Within seconds, we had our cables connected and our initial menu on-screen. Upon the first use, we immediately received our local forecast, as well as menu options. Using the wheel, you can click through options such as Network Shared Folders, UPnP (DLNA) devices, a removable device, Netflix, a Web browser, the RSS reader, favorites, iMedia, and setup.
First, we punched up a few selections from Netflix. Basically, if you don’t have Netflix, we would be surprised that you’d buy this box. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have other nice features, but this is the biggie. Also, if you don’t have it, you’re going to get it, because it’s pretty addicting.
To use this option, you must have a streaming account, which starts at $8.99 per month. However, Netflix does offer a free trial to get you hooked. Within seconds, we had our streaming Netflix queue on screen. While not all Netflix selections are available in HD, we did find more than a few to test out the quality, including episodes of 30 Rock, the ’80s comedy Caddyshack, and the mini-film Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder. The images and the streaming quality were nothing short of stellar. We were really pleased with the service. However, on some of the titles, the volume was a bit low. Others, we were blasted out. Even some of our non-HD selections, such as Zombieland, UP and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, all looked awesome. Why these are not available in HD is a question for Netflix. Still, the colors and textures on each title were decent, and we appreciated the instant gratification.
Under Live365, you’ll find a slew of options. Just some include My Presets, Recommendations, Editor’s Picks and Free Stations. You can also scroll and pick radio stations by genre. Many of the stations do require a Live365 account, but there are also plenty of freebies, which sounded surprisingly great.
YouTube was a little harder to navigate. It looks exactly like the computer-based interface, but those words looked itty-bitty, even on our big screen. You can zoom and adjust font sizes, but it’s a lot of work. Using the click wheel was difficult, since it uses a series of clicks and presses, instead of swipes. We checked out a great looking clip from the new animated movie, Despicable Me. After that, we sort of became frustrated trying to navigate through clips. The search bar is insanely tiny, and involves punching through numbers to get the proper letters you need. Overall, it was a really tedious process.
SHOUTcast was less limited when choosing radio stations. However, it also offered less information about each selection. None of the many stations we flipped through included artist or song info. Flickr was limited, too. Even though the pictures were gorgeous and went nicely with our SHOUTcast selections, there were no options to log into a personal Flickr account. Instead, you are only treated to public pictures, which can be searched by user name or keyword.
The browser on the VMP75 includes Google and room for a total of six favorite presets. So, you can check favorite scores, Facebook, e-mail or whatever else is important to you, all from the couch. Like YouTube, this was a bit tedious. However, once presets are saved, you should be a lot happier.
Last, but not least, the VMP75 offers options to tap into your own computer’s content. Our home computer showed up on the device with no problems, and we were able to stream music, video and family photos in glorious color — or at least in the same quality we could get from our desktop in the adjacent room.
All of the above was pretty awesome, but it was not without a few gripes. Aside from the remote thing, we noticed a popping noise when flipping through selections. Whether we flipped between Netflix and our home PC or to Live365, it seemed to be there. It wasn’t constant, but was constant enough. That said, it was fleeting and never interrupted any content playback.
There is no denying that the VMP75 is a fun little box. While streaming Netflix and some of these other features are becoming standard on newer TVs and other CE devices, the VMP75 fills the void for those not ready for an upgrade. Still, even with its features, functionality and just plain fun, we have to think ViewSonic would sell a lot more of these if they were $50 cheaper. Not that the $149 isn’t a decent deal. However, for $99, we’d want one in the bedroom, the kids’ rooms and any other room in need of a little extra entertainment.
- Super small, lightweight
- Lots of great-sounding radio options
- Stellar Netflix playback
- True 1080p quality
- Insanely easy setup
- No on-screen confirmation of commands
- Temperamental remote
- Could be $50 cheaper
- Horrible YouTube Interface
- No built-in Wi-Fi