one side to plug in an internal hard drive. The bundled remote control is lightweight but it's as large as any other TV or AV-receiver remote. The buttons are small but the quality is pretty decent.

Features

As for the basic features, the Xtreamer SideWinder3 comes with two USB 2.0 ports on the side, which can be used to connect external storage devices to it. There’s also a USB 3.0 port that is used to connect the Xtreamer to a PC, using which you can access data off the internal drive. Xtreamer doesn’t provide a drive, but you can fit a 2.5-inch drive in it from one side. There’s also Wi-Fi capability via USB dongle that can be used on one of the ports. 

Video output connectors at the back, include composite and component

Video output connectors at the back, include composite and component

The bundled remote control is large and has a whole bunch of buttons on it, but you find yourself using the primary directional buttons and the back button most of the time. There are quick shortcut buttons that are helpful to jump from one feature to another. 

Coming to the software features, there are a ton of them. The interface lets you select favorites and play back recently played content quickly, from the main menu itself. There’s the Android feature, which might interest many. The feature loads an Android environment, which is like on any other Android tablet or smartphone and comes with some apps preinstalled on it including eBuddy, an instant messenger, Skype and Grooveshark, an online streaming service. Implementation is poorly done but the feature has some potential. We faced crashes in this as well, and the resolution of the environment didn’t match that of the TV.

Android running within the Xtreamer SideWinder3

Android running within the Xtreamer SideWinder3

The next menu is the app menu, which basically is the place you’ll find all of the popular online media services including YouTube, Shoutcast radio stations and so on. There’s also Flickr, Dailymotion, Picasa, and many more. So, there’s plenty of content that you can consume sitting in front of the TV using the device. There are some issues though – eg. not all of the Flickr photos were displayed properly, with errors messages from Flickr popping up every now and then. Another interesting feature is of course, the RSS Load widget, which lets you manually enter RSS feeds so you can read them. 

The on-screen keyboard, not the easiest to use

The on-screen keyboard, not the easiest to use

There’s even a proper web browser that you can use. Rendering is pretty good and the performance isn’t too bad either. Flash isn’t supported though. We had problems navigating through the interface using the interface using the various input modes available.

There’s also an Android app to control the Xtreamer but we faced all sorts of disconnection problems while we used it over WiFi, on a Samsung Galaxy Note. It would connect at times, then disconnect and sometimes not react to the commands and not list folders and files. All other activity over the network seemed fine, on both the Xtreamer and other network devices on the network.

Includes all the features you'd ever need from a media player

Includes all the features you'd ever need from a media player

The Xtreamer SideWinder3 also has support for Airplay and DLNA, which means you can stream content from a variety of devices. Like other Xtreamer devices, you also get access to a web interface using which you can easily control the player as well as copy content to and from it. There’s even the ability to upload files to the player. So, the Xtreamer also acts as a proper NAS device. Data is also accessible through the Windows shares.

Another feature that is rarely found on other HD media players is the ability to download BitTorrent content directly to the device. There’s a web interface for the transmission as well.

User interface and controls

The Xtreamer SideWinder3 is a feature-rich product with a lot of capabilities, but it’s not very impressive when it comes to the user interface and controls. For one, the controls aren’t very responsive so even basic tasks such as moving from one menu to another takes a second or so. The interface isn’t very intuitive either. For example, the main menu doesn’t have direct links to wide media categories such as movies, music, photos, etc. Instead, there are links to data sources, favourites, apps, etc. To play movies or other media, one needs to browse through a data source (an external drive or an internal one), and then select the folder and click on the media. Within the sources is a seperate option to do this. The simplest way would be to directly jump into videos, music or photos.

Not the best looking home screen, on a media player

Not the best looking home screen, on a media player

Further, all the content, by default, is shown as file names and not by the artist name or the movie name. A media player needs to be really simple and make things as simple as possible. All these small things add up to a bit of a mess. The audio player for example looks like a media player made for a PC screen, a more simplistic interface with visualisations for example would have been better. There are a bunch of spelling mistakes and graphics glitches that are visible too. For example, certain features that need to be installed separately still show up in the navigational menus. We’re not saying it doesn’t work fine, it just doesn't feel and look as nice as it should.

Performance

The Xtreamer SideWinder3 might have its glitches and bugs, but there’s no denying its ability to play pretty much every format in the book. MKV, M2TS, 1080p, 1080p at 60fps is all playable, and very smoothly. We even tried fast-forwarding 720p content and it did it perfectly. Fast-forwarding of 1080p, 60fps content isn’t as smooth though. When it comes to audio, FLAC files aren’t a problem either. 

Various features on the device can be toggled

Various features on the device can be toggled

The product heats up a bit after long hours of usage, but that’s also contributed by the internal hard drive that you install on the player. We did notice some bugs while using the product. The screen for example, would suddenly go blank randomly. Hard reboots were required at times. We upgraded the firmware and that didn’t fix the problems either. 

Verdict

A solid product with a lot of potential

A solid product with a lot of potential


The Xtreamer SideWinder3 is a great product when it comes to features. It has all the ingredients that should ideally make it one of the best multimedia playback solutions around, but the interface, the bugs and the poor implementation don’t let it. It’s priced at Rs. 9,999 in India, which isn’t a lot considering what you get for the price. However, you should be willing to live with some of the annoyances that the product comes with. We’re hoping Xtreamer fixes all of the issues in a major, upcoming software update.

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