Various Media Servers tested

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Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:18 am
AV Hardware: Windows 2003 Enterprise Server, Drobo 4TB Storage (direct attached). PS3 & Squeezebox clients.

Various Media Servers tested

Post by Cord77 » Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:23 am

Hi guys

I'm new to the PS3, just got a brand new 40giger (now with 320GB in) and upgraded to firmware 2.4 straight away. The main reason to buy it is to play media files in the front room from my Windows 2003 Server. Having researched what the PS3 can play, I went about trying the one piece of software I already had paid for (Nero 8) and found it to be lacking, so I started testing others. Here are my finding, not very exhaustive but enough to get to the conclusion I wanted.

Video Playback

Doesn't allow selective file types for library folders (thanks to the very unconfigurable Nero Scout), which is probably my biggest gripe with Nero. All the folder.jpg files in my CD collection end up in my photo collection.
Nero presents a terrible client menu also, no option to traverse folder structures, it just lumps all folders together.
SD playback was OK. Allows Divx but Fast forwarding gives network error 80710736 after a short time.
HD playback was good, but again fast forward gives network error 80711008. Can use "goto position" but its very slow.
Result: Poor (Unsatifactory)

Does allow selective file types for library folders.
Makes the DivX tray icon show when scanning videos, which renders my Server inoperable during that time (it changes the window focus everytime a video is scanned and added to the library).
Has a good client menu with folder structure view option (can't remember if it was this or Simple Center which also mounted CD/DVD drives present on the Windows server into the DLNA menu, but unfortunately this didn't help much since PS3 won't playback DVDs this way).
SD playback was good. Allows DivX and fast forwarding (although quite slow to FF).
Hi Def playback wasn't so good, basically almost all HD content I tried paused and juddered as if there wasn't enough buffer available to cope with bandwidth spikes.
Result: Mediocre

Does allow selective file types for library folders.
SD playback was very good. Allows Divx (only after I had specifically told it my client was a PS3 though), and fast forward was very fast and responsive. I did get a network error 80710937 while playing a Nero Digital AVI file (PS3 profile) but didn't happen again in my tests.
HD playback was also very good. Unbelievable how fast FF was for huge HD files over a network.
I also noticed I could playback VOBs at this point (probably can on the others also). Trouble with VOBs is you can't get all linked VOBs played in series, you first have to merge them into a single VOB. This itself seems to be problematic. I first had to use either Nero or CloneDVD to create a lean DVD (with just one audio track and the main feature film, or episodes). Then I used VOBmerge v2.5 to get a single file. The file did play, but a 2:20min VOB showed up in the PS3 menu as an 18 second file, so any FF past 18 seconds resulted in no preview during FF, but did resume playing when prompted.
Result: Excellent

Other random things...
TwonkyMedia and Nero both show album artwork in audio playback (Not sure if they pick up on folder.jpg or maybe I've put the thumbnails into the MP3 files headers).
TwonkyMedia will scan new files added to a library folder straight away, but you have to exit and re-enter the folder in the PS3 menu view to refresh (I thought this was good). TwonkyMedia scans folders amazingly quickly.
TwonkyMedia correctly displays time and date metadata in Photos, whereas Nero showed the file creation date & time instead.
I have yet to play with the more advanced navigation tree options.
After several days of running, Twonkymedia is only using 12MB of RAM on my Windows server.
On the whole I am pretty disappointed with the PS3s DivX playback quality compared to my PC, the upscaling is seemingly done without any filtering (dering, deblock) and looks horrible, and this is not a DLNA issue since I tried playing from local hard drive also. Also there is no zoom feature on the PS3 so I can't compensate for badly encoded video with huge borders on them.

So unless something nasty happens over the next 25 days of evaluation, I will be purchasing TwonkyMedia as my DLNA server.

SD files tested were DivX 5.x, XViD, Nero Digital (PS3 profile), VOB
HD files tested were H.264 (converted from MKV using mkv2vob), WMV
Network used was 1Gb wired

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Posts: 1222
Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2005 1:19 pm
AV Hardware: TwonkyMedia AV UPnP Mediaserver (Marvell Kirkwood ARM Sheevaplug with Debian Squeeze).
2x Noxon V2 audio client
1x PS3 Slim 500GB Audio/Video UPnP client.
1x Sony VGF-CP1 Wireless Photoframe.
Location: UK

Re: Various Media Servers tested

Post by mgillespie » Mon Jul 07, 2008 7:45 pm

Nice review. A with most things in life, you get what you pay for. I think Twonky is well worth the small amount of money it costs. It also provides the best flexability, as you have servers for most OS's

Incidently, the VOB splitting thing, if you use DVDDecrpypter, there is an option in the settings to rip it to a single VOB (it splits by default). That may save you alot of time!!!
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