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Under The Covers

So, as usual when I plug some new device into my network, I get curious as to how it's implemented. After a bit of poking around, It's pretty clear that this box, like many others, is running a version of Linux internally.

One clue is that the documentation mentions Samba which is commonly found on Linux boxes. And a nmap scan of the box identifies it as a Linux kernel in the 2.6.X family. As far as other software that the box might be using, I noticed a web server running on a couple of ports with some sort of broken or non-functional "book marking" feature.

Even though the VMP75 is clearly running some GPL-licensed software, I could find no reference giving me access to the source code as required under the license. Hopefully, this is just an oversight by Viewsonic that will be corrected soon. As far as the hardware, Figure 14 shows the main board of the unit.

VMP75 Main Board
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Figure 14: VMP75 main board

In this photo, you can see just like other networked media players, the main processor of the unit is a MIPS-based Sigma Designs SMP8654AD and the Ethernet is provided by a Realtek RTL8201CL.

Note that unlike the WD TV Live that I reviewed a while back and which uses nearly the same chip, there is no large heat-sink. Hopefully this version of the chip runs a bit cooler so that heat does not become an issue.

Closing Thoughts

The VMP75 has potential. The hardware obviously has the capability to easily handle HD content, lots of different file formats, and local network streaming. And when you add a nice user interface and the ability to stream Netflix movies, you have a nice little multimedia-streaming box.

But the bugs I encountered really limit its appeal. I couldn't reliably use all my local network shares and the Netflix feature crashed frequently. These bugs really need to be addressed before I could recommend a purchase.

If I compare the VMP75 to the WD TV Live I reviewed awhile back, the WD box had far fewer issues. The WD player didn't have Netflix-streaming, but a newer version, the WD TV Live Plus does, and the price of Plus model and the VMP75 are similar at around $120. At the same price, with similar features and fewer issues, it would be hard to recommend the VMP75 over the WD TV Live Plus.

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