Philips HMP2000 £49.99
23rd Feb 2012 | 17:05
Stream Netflix and YouTube direct to your TV with the Smart Media Box
Why bother buying a web-connected smart TV when you can upgrade your current set-up for just £50?
That's the thinking behind Philips' first foray into the 'smart TV extender' market, though there are significant gaps in its armour.
Despite being labelled rather misleadingly as a 'HD Media Box' on its gloss black front, this Netflix-centric box is simplicity itself.
It's armed only with a HDMI output for hooking-up to a TV, and a USB slot for taking thumbdrives full of digital files.
Disappointingly, there's no ethernet port to be found anywhere, so you have ot make do with the built in Wi-Fi module for cable-free connection to a broadband router.
User interface & services
Fire-up the HMP2000 and a simple five-icon user interface offers cover YouTube, Netflix (£5.99 per month for unlimited films), USB, Internet Services, and a link to a Setup menu.
No BBC iPlayer, then – surely a huge reason for TVs to be smart in the first place – nor on-demand hubs for any other channels. At least Facebook, AccuWeather and Picasa are present and Netflix does of course carry some of the Beeb's back catalogue of TV shows.
Navigating the simple user interface isn't helped by the remote, which is too small to be used comfortably.
Though the system can slow-up at times, it's never a complicated or frustrating experience; choosing services is relatively quick, and the initial set-up of the WiFi connection was easy.
Things do slowdown a little when Netflix starts, though we love the cover art-led library.
The remote's red Netflix button is overkill, and the 'recently watched' section, though only displaying the last film viewed, is rather dominating.
Next comes a choice of movies that are 'Popular on Facebook' (you can link your account if you want to tell the world what you're watching or get recommendations from friends) though beneath it gets more sensible, with titles split into New Releases and other genres.
- Read:Netflix review
You'd be well advised to set up and explore your Netflix account on a computer before you log in on the Philips box - if you rate the movies you've seen it gradually gets to know you and makes more accurate suggestions.
The HMP2000 boasts a slick approach to YouTube. Automatically playing popular footage, usability revolves around just the up and down cursor buttons.
Search terms can be entered using a transparent keyboard that floats over whatever is currently playing, while it's easy to browse though a carousel of videos in several genres just be navigating a strip across the bottom.
There's always something going on, and finding what you want it easy – and it supports HD.
In our tests it wasn't possible to play content from NTFS-formatted drives - only Fat 32 is supported.
It's necessary to first choose movies, music or photos, but the file compatibility is impressive. We managed to play MP3, WMA, OGG and FLAC music files (not in lossless quality, but still …), all kinds of photos including JPEG, TIF and BMP, and SD and HD versions of MKV, MOV, AVC HD, WMV, MPEG, MP4 and even VOB video files.
But try as we might we just couldn't get the HMP2000 to play any of a plethora of DivX and Xvid AVI files we threw at it.
Presentation is good, with a moving thumbnail, complete with sound, playing for whichever file is selected, but shouldn't a WiFi-endowed device like this be able to stream files from a networked PC or NAS drive?
It's another missed opportunity on a box that's well intentioned and good value for what it is, but nevertheless fails to rival a 'proper' smart TV.
The clue's in the name here – the HMP200 is a Netflix box, and little else.
Its gives great YouTube too, and from a USB stick supports several digital file formats your TV almost certainly does not, but it's not quite the smart TV creator it could be.
The biggest oversight is its lack of on-demand TV hubs like the BBC iPlayer, though the poor remote and lack of DLNA/UPnP networking makes the HMP2000 seem only half a solution.