DVDFab Movie Server Review

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Self-serving

by hodg100 Mar 13, 2018 at 9:31 AM

  • SRP: £225.00

    What is the DVDFab Movie Server?

    We’ve known the name DVDFab for some time but the company (Fengtao Software) has hitherto been a solely software based outfit. The DVDFab Movie server is, therefore, a debut product and is somewhat troublesome to define. On the one hand, the device runs on Android and is equipped with dedicated apps for video/audio playback and organisation. On the other, the Movie Server has a built-in bay for a 3.5-inch SATA hard drive with SMB networking capability so it can act as both a (heavily stripped-down) Network Attached Storage (NAS) device and an Android Media Player with support for video including Ultra HD, HDR (HDR10) and frame-packed 3D, while audio formats up to and including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are catered for. One thing to note, however, is the DVDFab Movie Server will not function without a SATA hard drive inserted so you couldn’t just use it as a straight player. Mind you, at $299.99 (approx. £215 at the time of publishing), it would be a touch on the expensive side for such a specific designation. Can it broach the gap between NAS and player or will the DVDFab Movie server end up falling between two stools?

    Specification

    DVDFab has been pretty cagey with the precise specifications of the Movie Server but, having spent time with it, we’d lay money on the device running a HiSilicon Hi3798CV200 processor, as previously seen with the HiMedia Q10 Pro and Egreat A10. Lending some video support is the MaliT720 GPU, while there’s 2GB of 1866MHz DDR3 RAM propping up operations. There is 16GB of eMMC flash memory, built-in, but as we said above , there’s also capacity for a 3.5 inch SATA HDD with up to 8TB of storage supported.

    Design & Connections

    DVDFab Movie Server Design & Connections

    The DVDFab Movie Server has a high quality outer construction with an all-metal casing that gives a Hi-Fi look and feel to it. The only thing letting the review sample down was a flimsy manufacturer logo decal that was only semi affixed to the top – we assume they don’t send retail product out like that as it would really cheapen the look. The front of the Movie Server is dominated by a large display panel which provides a clock and various playback information, including duration, time elapsed and video resolution. You can dim it (in up to 8 steps), switch it off if you’re sensitive to light pollution or, our favourite option, disable only during playback. It's definitely among the best displays on the market!

    DVDFab Movie Server
    On the right-hand side is where you’ll find the SATA Hard Drive bay which features a clip and spring mechanism that makes inserting drives a breeze while also keeping them firmly in place – the DVD Fab Movie Server will format your drive to EXT 4 on insertion, by the way. Around the rear are the remaining physical connections. From left to right we have Toslink and Coaxial (S/PDiF) digital audio outs, a composite video output – maybe useful for a control device with a display but not to your TV or projector – as well as Left and Right stereo audio jacks. Toward the centre there is the HDMI 2.0a output and a pair of USB ports, one Version 2 and the other V3. For wireless networking (dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) there are dual antennae at either extremity of the back panel but we would highly recommend using a wired network connection, via the Gigabit LAN port, especially given the media server duties. Finally, the DVD Fab Movie Server also features Bluetooth 4.0 for audio devices and peripherals.
    DVDFab Movie Server
    The supplied remote control, much like the rest of the package, is very reminiscent of that of the Egreat A10 and is of decent quality with backlit buttons, which is an always welcome feature. There’s an infra-red learning function so you can map controls from your TV (or perhaps soundbar/AV receiver) to it in order to minimise any clutter. The real downside of the remote is that it’s very ‘directional’ – meaning you need to point it directly at the player for it to register commands.

    Menus and Setup

    If we were in any doubt – and in all honesty, we weren’t – that Egreat has had a least some involvement in the development of the DVDFab Movie Server prior to entering the menus, once we had done so there could be very little doubt that they’ve had a fairly major influence. The Menu systems are in fact identical between the manufacturers, as far as audio-visual playback is concerned – they’ve not even altered the colour scheme which is an attractive mixture of purple and grey hues alongside grey and white fonts.

    As we alluded to in the intro, if you aint got no SATA hard drive, you aint getting in, as entry in to the user menus necessitates the insertion of a 3-5-inch HDD. For test purposes (and to minimise reviewer outlay), we used a basic WD 1TB drive but you can go up to 8TB and we’d probably recommend something more robust like a WD Red for heavy use for the more typical end user. You’ll also need a DVDFab account which should have created at the time of your order or, alternatively, if you’re already using DVDFab 10 ripping software, the Movie Server software should detect it on your network and automatically log you in provided the PC is on and DVDFab is running, of course.
    DVDFab Movie Server Menus and Setup
    DVDFab Movie Server Menus and Setup


    With the necessaries out of the way, you’ll be presented with the setup menu which involves choosing language, network connection and the video and audio options pertinent to your devices. Once the basics have been done, it is very likely you’ll be presented with the option to update the software as Fengtao have proved to be pretty prolific in this department in the three-four months we’ve been testing the device. We advise you do complete the update immediately as some major changes to the media scraping mechanism has been made since the initial release.

    The main menu is split in to six submenus – Movies, TV Shows, Favo(u)rites, Local Videos, Apps and Settings. It’s all self-explanatory stuff, really, although you will need to populate the TV and Movie categories for them to be of any use; you can stop Favorites, Movies and TV Shows from displaying as options if required. The DVDFab Movie Server will automatically scan the contents of the inserted drive but you’ll need to set up any shares over your network manually. There are two approaches here; you could add an SMB or NFS Share from the device in the familiar fashion or, better still, use a web browser to access https://dms.dvdfab.cn which will allow easier management of your network sources – if you’ve used PLEX, the interface will seem very familiar. Unfortunately, however, we’ve been unable to use the Web interface since updating to latest (1.0.1.3) firmware.

    Update: Since tapping in the above words, we are now able to access the browser interface for the media server but it took intervention from DVDFab support so we’ve left in the information for others that might have the same issue.
    DVDFab Movie Server
    DVDFab Movie Server


    Assuming all is working properly, the movie scraping function works well and the web interface offers an easy way to fix any data errors, should they occur and they inevitably do with all media devices, at some point. The scraping for TV shows was far less successful, however, and having to manually rename 110 episodes of Northern Exposure isn’t high on my to-do list. One must be very strict with naming conventions- i.e. SxxExx – and even then, there were many shows the scraping missed. It was also irksome that some folders we had designated as TV shows spilled over in to the movies section, even moreso when it was some the incorrectly tagged titles. Fengtao is continually working on this area so we’d hope for improvements but, as is, if you have a large collection of TV shows in your library, the DVDFab Movie Server may not, at this point, be for you.
    DVDFab Movie Server
    DVDFab Movie Server


    Video & Audio Performance

    Given the obvious similarities to the latest generation of Egreat players, both in terms of software and hardware, it should be expected that performance in terms of audio and video playback should be very similar and so it proved to be, although that’s no bad thing. The Hi3798CV200 processor is very capable, indeed, when married to the internal HiMedia player. If anything, the DVDFab is just ever so slightly more polished than the Egreat was at the time of review but that’s probably as result of improvements made upstream at HiMedia which should have also made it to the Egreat devices.

    Our testing set up has undergone a slight overhaul since the time of the last review and now features an ISF/THX calibrated Philips POS9002 Ultra HD HDR OLED TV with (and without) a Yamaha RXV-679 AV Receiver via a QNAP NAS, on a Gigabit network as well playback from the inserted SATA drive. Beginning with the Ultra HD/4K tests:

    4K Tests

    Native Player

    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24.000fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/25.000fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MKV/59.940fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps
    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/29.970fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/59.940fps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/59.940fps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/23.976fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/50.00fps
    4096 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24fps

    As we expected, the DVDFab Movie Server proved very capable with all of our Ultra HD tests. The device also proved perfectly capable of adjusting refresh rate video output to complement the frame rate of the content, at all resolutions and framerates, which is very important if you value optimal smoothness of playback. The one major flaw is that ripped Ultra HD discs with the ‘black bars’ removed (e.g. a resolution of 3840 x 1600) from the encode display incorrectly, non-centred on the vertical axis by enough to make it look odd. The workaround is to switch video output to 1080p but that’s really defeating the object, especially considering how long it can take to rip one!

    Next on to the High Dynamic Range (HDR) testing:

    HDR

    Native Player

    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/BT 2020/23.976fps - 10 bit
    3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/BT.2020 25fps - 10 bit

    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/BT 2020/29.97fps - 10 bit

    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/BT 2020/59.94fps - 10 bit


    3840 x 2160/VP9.2 /MKV/24fps - 10 bit


    3840 x 2160/HEVC /TS/BT 2020/HLG 50fps - 10 bit
    Played in SDR/BT.2020

    At the present time, it is only possible to play the HDR10 ‘baseline’ from ripped UHD Blu-ray so the lack of Dolby Vision support is somewhat moot. It is likely that there will be plenty of Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) content in the near future, however, which the DVDFab Movie Server was unable to play in HDR but was able to play in SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) with a BT.2020 colour space. It was unable to display the VP9 Profile 2 (used for HDR on YouTube) test at all however. Results with HDR10 HEVC BT.2020 were excellent however, which is the most important thing – the bug with incorrectly orientated non-black-bar-encoded material remained. For best results with HDR, for our TV at least, we used YCbCr420 at 10-bit with HDR mode set to Auto, which gave no undue banding (posterisation), but you might need to experiment with your display, such is the parlous nature of an emerging format.

    SD/HD/Interlaced

    Native Player

    720 x 576/MP2/mpg/25.000fps - Interlaced
    Good deinterlacing
    1280 x 720/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.00fps - Interlaced
    Good deinterlacing
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/24.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/29.970fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/30.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/59.970fps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/ISO/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/29.970fps

    The only notable issue with sub UHD content came with VC-1 encoded material which exhibited noticeable stutter at all framerates. Otherwise scaling and deinterlacing was very good and output frequency what it should be.

    High Bitrate

    Native Player

    1920 x 1080/AVC/M2TS/23.976fps & 90mbps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 100mbps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 110mbps
    3480 x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 120mbps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 120mbps
    3840x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 140mbps
    10-bit 3840x2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 140mbps
    3840x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 200mbps
    10-bit 3840x 2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 200mbps

    The processor is a bit of a beast and had no issues chomping up high bitrate files without any apparent playback issues, all the way up to 200Mbps which, in all honesty, is an over-kill test but it’s always good to have headroom.

    Our 3D testing is on hold – don’t blame us, blame the TV manufacturers for killing it - while we source a suitable replacement display for it to commence but we can near guarantee that the DVDFab Movie Server’s performance should mirror that of the Egreat A10 which means all formats supported, albeit with the risk of occasional stutter on 3D ISO.

    Audio

    Native Player

    AAC (Dolby Digital) 5.1
    AC3 (DTS) 5.1
    Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
    Dolby True HD 5.1
    Dolby True HD 7.1
    DTS HD-MA 5.1
    DTS HD-HR 7.1
    DTS HD-MA 7.1
    LPCM 7.1

    The DVDFab Movie Server was spotless in our audio testing, including the RAW passthrough of 7.1 LPCM, which marks it as unusual for an Android player. We don't have an object based audio capable AV Receiver for testing but 7.1 DTS-HD MA and Dolby True HD both played fine so the assumption - also backed up by user reports - is that Atmos and DTS:X will pass.

    Media Server Functionality

    Since Movie Server is in the product title, the DVD Fab device needs to be judged as one and in this regard it is a bit limited, to say the least. Setup, as detailed above is simple enough, and almost freakishly PLEX-like but, unlike PLEX, it won’t serve just about any device you care to name, instead it only serves itself, as it were, or other DVD Fab movie servers on the network, presumably, although why you would want to buy them in quantities more than singular – as said, it’s expensive considered as standalone player – would be a mystery. It would make sense for Fengtao to produce a mini, diskless player for it to network with should this model prove a success. There's SMB sharing of files stored on the SATA drive which is no doubt useful but you can get that kind of functionality in devices far less costly. As it stands, both the device and Movie Server are too inflexible to be considered as genuinely worthy of the title.

    How future-proof is this video streamer?

    4K Ultra HD playback up to 60 frames per second
    HEVC decoding Full HD
    HEVC decoding Ultra HD
    HDR Playback
    Auto-refresh rate switching
    Auto Colour space switching
    7 Channel HD Audio pass-through
    Netflix HD/4K
    YouTube 4K/HDR
    3D ISO playback
    HDMI 2.0
    Over The Air (OTA) Software Updates
    Manufacturer version of KODI

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Excellent video format support
    • Nice Hi-Fi style casing
    • Great connectivity
    • LED display is very good
    • Plentiful updates
    • Attractive and easy to use UI

    Cons

    • It's not really a movie server
    • Directional remote
    • You need a SATA HDD for it to function
    • Scraping can be erratic
    • 4K rips with 'black bars' not encoded to display incorrectly
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 1
    You had this Total 0

    DVDFab Movie Server Review

    Should I buy one?

    The problem we have with this device is that it’s named as a Media Server in the product title and, the box itself, isn’t really that at all. It’s an (admittedly very good) Android Media Player and why they didn’t just call it that is beyond us. DVDFab has also added another unnecessary layer of complexity – and expense - in that you need SATA HDD storage to get beyond the setup menu. So, in reality, you would be better spending a couple of hundred quid on a budget (proper) NAS, plus storage, and add an equally capable, cheap-ish player and gain the flexibility of adding more players around the home, in addition to the multitude of other benefits a NAS can bring to the home. In other words, we don’t really think the product will make sense for all that many typical users.

    Sure, it integrates nicely with DVDFab’s ripping software, the browser based, PLEXesque Media Center Management is good and video and audio performance excellent but the fact is, you can build a far more flexible, yet equally capable system, for around the same outlay. For those reasons the DVDFab Movie Server misses out on an Award. There’s a niche for it but it’s just that bit too narrow for us.

    MORE: Read All Media Player Reviews



    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £225.00

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Performance

    9

    Networking, Internet, Streaming quality

    8

    Features

    8

    Set up, Menus, Remote

    8

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    8

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