HP MediaSmart Connect Review Part 3: Extender & Conclusion

Given the high price of the MediaSmart Connect I’m assuming
that most reading this review will want to see some improvements in the Media
Center Extender function—and I think HP delivered pretty well on that.

While the Extender UI is a bit slow still, we have already
covered that it is based on the same Sigma 8622 chip that the Linksys and
D-Link are.  However, HP adds a few
commonly requested features that the previous entries in the market lack.  First, the HP MediaSmart Connect supports the
4th Zoom mode (non linear stretch) in Media Center.  However, one random issue that needs more
testing is the video experiencing major fisheye-like effects when in the 4th
Zoom mode (I’ll look at this more later). 
In addition the included HP universal remote has a closed caption toggle
button that actually works within Media Center.  I also did not experience the auto-sensing
HDMI issues that I still have with the Linksys DMA series Extenders, but this
is another issue that I want to test in some other scenarios.

On the downside there still are no photo slideshow
animations given the slower processor, and using HDMI all audio is decoded and
output as 2-channel PCM which completely kills the experience.  File format support looks pretty good, but
yet again MKV is still missing in the big picture.

Overall the rest of the Extender is exactly what you would expect.  It might not be at the level of the Xbox 360 Extender yet, but to me it seems further along then D-Link or Linksys.

Note: MediaSmart UI file format support is covered in
previous section



If you can handle the high price, the HP MediaSmart Connect
is the best Extender outside of the Xbox 360 on the market (worth noting the Xbox 360 Extender only supports WMV and MPEG-2).  The included universal remote, 4th
zoom mode, good file format support, and addition of the MediaSmart UI make it
a good choice for Media Center users and those just looking for a nicely
designed and functional media adaptor.

Overall I give the HP MediaSmart Connect x280n an 8/10. Give
me MKV support, fix the HDMI downmixing, and drop the price at least $100 and
HP could take the Extender market by storm.

Pros and Cons of the
HP MediaSmart Connect a (8/10)


  • Fantastic
    solid design/build quality
  • Completely
  • Wireless-N
  • Easy
    setup and installation of MediaSmart
  • Includes
    accessories (backlit remote, HDMI cable)
  • MediaSmart
    UI and local storage options


  • High
    price ($350)
  • Still
    no MKV support
  • No
    1080p output
  • HDMI
    output has audio downmixing (I’m told SPDIF is always active, so run HDMI+SPDIF).
  • Doesn’t
    output WMV9 Pro as AC3
  • Transitions/animations/UI
    slow and clunky
  • No SD
    video output

MediaSmart Connect Review Part 1: Overview

MediaSmart Connect Review Part 2: MediaSmart UI

16 thoughts on “HP MediaSmart Connect Review Part 3: Extender & Conclusion

  1. I bought an HP Mediasmart TV with this function built in. It was the only thing I liked about the TV. It definitely worked, but the server software that had to be installed on the computer would drop occasionally. I do recall a lag issue, and now that i think about it, it was a pain. I never knew if the computer went offline or not, so I had to keep checking it. Overall, though, I thought it was a good idea that worked acceptably.

    I’d have kept the set, if it only looked good. The TV itself was terrible (black levels were just blobs of black), so I returned it. But the Mediasmart end of things was decent. For this to be integrated into a TV is definitely an idea whose time is here.

    Now I use a networked Vista MC laptop connected to a Philips HDTV, which looks and works much better.

  2. What about support for WMA Pro as an audio-only format? Music is more important than video for me. I converted some of my 5.1 channel audio discs to WMA Pro and was wondering if this extender can handle it.

  3. Chris, thanks for the great write-up. Its good but not great. For me, it comes down to price and performance. At $350, there is no reason for menu transitions/animations/etc not to be very responsive and fluid. I hope that it is something which can be resolved via a upcoming Media Extender firmware upgrade. But if the Sigma processor is not powerful enough..then you’ve got ask yourself why they pushed for this Sigma design to be used. Keeping my fingers crossed that the Media Extender Team has an update in the works.

  4. Good to see a decent remote included. Disappointed with the 264 mp4’s result though. I was hoping for solid playback even if it was only 2 channel. The 2100 plays them with audio but it stutters bad at parts.

  5. Darryl: I’m asking about this, but it isn’t transcoded to Dolby Digital so your only hope is to have an AVR that decodes WMA Pro. And even then I’m not sure if it supports bitstream output of WMA Pro (I’m asking now).

    JohnCz: There are newer Sigma processors on the market now, it is just the time to design and develop around them. I’m hoping the increased speed of these newer editions will give the boost they need. These newer chips can handle BD-J from Blu-ray Discs so I assume the extra power is used there, so why not Extenders.

  6. > …your only hope is to have an AVR that decodes WMA Pro.

    Sounds like it’s too late for this generation of the product, but multi-channel PCM over HDMI is what I’m looking for, not transcoding. As long as the decoders are decent, that would be my first choice for AC3 as well, although that’s less of an issue for AC3 since most receivers have built in decoders for that format. Maybe you could pass that on to your contact at HP.

  7. A couple of questions for you:

    Your review shows that the HP can play XVID files with AC3 audio.
    Do you also have a Linksys extender?
    If so, are you aware of the issue the Linksys has where when playing an XVID/AC3 file, the audio cuts in and out over and over?
    Can you play one of those files on the HP without an audio problems?

    And does the Closed Caption button on the HP remote send a code that only the HP unit understands or can you use the remote on the Linksys unit?

  8. The question for me is whether this is worth almost $100 premium over the Linksys. I trust HP to make some improvements and seemingly are more likely to add some functionality with firmware updates than Linksys as an OEM, but right off the bat I cannot see $100+ worth of added value if the underlying hardware is the same. Makes me think I should go for Linksys and then hold out for v3 extenders which might have slightly more juice for the animation/transitions etc within Media Center.

  9. I canceled my order for the Connect based on your review. I have an HP MediaSmart Server that holds all of my music & video. I wanted a box that would convert those bits on the server into an HDMI audio/video signal. Kind of like a DVD player only without the discs. I took that $350 and applied it to building a PC to do the same job as the x280n. I wound up going $38 over budget but got 2.6GHz dual-core 2GB system with 160GB hard drive and a mother board (ASUS M3N78 PRO) capable of doing 1080p with HDMI. I’ll run Vista Media Center on it so I should be able to play anything.

  10. Has anyone compared these to the NetGear EVA8000? It doesn’t have the MCE experience, but it plays back a bunch of stuff — in 1080p via HDMI.

  11. I was working with an HP 47″ TV with the Media Extender option integrated into it. When I go to connect it to any of my many different systems, both vista and xp the system is so slow and lagged out I might as well forget about it. Also if i do actually get to streaming any content off of the computers it often disconnects every 15 to 20 minutes at which point i have to restart the gateway server. Anyone suffer from these issues? Any suggestions? Im thinking about just building a dedicated media center system to hook directly to the TV.

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