The Thecus N2560 is a dual-bay NAS Server powered by an Intel Atom SoC. With the addition of HDMI output could this be the answer for some basic HTPC needs as well?
The Thecus N2560 at work in the living room
The N2560 is similar in some ways to the Thecus N2310 NAS we looked at a couple of months ago, but it builds on both the functionality and power of that unit. Both are 2-bay designs with support for up to 8TB of storage via dual 4TB hard drives, and they run the same OS (ThecusOS 6). There are some very big differences, too. The N2560 boasts an Intel Atom SoC which provides dual 1.60 GHz cores, compared to the N2310’s single 800 MHz PowerPC core. The N2560 also features a full-size HDMI output as well as SPDIF digital audio output, making it a potential alternative for some HTPC tasks.
The Thecus N2560 is an attractive-looking device, with the smooth lines and finish of a more expensive product. But beyond the N2560's appearance and basic function as a NAS, this is really a server. Digital audio and video output is certainly an impressive addition for a device that retails for around $180, making it a compelling budget HTPC option if the OS and media software work well. Since the basics of the Thecus OS and NAS usage were covered with the N2310, the media output potential of the N2560 is the area of focus for this review.
Introduction and Design
We’re always on the hunt for good docking stations, and sometimes it can be difficult to locate one when you aren’t afforded the luxury of a dedicated docking port. Fortunately, with the advent of USB 3.0 and the greatly improved bandwidth that comes along with it, the options have become considerably more robust.
Today, we’ll take a look at StarTech’s USB3SDOCKHDV, more specifically labeled the Universal USB 3.0 Laptop Docking Station - Dual Video HDMI DVI VGA with Audio and Ethernet (whew). This docking station carries an MSRP of $155 (currently selling for $123 on Amazon.com) and is well above other StarTech options (such as the $100 USBVGADOCK2, which offers just one video output—VGA—10/100 Ethernet, and four USB 2.0 ports). In terms of street price, it is currently available at resellers such as Amazon for around $125.
The big selling points of the USB3SDOCKHDV are its addition of three USB 3.0 ports and Gigabit Ethernet—but most enticingly, its purported ability to provide three total screens simultaneously (including the connected laptop’s LCD) by way of dual HD video output. This video output can be achieved by way of either HDMI + DVI-D or HDMI + VGA combinations (but not by VGA + DVI-D). We’ll be interested to see how well this functionality works, as well as what sort of toll it takes on the CPU of the connected machine.
Continue reading our review of the StarTech USB3SDOCKHDV USB 3.0 Docking Station!!!
Over the past few weeks, I have been developing a device that enables external control of Wirecast and XSplit. Here's a video of the device in action:
But now, let's get into the a little bit of background information:
While the TriCaster from NewTek has made great strides in decreasing the cost of video switching hardware, and can be credited with some of the rapid expansion of live streaming on the Internet, it still requires an initial investment of about $20,000 on the entry-level. Even though this is down from around 5x or 10x the cost just a few years ago for professional-grade hardware, a significant startup cost is still presented.
This brings us to my day job. For the past 4 years I have worked here at PC Perspective. My job began as an intern helping to develop video content, but quickly expanded from there. Several years ago, we decided to make the jump to live content, and started investing in the required infrastructure. Since we obviously didn't need to worry about the availability of PC Hardware, we decided to go with the software video switching route, as opposed to dedicated hardware like the TriCaster. At the time, we started experimenting with Wirecast and bought a few Blackmagic Intensity Pro HDMI capture cards for our Canon Vixia HV30 cameras. Overall, building an 6 core computer (Core i7-980x in those days) with 3 capture cards resulted in an investment of about $2500.
Advantages to the software route not only consisted of a much cheaper initial investment, we had an operation running for about a 1/10th of the cost of a TriCaster, but ultimately our setup was more expandable. If we had gone with a TriCaster we would have a fixed number of inputs, but in this configuration we could add more inputs on the fly as long as we had available I/O on our computer.
Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2013 - 02:19 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: HDMI 2.0, hdmi, 4k
3840 and 2160 are common numbers around this site or at least they have been over the last half year. You might be surprised to find we have been on the 4K bandwagon since 2011 when Ryan was given some time with the EIZO DuraVision FDH3601 at a vendor presentation. Sure, that $30,000 behemoth was designed for medical imaging and air traffic control stations, but it can run DiRT 3 like a champ. But, even now, 60Hz at those resolutions require at least two cables working in unison.
HDMI 2.0, recently announced, has been designed to achieve single-cable 4K at 60 progressive frames per second.
The specification maintains the same cable configuration as HDMI 1.4. Devices which support HDMI 2.0 can be connected, at full functionality, with standard "category 2" (marketing term "high speed") cables. Currently available "high speed" cables will not need to be replaced. The devices, on the other hand, must support the higher standard but that only makes sense because... well... why would you need the cable, otherwise?
HDMI 2.0 drives a higher frequency, 600MHz up from 340 MHz, to deliver substantially more bandwidth, 18Gbps up from 10.2Gbps, than HDMI 1.4. The extra bits can be used for 32 channel audio at 1536kHz sample rates as well as the aforementioned 2160p/60 video link.
A helpful feature for many home theater enthusiasts is "dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams". To my understand, this means that end-users will not need to fiddle with latency settings on their speaker systems as the devices will properly negotiate the delay themselves.
I have not been too much of a fan of HDMI licensing requirements and restrictions, but this release is definitely major version-worthy. The compliance test is expected in late 2013. The devices, however, are what most of us care about and, well, that depends on those manufacturers.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 29, 2012 - 02:18 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, mobile, linux, hdmi, computer
The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced yesterday that their little Linux computer would be launching in the early hours of the morning today. Instead of the original plan of Raspberry Pi handling the pre-orders and shipping them from the UK, they ended up partnering with RS Components and Premier Farnell to handle all their orders and distribute them to customers. The non profit foundation states that this move will save customers money on shipping as the two companies have distribution centers worldwide and they will be able to get more boards out because they will be able to sell enough boards to meet demand.
Today, RS and Farnell were offering up the Model B Raspberry Pi boards for pre-order, and the first 5,000 orders from each company will receive their Raspberry Pi boards from the initial 10,000 unit batch. Surprisingly, the two companies' servers were getting hit extremely hard earlier today and it was almost impossible to not see at least a couple error pages requiring a painfully long refresh. According to the article, the Raspberry Pi computer sold out "within hours." Even though the initial batch of boards is spoken for, customers can continue to pre-order boards that will be delivered as soon as the next batch has finished production. Those unlucky enough to miss the first 10,000 aren't completely out of luck; however, as it is rumored that production of more boards should be getting underway and have an estimated delivery date a bit more than a month away. How true that is, remains to be seen however.
Personally, I managed to snag one of the first Raspberry Pi boards from Farnell Export, but it was an order fraught with error pages and being uncertain just how many I ordered as the confirm order page kept error-ing out. Luckily, I received an email from them confirming my order of a single Raspberry Pi and am now eagerly waiting for it to arrive. The last estimated delivery figure I received puts it about a month out, however.
In another bit of good news, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is still planning to release the cheaper Model A board later this year, and they managed to up the RAM to a full 256 MB of RAM which is twice the original 128 MB of RAM they planned. This update to the Model A means that the Model B is now only differentiated by the addition of two USB ports and an Ethernet port.
Did you manage to snag a Raspberry Pi this morning? From how hard the servers were getting hit last night, I'm starting to think that the Raspberry Pi Linux computer may be more popular than actual pie! If you are still interested in pre-ordering a Raspberry Pi, RS Components and Premier Farnell have you covered.
Subject: Systems | July 13, 2011 - 09:55 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: wireless, htpc, hdmi
At its heart the VStream WPCTV1080H is comprised of an L-shaped USB 2.0 dongle for your PC and a second dongle which plugs into the base station which also has a power cord and HDMI plug. This setup, along with a 2.4GHz dual core processor, is intended to transmit up to a 1080p signal wirelessly from the computer with the dongle to the base station and on to your TV. The Tech Report gave the $120 VStream a try and found that the bandwidth available over USB 2.0 caused some problems, ranging from dropped frames and colour banding when watching movies to nasty aliasing on 2D application, especially when they tried using it to connect to a 24 " monitor and used it to browse the web. Lets hope there is a USB 3.0 version in the works, or even a wireless DisplayPort model.
"This $120 adapter promises to output 1080p video wirelessly via nothing more than a USB dongle. Does it fulfill its promise, and is it worth the money?"
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Elgato HDHomeRun HDHR3 Dual Tuner Review @MissingRemote
- ASRock CoreHT 252B Sandy Bridge HTPC @ Tweaktown
- Remote Potato HD for the iPad Review @MissingRemote
- AC Ryan PlayOn!HD2 @ techPowerUp
Subject: Systems | April 20, 2011 - 10:01 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: pvr, htpc, hdmi
At AnandTech you can take a look at Hauppauge's new HD PVR cable card dubbed the Colossus. Input-wise you get HDMI, two breakout connectors for component connections and a pair of TOSLINK connectors so you really are not going to have any problem getting a signal into the card though it does not meet HDCP. Check out the full review.
"When Hauppauge introduced the original HD PVR in 2008 its component plus TOSLINK (optical S/PDIF) capture of 5.1 Dolby Digital and up to 1080i analog video was a revolutionary, and long overdue, shift for the home theater PC (HTPC) based digital video recorder (DVR). Finally there was a viable option for recording DRM-free high definition (HD) content. The device was far from perfect however, suffering from stability (I RMA’d four personally); furthermore, as a large external USB device, it didn’t provide the most appealing form factor for many installations. Today we’re looking at Hauppauge’s second iteration of the HD PVR concept, this time as a standard height PCIe x1 device dubbed Colossus. It offers all of the previous capture options while adding HDMI input to the feature list."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Zotac Zbox HD Blu-Ray All-in-One Mini-PC Review @ OCIA
- ASUS O!Play HD2 HD Media Player Review @ ThinkComputers
- Cooler Master Elite 343 mATX Case @ Benchmark Reviews
- Thermaltake Armor A30 Small Form Factor Gaming Case @ Pro-Clockers
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