Ziova CS505 Upscaling DivX/DVD Network Streamer Hands-on: Our Favorite Player Yet


We've been known to download DivX files using BitTorrent on occasion, and there's nothing better than using an upscaling DVD player like the Helios H4000, the LG DN191H or the Oppo DV-981HD to watch these shows and movies on our TVs in high def. But the Ziova CS505, much like the Helios X3000, can stream the files directly from your computer without having to burn them to a disc beforehand—the ultimate in convenience.

Although both this and the Apple TV stream video, they're in totally different classes. Apple TV is made for playing back movies and music purchased from the Apple store, and unless you re-encode your downloaded BitTorrent movies from DivX, it's not going to play on Apple's offering. This and the Helios X3000 are for every other non-Apple format.

In many ways, the Ziova CS505 is even better than the Helios X3000 we tested before—which technically makes it the best streaming, upscaling and DivX player we've used yet. Make the jump to find out why.

First off, the format support is pretty complete, playing back just about everything we threw at it. There's DivX, of course, plus "Windows Media Video 9, XviD, Nero Digitalâ„¢, MPEG-4, QuickTime MPEG-4, MPEG-2, MPEG-1, DVD and other formats." Audio support isn't taking a nap either, with FLAC, OGG, AAC, MP3, WM9, CD and various others. You'll be hard-pressed to find something this sucker doesn't play, unless you're talking about Real Media formats.

The video quality is fantastic—noticeably better than the Helios and on par with the Oppo DV-981HD. Both DVDs and DivX files are played back at 1080i, which loses out to the Helios's 1080p, but isn't a huge deal unless you've got a very new set. It's the first player to support HDMI output with HDCP, but to most people that doesn't matter all that much.

What does matter is the player's ass-kicking ability to read files from pretty much anywhere. The CS505 can support SMB (Server Message Block) shares, which is just basic Windows shares, but can grab data off of Macs and Linux machines as well (since they support SMB). Not only that, there's UPnP support, which works with the Orb software we tested a while back, and USB (FAT and NTFS) disk drive support. That means you can dump a bunch of files onto an external hard drive, walk to your living room, and have days' worth of stuff to watch.

There's also standard photo streaming/playback as well as music streaming/playback, which both support SMB and UPnP as well. Both these worked well for us, and it was nice that the audio kept streaming when we got out of the audio menus and into the photo menus.

Oh, and there's a weather app on there, too. So you can get weather. Kinda superfluous, but neat nonetheless. The 802.11g wireless was a nice touch, but we prefer its 10/100 Ethernet since we've got so many wireless devices and don't want any skipping.

Now for the things we didn't like. First, it took about 50 seconds for the thing to boot up to where we could do something. Then there's the fast forwarding through DivX movies—not very responsive, but better than fast forwarding on our Motorola Comcast DVR. You'll often go past where you wanted to stop, and then have to rewind again.

Oh, and the unit's not exactly pretty. The silver design reminds us of a late '90s VCR or DVD player, but if you've got it stashed away in your entertainment cabinet, it's not a huge deal. Other than these, we didn't really find anything else to complain about, which is great news.

We can confidently say this is our favorite upscaling DivX and DVD player we've played with so far. It's responsive, has lots of playback options, and can handle just about every file we have. And the best part is that the price is only $299, which is only a little bit more than the Neodigit's Helios X3000 at $269. If you're into watching streamed DivX files without all the hassle of burning discs, this is the one for you.

Product Page [Ziova]

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