The much heralded Microsoft Portable Media Center has seen little action since its debut at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show. As portable video player manufacturers go several large names, including Creative, iriver and Samsung, put their PMCs out to the market where they have languished despite ok reviews. Into the now quiet PMC world comes the American debut of overseas multimedia devices company Dream’eo. Can their Enza PMC product gain traction, especially in light of the recent iPod with video release? Read on to find out.
Features and Design
The Dream’eo is a lightweight, well built Portable Media Center which measures 4.4″ x 3.1″ x 0.9″ and weighs 0.46 pounds. It appears in a somewhat attractive rectangular form, sporting a 3.5″ color TFT LCD which Dream’eo says gets 16.7 million colors and has a 320 x 240 pixel resolution. The screen, like many other devices of this type, smudges rather easily so it would be a good idea to keep a small cleaning cloth around.
Besides the LCD on the front of the Enza, a “start” button with the Windows logo, which when pressed brings up the main on screen selection menu, is in the upper right corner. Below it is a circular navigation function control (up/down/left/right/ok) and a back navigation button.
Other buttons on the Enza include a reset button on the bottom panel, lock, power, fast forward/rewind and play/pause on the top panel and volume up/down on the right side panel. The Enza also features headphone output, A/V output, USB.2.0 and power ports on the left side panel.
The on screen GUI of the Enza is done in Windows XP Media Center Edition style, which makes it user friendly and easy to navigate with the appropriate buttons. As for file format supported, this PMC can natively playback WMV and ASF video files, MP3 and WMA audio files and JPEG image files. Other formats, such as MPEG movie files, first require conversion through Microsoft Windows Media Player 10.
Useful features of the Enza include a 20GB hard drive, the ability to view the on screen contents of the player on a larger display such as a television through the A/V output, multiple languages for the menus and the ability to watch television shows recorded through a Windows XP Media Center Edition equipped computer or a TiVo DVR which is TiVoToGo compatible.
Included in the Dream’eo Enza package is the player with a rechargeable battery, A/V cable, remote control, AC adapter, USB 2.0 cable, headset, quick start guide and companion CD. The test unit lacked a CD or quick start guide, so it was not possible to evaluate the quality of these two items.
Image Courtesy of Dream’eo
Setup and Use
The primary purpose of the Dream’eo Enza is to serve as a portable media device capable of taking and enjoying your digital music, photos and videos with you as you go. It only effectively works with Microsoft Windows Media Player 10 for transferring multimedia to it. When connected to the host testing computer, Windows Media Player 10 automatically detected the Enza and established a synchronization relationship with it, allowing for automatic or manual transfer of files through drag and drop or monitored folders. Synchronization and transfer of one 6.2MB MP3 recorded at 192Kbps was quick, taking just seven seconds over the USB 2.0 connection.
Digital photos displayed on the Enza appeared to have good quality overall, though some appeared a little darker than others. When take outside and viewed, display quality became somewhat washed out. Also, when the Enza was laid flat on its back and viewed from a slight angle, the display became somewhat faded, meaning that head on viewing of the LCD is a must to get the best experience.
Video playback, like digital photos, was of good quality for the most part. There was little pixel distortion while watching a video clip. Side viewing was fairly clear as well. Like with digital photos, laying the unit flat and viewing it made the display become faded. As for outputting to a television, both digital photos and videos showed some pixels and the video was somewhat choppy.
One item of annoying note was the included A/V cable. Its design incorporated two audio and one S-video. The lack of a composite video made no sense, noting that not all televisions or monitors have S-video inputs.
Audio was clean during playback, only experiencing distortion when the volume was turned up to full. This held true for both the built-in speaker as well as the included headphones, the latter of which were a slight cut above the below par types usually found accompanying portable devices. For the best private listening experience however, a better quality one which can be purchased separately is the best bet.
Battery life, as advertised by Dream’eo, was three hours for continuous video playback and six hours of continuous WMA playback with no backlight. Test results drew close to the advertised statements, with video coming in at three hours and MP3 playback with the backlight on coming in at four and a half. The battery is removable, which makes a nice touch for those times when you have a spare laying around that you just want to pop in without having to wait for a recharge.
At the end of the day, how does the Dream’eo Enza hold up to other PMCs and portable video players? PMC wise, the Enza falls about in the middle of the pack, which isn’t saying too much. The PMCs, while great in concept, have just not had the following that Microsoft and its hardware partners hoped for. The Enza has some nice touches and certainly the Windows Media Center interface, removable battery and ease of copying over files give it some appeal, but it stops about there. In comparison to other portable video players, such as those put out by Archos, the Enza makes a decent stand but can’t quite muster up enough interest in design or offerings to totally compare.
- Windows XP Media Center Edition style interface
- Well built design
- Removable, rechargeable battery
- Lack of composite video output on included A/V cable
- Faded video and picture viewing when player laid flat on back
- Choppy video playback when outputted to monitor