As our digital collections grow, and we move from physical support to the digital one, as years pass by and our family movies accumulate to hundreds of gigabytes in space, we pretty much need media players everywhere in the house. Some of us like to take some of our collections in vacation and most of the hotels are slowly switching to wide screen TVs featuring HDMI ports. This makes it easier and easier to keep ourselves (and our kids) entertained. Let’s face it, today’s market is full of media players of all the sizes, shapes and capabilities, at various price levels. Every manufacturer is trying to differentiate somehow and HSTI is no exception. We were provided with a sample of their tiny MoboPlay media player for review and, after several days of testing various audio/video codecs and containers, we produced this HSTI MoboPlay Review for your reading pleasure. Jump after the break and see how MoboPlay performs in the real world.
The box contains the MoboPlay unit itself, the power supply, remote control and both composite and HDMI cable (a nice surprise considering how many other manufacturers are skipping the HDMI cable) and the quick start manual. I was immediately impressed by the small size of the MoboPlayer at only 6 x 6 cm in size, 13mm thick, and 50g in weight.
Design and Functionality
MoboPlay has an attractive piano black (and fingerprint magnet) finish and is very small (6 x 6 cm, 13mm thick, 50g weight). In the back, you can find the AV port, the optical sound output (important for use with those receivers lacking a HDMI port), the actual HDMI port capable of 1080p and the power socket. On the front you can find a full USB host connector, a full size SD/SDHC socket, the power LED and the IR sensor.
Manual: HSTI Website
I have a very large number of media files that I gathered for testing purposes, with various codecs in many containers covering Flash, AVI, DIVX, MKV, VOB, M2TS, Blu-Ray rips, DVD rips, mp3, FLAC, OGG, etc. Most of the personal collections at this point are either MKV files containing 720-1080p ripped movies with 5.1 sound and perhaps subtitles, DVD rips in folders or ISO files, mp4 and/or mov files from digital cameras or camcorders so during our tests we emphasize the most used codecs and containers. MoboPlay even supports PMP, DAT, RM, RMVB files as well, but I imagine with the sheer numbers of free converters available online, almost everyone would prefer to have their media collection as one or few unique formats to improve the compatibility across many devices currently available in a modern house.
To go in more details, I tested DVD rips in both ISO and DVD folder structure, AVI/DIVX/XVID files, 720p and 1080p mp4 and MOV files produced by my digital cameras/camcorders and Blu-Ray rips encoded with h264, one or more surround sound tracks and multiple subtitles. In the results you’ll see how MoboPlay performed in these tests.
All in all, MoboPlay passed most of the tests with flying colors, quite impressive considering the price point. There have been some issues with MTS (AVCHD) files in 1080p recorded by my Sony camera, but AVCHD is not in the supported file list anyway. MoboPlay recognizes both DVD ISOs and DVD file structure and plays them automatically without any issues (I didn’t have luck with ISOs larger than 4GB though), if the DVD file structure is broken, I was able to play individual VOB files. MKV files with h264 encoding and 5.1 audio were also played really well, even the ones exceeding 10GB size. I tested a number of 3D MKV side-by-side and top-bottom encoded files and those were working as well. Also tested mpeg 2 and TS files and those worked well too.
Subtitles worked fine both embedded or standalone. They can be turned on via FUNC menu option where you can also modify the font size, color and other aspects.
As a side note, I found that MoboPlay buffers quite a lot of the video stream by trying a little experiment: During a 1080p video I removed the USB storage unit from the MoboPlay and much to my surprise, the unit continued to play the video for several seconds longer.
Beside the mp3 files I also tested aac files, ac3, DTS, mp3pro, WMA, ogg and all of them played with no issues at all. When playing audio files, MoboPlay also displays a simple spectrum analyzer to go with the music. FLAC files played also with no issues, from 44100 to 96000Hz
MoboPlay is a really convenient way to view your local content, and with the help of the HSTI Wireless Media Stick, a good way to access your network content as well. Its codec support is very comprehensive, it is stable, very small and very easy to carry. While there are several thinks that we would change, like the capability of being USB powered via a micro USB connector (especially since the power consumption is listed under 500mA), overall it offers considerable value to the user in a miniature package. MoboPlay can be purchased right now from HSTI online store for only $59.95.
What I really like the most about it is that I can remove the SD card from my camcorder, plug it in the MoboPlay and I have a fast and reliable solution to see all my vacation movies on the big screen, even when I am traveling.
As a side note, I purchased for under $60 a Motorola lapdock for Atrix 4G that accept with some little HDMI in and can power the MoboPlay as well; I’ll write an article about how to build a good quality portable media player for very cheap in the following days.
- good codec support
- very small, easy to carry around and in your trips
- very fast boot
- low price at $59.95 or together with the Wireless Media Stick previously reviewed by us for $119
- most of the negatives we found were really just possible improvements (USB power?)