The M210 may not be the sexiest unit, from the bland packaging to the tacky, plastic box construction, but hidden beneath its understated shell is a media playing powerhouse to mobilise stagnant content.There are plenty of media players to choose from, and KWorld’s M210 sits somewhere in the middle. It’s not a fancy Blu-ray player or digital receiver, but instead acts more like a hub for all your stored, digital content. Download caps are rising, speeds are growing and once poor quality online videos are shaping up to 1080p. The beauty of the M210 comes from taking all this content either directly off your computer over your home network or off most inputs you can think of – even internal 3.5 inch hard drives.
The M210 is a slightly chunky but otherwise classy-looking unit, but you notice the cheap, plastic build on closer observation. That being said, it fits in perfectly well with the sleek, understated look of typical home theatre components. This is partly thanks to the inputs and outputs all sitting around the back of the unit unlike some of KWorld’s other less-cleverly designed media players.
The chunkier design comes from one of the unit’s star features: a slide-out tray that supports 3.5 inch hard drives. It may seem like a bit of a redundant feature, but its unique enough in the saturated media player market and simple enough even for those who don’t play with internal PC components to be praised.
If you’re looking to store a few terabytes of video on your media player full-time, then this platter makes life a little easier. SATA hard disk drives (HDD) slot into the pull-out metal tray located on the side of the unit which is easily slotted and locked back in. With a 3.5 inch HDD, no screws are necessary on the snug fit, though 2.5 inchers (the type used in notebooks) may need some securing with the supplied screw-holes.
This is a feature you won’t find on many other devices; with simplicity to match USB thumb drives. Coupling it with eSATA, USB 2.0 and Ethernet networked connections makes the M210 an attractive option that has that little bit of differentiation on the competition.
MKV has become one of the most common filetypes for high quality video, supporting 1080p quality and multi-channel sound encoding. While many new TVs have on-board USB slots for media play, the more intricate files don’t always want to play nice. The last time I tried to run an MKV on my home flatscreen, the video ran fine but the audio codec wasn’t supported. With the M210, you never have this problem.
The user interface follows the function-over-style dictum that the rest of the unit seems to follow. It’s not the most polished menu, but it lets users customise their configurations for the optimum quality sound and video down to a tee without being complicated. When first starting up the unit, the settings are set low so that if you’re using an older TV, for instance, you’ll still be getting a signal. A few clicks in the menu and you’re up to high frames per second on 1080p resolution. There’s no auto-detect function for settings, but it’s easy enough to set yourself, even if you need some help from the manual.
Home network connectivity is a big plus, and wireless gives an even bigger tick (though for that you’ll need an additional dongle). Videos can be streamed flawlessly without any initiating lag or flicker. The same applies for the menu which responds quickly and even gives a small preview window of video files you hover over.
Video came out clear and lag-free in all circumstances, both with HDMI and component cables. As it’s not a receiver with in-built amps, you’ll want your own amplifier for audio if you’re looking to make the most out of your content, but it still delivers multi-channel sound by itself. Internet streaming when connected to a computer is only capped by your own broadband speed. With a good connection and a hardlined Ethernet connection to the unit, there are no issues here.
It was disappointing to find no SD card port when the entry-level M120 has one though, and since it otherwise houses most connections you’d look for. The added features like weather and Internet radio seemed tacked on, especially since all the preloaded Internet radio stations came up in other languages.
The KWorld M210 Network Media Player won’t jump out at you from a store shelf, but looks can be deceiving. You don’t have to pay big money for a device that’ll run most of the content you have saved on your computer (even the more esoteric files with the most indecipherable subtitles) or the high definition rips you’ve compiled. For less than $150, the M210 is impressively cheap, though the cheap coating on this tasty device makes some sense of the price.
If you were stuck on a file type or wanted to do some compression, video conversion software is thrown in that lets you convert video and sound across most formats, ranging across popular web video standards like H.264, mobile formats like 3GP, compressed files like AVI and most other formats you’d look for across Mac and PC.
If you’re video files are a bit too obscure for your TV to cope with and you’re looking for a cheap option for bringing the picture onto your big screen or streaming it straight off your computer, then the M210 is a very safe bet. Unique differentiators like a removable hard drive platter also give it something new to add to a market it may otherwise drown in.