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iPlayer hands-on impressions -- Plays XviD/DivX directly without converting. Official website releas

The iPlayer is a slot-1 media player cart that, besides homebrew, doesn't have any ROM loading functionality. The iPlayer is solely intended for playing media files and homebrew, unlike other flash kits on the market that just use this marketing as a ruse

iplayer official website: http://www.dsiplayer.com/ 

The review blow is quoted from http://gbatemp.net/index.php?showtopic=161718

The iPlayer is a slot-1 media player cart that, besides homebrew, doesn't have any ROM loading functionality. The iPlayer is solely intended for playing media files and homebrew, unlike other flash kits on the market that just use this marketing as a ruse to cover their other possible intentions.

Even though most flash kits on the market support media playback, their functionality is often limited to a handful of audio codecs and DPG video - a video format that is optimised for the DS. All DPG videos must be converted on the users PC using software before copying across to what ever slot-1 cart you are using. This is required because the DS CPU is simply not powerful enough to handle playback of the usual file formats you'll find online videos distributed in.

To combat this issue, the iPlayer has a built in CPU and extra RAM that enables it to decode various file formats on the fly, thus allowing the end user to view them back on the DS without prior conversion.

The iPlayer supports a variety of codecs including DivX, Xvid, Quicktime, Windows Media video, Realmedia, MPEG, ASF, VOB and Flash video. Other formats actually work, but are either unstable or just playback at a speed too slow to watch (see MP4, h264 etc.). MKV container formats are not available for playback when viewing files under the 'Video' menu but can still be loaded under the 'Files' menu, though most heavy duty formats in such containers, such as h264 for example, are simply not able to run at a decent speed. And for files with multiple audio tracks, only the primary audio track will play. You can not
switch between audio tracks. Regarding subtitle support; contained and external subtitle files are not supported.

The majority of standard formats such as XviD, Realmedia etc. unless encoded at a ridiculously high bit rate actually play back surprisingly well. There are a few dropped frames and I've experienced a few sudden skips, but these are far and few between. Audio is also very good, and sound is outputted in stereo on the DS speakers, but the volume is ridiculously low when not using headphones. Fortunately you can increase the volume percentage to 200% to make it play at a level that's comfortable to listen to, but even at that volume it's still only equal to that of most DS games.

Video quality is very good and actually looks rather stunning on the DS Lite/DSi LCD screens, even with the limited colour palette. A good quality video file will look very crisp and clear (even so much that it makes the video compression artifacts so much more obvious!). Video plays back on the top screen, while the bottom screen shows the standard player controls and file info. The screens backlight turns off after a while to focus attention to the top screen.

Regarding video frame size, you can choose to make the file play in its native aspect ratio (which, for widescreen movies makes it look ridiculously small), or you can set it to stretch the video window to fill the DS screen, but then this makes widescreen videos look too stretched. There is no option to view widescreen videos in 4:3 mode by cropping to the centre.

I was actually quite impressed at the iPlayer's ability to keep the video and audio synced while I watched a few sample clips. That was, until I started seeking back and forth within the video using either the d-pad or on screen slider. The audio and video then become separated by about a second and make watching quite frustrating, and will stay that way until you completely restart the video. Whether or not this is dependant on the file codec, bit rate or even the speed of the micro SD card is still unclear.

Another feature I assumed would be present, but was surprised to not see, was a bookmark feature, to save your position when watching a long film or podcast for example.

Audio playback works just as expected and is fine. The formats tested so far include MP3, WAV, OGG, Ape and WMA which all work fine.

DLDI supported homebrew is supported and is automatically patched. Soft-reset is supported.

The Settings menu allows you to change Brightness, Language (Eng/Chi), Skin, Backlight fade time, DLDI patching and soft-reset.

The iPlayer is built off of Acekard 2 hardware and firmware. The GUI is nice and clean and works well, but it would be nice if it showed more advanced details on the files you are playing, such as ID3 tags, codec, bit rate etc. The touch screen responsiveness of the GUI is less than accurate and it sometimes takes several taps of an item to get it to take effect.

Overall, first impressions are pretty good. The cart does what it says on the tin, and does it fairly well. While it may choke on higher bit rate files or certain file formats, it plays a wide variety well (Xvid, DivX, RM) and the ease of use really makes up for the lack of features. Hopefully a software upgrade could further improve file performance and fix issues such as sync-loss after tracking, audio volume and GUI responsiveness issues. The team have told me they do indeed plan to improve the software and our taking our criticism seriously.

This was just a quick hands-on impressions, and we plan to release our full written review some time in the future. Stay tuned to GBAtemp.net for the latest exclusive news and information on the latest DS hardware.

Note: This is a production sample iPlayer. The label is a temporary one and is subject to change, as is the plastic casing.

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