The Helios-Labs H4000 DVD/DivX Player

Helios Labs sent us in their H4000 Upscaling DVD/DivX player for an introduction. While at OSNews we are mostly focused on system software, it is interesting to check out such devices from time to time, because of their added video features over the stock products usually found in the market.The H4000 can upscale up to 1080p, it supports analog stereo, 5.1 channel audio, Optical & Coaxial, and it has Composite S-video, Component, HDMI and VGA/RGB-HV outputs. It comes with a user manual, a power cable, an HDMI cable, a remote control and an RCA A/V cable. Except its normal DVD/VCD/SVCD playback features, the H4000 can playback the following file formats, when read from an optical disk: MPEG4, MPEG2, MPEG1, DivX, Xvid, Audio CDs and mp3.

The device is very slim, looks sexy and it’s very light. Its only controls are on the top of the device though, which means that if you stack your home entertainment devices one on top of the other, you won’t be able to reach these controls. The remote control can search, bookmark, change from PAL to NTSC, change resolutions, zoom up to 5x, change angle and eject the disk, among the more normal DVD remote functions.

In our tests with a 32″ 1080i LCD HDTV, the DVD playback portion of the system performed remarkably well. When used in normal 480p, the DVD quality was as you would expect it. However, upscaling it to 720p it looked even better. What’s interesting to note here is the fact that the player not only is region free, but also it allows HD upscaling via component, which actually is not very legal.

Now, as the video enthusiast that I am, the part that I mostly find more interesting is its video playback capabilities. We burned CDs and DVDs with various formats of video in them and tested the device. We found that the device was not able to playback all XViD files we threw at it, although it had a better luck with mpeg 1 and 2. We also tried the cellphone-recorded kind of “mpeg4” and ASF, but the device was not able to play those back.

Regarding DivX, it was able to playback most of the files, but for some of them it would hiccup, even if the bitrate/resolution was smaller than other DivX files that were played back correctly. So, it’s a bit of hit and miss I am afraid, and there are no standard guidelines on how to encode exactly (although CBR will probably help). We were able to playback correctly files up to 655×352, while under some more favorable encodings it should be able to perform up to 720×480. We also fed the H4000 a 720p DivX file, which was unable to work with.

We found a very ugly bug with the video playback algorithms, that doesn’t exist when the H4000 is in DVD mode. When you load a 16:9 widescreen video, the H4000 will feed the TV a 4:3 image, and so when you stretch it on your TV, it will be way too stretched. To view a widescreen video in its normal aspect ratio you will have to put your TV in 4:3 mode! Please note that the H4000 has a setting that you can tell it that your TV is 16:9, but this setting is not taken into account when playing video files instead of DVDs.

Here’s a video showing the user interface, and the stretching problem while playing back a widescreen DivX file.

Overall, this is a nice gadget to have around and enjoy your DVDs in HD upscaling and your DivX files on your HDTV, although we must request one last firmware upgrade to fix the widescreen problem.

Rating: 7/10


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