Product Review (June 2008) - MediaGate
MG-450HD High Definition Digital Media Server

MediaGate, a provider of wired and wireless HDTV and PC digital video drives has recently introduced its latest MG-450HD. The product has a host of features and interfaces that make it a powerful addition to any modern media system. What makes the MediaGate MG-450HD so attractive is its ability to stream content from a variety of sources through wired LAN or wireless (802.11g) connections as well as from the (optional) internal SATA hard drive. The MG-450HD includes a DVD Manager feature that allows playback of non-protected DVD files with the same interface (full menu control) as the original DVD with (Menu/Title/Audio/Subtitle buttons on the remote). Content can be streamed from an external PC or from the internal hard drive. There is also support for attached USB devices like a digital camera, flash drive or an external hard drive. Supported video formats include AVI: MS-MPEG4v3/XviD/WMV9 (XviD with GMC option applied not supported), WMV: WMV9, ASF: WMV9, MP4: MPEG4 Video, DAT: MPEG1, VOB: MPEG2, MPG/MPEG: MPEG1/MPEG2, and TP/TS/TRP: HD-MPEG2/SD-MPEG2. Supported audio formats include MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA. Supported photo formats include JPG, PNG, and BMP. Somehow they do it for a mere $229. We will find out just how well this product performs as we take it through the ropes and report on our findings. We have had previous experience with an earlier MediaGate unit (MG-35) and the capabilities it provided us at the time were exceptional. So for obvious reasons we were excited to see what the company has developed over the past year.

What's Included
The MediaGate MG-450HD system includes an IR remote, detachable antenna for the WiFi interface, USB cable, standard A/V cables, and a power adapter (110-240VAC, 50/60 Hz). There is no HDMI cable included with the unit, so if you plan to use this interface you'll have to purchase one separately. The MG-450HD sits on a removable base that keeps the unit from tipping. The unit supports an internal 3.5" SATA hard drive giving it the ability to be a powerful stand-alone media server. As the cost of these hard drives drop in price, it becomes even more attractive for storing content locally, making the MG-450HD a true media server. One of the first things we will do is install a drive into the MG-450HD as part of the review.

Under the Hood
The inside of the MG-450HD accommodates a standard 3.5" SATA drive. Our review unit came with a small 80GB HDD with some sample content for demonstration purposes. However, the MG-450HD is designed to support drives as large as 750GB according to the documentation. During my conversation with the technical folks at MediaGate, they informed me that a select number of larger 1TB drives are compatible with the unit. We installed an inexpensive ($119 from Newegg) SATA 3.0 750GB Samsung hard drive into our MG-450HD to see how easy the upgrade path would be. A few screws and a couple of connections later we were able to connect the MG-450HD to our laptop using the USB cable for a lengthy NTFS format. In the end, we had an enormous amount of hard drive space to store our files.

Front View
The front of the MediaGate MG-450HD has a cool looking blue LED behind the navigation buttons. Below this are three buttons for Power, Play/Pause and Stop. Indicators in the lower portion of the front panel are for power status (red), network activity (yellow), and hard drive activity (green). While the MG-450HD is booting up or when it is connected to a PC as a slave drive the blue light behind the navigation buttons flash. Boot-up time takes approximately 20-30 seconds before the unit becomes responsive and displays a picture. An IR detector just above the indicators receive commands from the IR remote. The user rarely needs to access the unit so it can be placed in reasonably tight quarters as long as the IR window is exposed. It would have been nice if MediaGate provided a jack for an IR extender. This would allow the unit to be placed in an out of sight location. The electronics and internal hard drive can generate a substantial amount of heat and due to the plastic enclosure the heat has a tendency to build up. Fortunately, the enclosure does have a fair amount of venting holes on the cover and back. We never had any failures related to this and ran the unit 24/7, but it may be wise to keep the unit in a location where some ventilation is available.

On the Back
The rear panel of the MediaGate MG-450HD is loaded with both analog and digital interfaces. Composite, s-video and component (480p, 720p, and 1080i) video outputs are provided along with a state-of-the-art HDMI (480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p) digital video connector. This is a perfect match for the new displays utilizing the HDMI interface where both audio and video are sent via a single connection. We did the majority of our testing with a single HDMI cable to our Mitsubishi LT-52133 LCD flat panel. For those with a separate audio system, the MG-450HD features both coaxial and toslink digital audio interfaces along with two channel analog audio. The digital audio outputs can be connected to an A/V receiver or processor for decoding 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS audio streams. A wired ethernet jack (RJ-45) along with an antenna connection for the built-in Wi-Fi (802.11g) is provided. The antenna can be adjusted in virtually any direction. The input power jack uses a single 12V/3A supply from the universal AC power adapter. This media server has more interfaces than most of the other media products we have seen.

Remote
The IR remote is small, but has the functionality needed to control all the media content. MediaGate has changed the design to accommodate a pair of standard AA batteries instead of the more costly CR2025 button batteries used in so many of the smaller remotes. This is a good move since the remote is used frequently and will eventually need the batteries replaced. The Power button is colored blue not to confuse it with the other buttons. The Setup button is also colored differently. The rest of the buttons are much more difficult to distinguish from one another especially given their small size. There is no backlight on the remote so using it in a dark environment will prove challenging. The most frequently used controls are the navigation, chapter, play/pause, and stop buttons which are fairly easy to distinguish from one another. Given the size of the remote the buttons work well, but I would have preferred a full size remote with backlighting. However, my wife had no complaints about it and was able to operate the unit without any problems. What is nice about the MG-450HD is the support of DVD ISO images which is easier to manage than the more cumbersome Audio/Video file structure. This allows the users to launch a movie quickly by selecting a single ISO filename through the GUI and making full use of the DVD's menu. The response time for controlling the DVD functions is excellent with this system. I was very impressed with how fast the unit jumps between tracks and how quickly the unit displays the main menu when commanded. This appears to be significantly faster than typical DVD players and certainly something not found in many media servers.

Transferring Content
There are several ways to move content to and from the MG-450HD which gives the user a lot of flexibility. The unit has a USB device interface making the unit look like an external hard drive to Windows when connected to a PC using the included standard USB cable. Files can simply be dragged and dropped or deleted from the unit. Alternatively, the MG-450HD has an FTP client feature that allows the user to log into the unit and upload or download files from an FTP server (in our case our PC). We were able to transfer files directly into the large hard drive we installed. File transfer speed is somewhat slow compared to a direct connection using the USB interface, but it adds the convenience of not having to physically connect to the MG-450HD each time the content needs updating. In addition, we were able to transfer files at the same time while watching an ISO DVD without experiencing any dropouts. The user can also use the WiFi connection to transfer data at a substantial decrease in transfer speed.

The MG-450HD also features a USB Host interface. This is different from the USB interface mentioned above. The host interface allows external USB storage devices to provide content during playback. We connected a second 750GB external hard drive to the MG-450HD, essentially doubling our storage capacity to 1.5TB. Our external USB/SATA drive performed very well keeping up with real-time video from a DVD ISO file. Even better, the MG-450HD also supported an external USB 2.0 hub for a large expansion of the single USB port on the back panel. This is a powerful feature that gives the MG-450HD access to large amounts of external storage devices. In theory several external hard drives can be connected to the unit and accessed through the GUI. USB memory sticks with audio/video/photo content can also be plugged into the unit. We had mixed results with some of our USB memory sticks. Some worked fine while other had trouble being recognized. In all cases the unit needs to be restarted when a new USB device is connected before it is properly recognized by the system.

Setup
The MG-450HD has an extensive setup menu that allows the user to specify the type of display being used. Digital displays using the HDMI connection benefit from not having the video converted to the analog domain. When using the HDMI connection, the MG-450HD can be set to automatically detect the connected display using the Auto EDID option. The user can also specify any format from 480i to 1080p. Composite/S-video and component video outputs are also supported.

Video Output
The MG-450HD supports a variety of both analog and digital video displays. The user can choose the TV Type to be NTSC or PAL. The TV Mode can be set to composite, component or HDMI. Depending on the TV Mode selected, the user can choose different resolutions. All of our testing was done in the 1080p video mode.

Slide Show
Photos can automatically be displayed on the screen for a fixed interval of time or can be viewed manually. The automatic feature allows the user to set the slide interval time ranging from 1 second to 7 seconds. The user can also choose an effect between the photos (Zoom In/Out, Fade In/Out, Slide or Random).

Internet
The MG-450HD supports both wireless (802.11g) and wired internet connections. The wireless menu is slightly cumbersome to use, but certainly works. We used a secure link without any problems. The wired interface worked well and the unit identified the connection quickly. We had DHCP set to ON and the unit quickly identified itself on the network.

Main Menu
The Main Menu of the MG-450HD has icons on the left side of the screen for the hard drive (HDD), USB, LAN, and Wireless interfaces. The user can select any icon as the source of the content to be displayed. The content for each of the interfaces is displayed on the right side of the screen. The file path, size and date are displayed on the bottom of the screen. Selecting a single ISO file of a DVD launches the DVD giving the user full access to the menus. This is probably one of the most powerful features of the MG-450HD. The speed of this interface is impressive and the unit responds quickly to remote commands.

The MediaGate MG-450HD has built-in Wi-Fi (802.11g) and can support attached USB devices such as digital cameras. You can also add a hard drive to the MG-450HD for extra onboard storage. We installed a relatively inexpensive ($109) 750GB hard drive in the MG-450HD and it worked well. You will get HD resolutions all the way up to 1080p via the HDMI connections, there are also composite, s-video, stereo analog sound, and also optical / coaxial SPDIF digital audio for full 5.1 audio.

Performance
The MediaGate MG-450HD did amazingly well in all of our tests. Video quality was excellent and the high definition content we streamed looked fantastic. The flexibility this unit offers is difficult to find on a media server and there were several tests we ran during the course of the review that proved that this unit can handle a great deal. We connected two of the MG-450HD units in different locations in the house and watched movies from the same server. Both units had no problem playing the selected video and surprisingly didn't skip a beat. We were surprised to see this, but it worked very well. The second test we performed was watching content while transferring files to the unit through the network. Again the video played seamlessly as the new files were being written to the internal SATA hard drive.

Photos were also excellent on this player. Our source photos were taken with a Canon 40D digital SLR with 10M pixel resolution. Without modifying the original images we used the MG-450HD to display the images with the parameters defined in the setup screen. The picture quality was superb, fully maximizing the screen resolution when displaying photos. The MG-450HD can also stream music, yet we didn't focus on this aspect of the player. We can say that the internet radio was a cool feature, but the audio quality was limited and this was objectionable enough for us not to want to use it. However, MP3 music from our music server sounded great on this player.

The MG-450HD is not without its warts and we did run into bandwidth issues when using the wireless connection. Streaming videos through this connection proved to be challenging with choppy video during playback. The wired connection worked fine with real-time video on our network. When starting a movie we heard a double clicking noise in the audio when using the HDMI cable. We are not sure what causes this, but it was consistent. A larger backlit remote would also give higher marks to the design. Hopefully this is something MediaGate might consider in the near future.

Conclusion
The MediaGate MG-450HD clearly provides users with an affordable way to stream multimedia into their home entertainment system. The compact design and feature set is impressive for a product that retails for $229. The MG-450HD is capable of streaming both standard definition as well as high definition content. Virtually all types of displays (both analog and digital) are supported and for those looking to upgrade their screen in the near future, the MG-450HD is ready to accommodate it. The HDMI interface ensures that the information from the source stays in the digital domain. Whether content is stored on the internal or attached hard drive or from the network PC server, the MG-450HD offers users a great deal of flexibility and performance. Clearly, the MG-450HD has some of the best features available in a media server and does it for an incredibly affordable price.

The ability to play DVD ISO files is one of the best features. Updating the firmware is simple and during the course of the review we did one firmware update. Hopefully MediaGate will continue to offer updates with performance improvements and bug fixes. Given the cost of this unit, there is no reason not to have one for each display in the house for the ultimate use of your multimedia. This has been the best media sever for the money we have seen thus far.

- Kevin Nakano







OneCall: Your Home Theater, Digital Camera, and HDTV Experts



Review System

Display: Mitsubishi LT-52133 52" Full-HD 1080p LCD Television
Projector: Mitsubishi HC5000 Full-HD 1080p LCD Projector
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Video Processor/Scaler: Anchor Bay Technologies DVDO iScan HD+ A/V Processor
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
Blu-ray Player: Sony PlayStation3 Game Console and Blu-ray Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer

D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
DVI Cable: AudioQuest DV-1 20m DVI-D Cable
HDMI Cable #1: VizionWare Hi-Wirez 20-meter Active HDMI Cable
HDMI Cables #2: Accell UltrRun 45-meter Active HDMI Cable
Power Conditioning: Panamax MAX® 5510 ACRegenerator
Video Generator #1: Gefen 1080p HDMI Video Pattern Generator
Video Generator #2: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer #1: Sencore CP5000 ISF Certified All-Display Color Analyzer
Color Analyzer #2: ColorFacts PRO with GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro Colorphotometer


Review - At a Glance


MediaGate - MG-450HD High Definition Digital Media Server

Features

  • HDMI (High Definition Multimedia)
  • SATA HDD Supported
  • Internet Radio
  • FTP Server & Client
  • uPnP
  • 1920x1080P Full HD
  • Supports HD MPEG2, MPEG4
  • Supports MPEG1/2@HL (720p/1,080i), MPEG4@L5 (720p) and MPEG@ML (720p)
  • Supports composite, S-video, component video outputs
  • Supports Stereo L/R, optical/coaxial digital audio, analog 5.1 channels
    - Supports JPEG/BMP/GIF/PNG still picture D
  • IEEE 802.11g(54Mbps) 802.11b(11Mbps) wireless
  • Standard 10/100Mbps wired LAN
  • Easy to upgrade Firmware
  • 3.5” Hard Disk Drive (Not-included)
  • Wireless security – WPA / WEP
  • Wireless Infrastructure and Ad-Hoc Mode
  • External USB 2.0 storage via USB device connecting a computer
  • Read an external USB storage or an optical drive via USB host connecting various external USB device
  • DVD Manager - Playback of DVD File same as Original DVD title
  • Video output - HDMI, Component, S-Video and Composite
  • Audio output - Stereo, Digital Coaxial & Optical PCM/Dolby Digital/DTS
    DTS down mix to stereo

Product Information

Brochure Download

Firmware Download

Manual Download


Company Information

MediaGate USA,
414-C Cloverleaf Dr.
Baldwin Park, CA 91706 USA

Source: Manufacturer Supplied
MSRP: $229

URL: www.mediagateusa.com
Tech Support: techsupport@mediagateusa.com

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