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Customer Review

on November 15, 2012
The Micca Speck is the newest in Micca's line of low end, inexpensive media players designed for local use without a network. It is a very good player, but like most of micca's products, a few features needed to really satisfy me are missing. They are rarely mentioned in reviews, and are probably not important to the general public, but they are important to me when deciding to buy a player, so I will mention them below.

To start off, the Micca Speck is an excellent introductory media player with a small footprint and excellent features, and will probably play anything you throw at it that has been encoded using any of the recent standards. Encode in xvid, divx, or h264 with aac or ac3 audio and you should never have any problems, so long as the encoding standards are reasonable. Subtitle support is decent and will work in all cases where the file and the subtitle are separate. Its usb port is sufficient even for USB 3.0 Drives and it has excellent error recovery. After a freeze, it will generally reboot to the main menu after 10-20 seconds. It features a random playback feature that was missing from other players I have tested, and the main reason I bought this player.

In short, if the bulk of your content hails from the last few years, and you want a media player with good features, a reasonably convenient remote, then get this player. It is inexpensive and worth the price. I paid about $5 less than the current listing as of this date, but what you get is much better than anything that was available last year, for a little more cost.

This is all you need to know from this review.

For those who are a bit more particular about their needs, I will elaborate on the strengths and weaknesses of this player below. As well as the result of some of my tests on actual media, which you may find useful.

As stated, my main reason for buying this player was the addition of the random playback function. This feature may or may not be available on the other micca players, depending on whether the feature has been added to the latest firmware release.

Since most of my content is old, the random playback is great for revisiting old content when you are not on a viewing schedule, or you want to entertain young kids and they're not sure what they want to see. The downside, (I am disappointed) is that the feature can only be applied to files in the same subdirectory. You can't start playing at the root and have it bounce all over the place. This might be great for those who keep secret videos, but I have everything organized by genre. The file system is great, in that it shows the entire file name, and scrolls if the filename is too long.

I had a few files that did not work. One set of files (avi) gave "cannot play file" errors, I am not sure of their codec. Media encoded with ogg generally had problems switching audio streams, with loud clicks and snaps at worst, or a freeze at best. Sometimes it worked great, sometimes it didn't. I had one file the player recognized as being encoded at 0 khz but it worked fine. My guess is variable bitrate ogg audio will not work well in a movie.

Ogg is an old format that was around before matroska/mkv became the popular container. It was generally used in ogm files, which was great because it allowed multiple streams (pre mkv). I have not bothered to reencode these files and probably will not do so, but if you have old files with ogg or divx 3.1 or anything like that, by now some of these files may have trouble even playing on your pc properly. If your collection is old, and you are not a netflix junkie, then you may want to go with another player, which will likely still give some problems on some of those files. Even vlc does not support some of these older codecs anymore. But I digress.

Only one of the files I tested was overwhelming to the player, but considering only my higher end desktop can play it without slowdown, this is not a strike against the player. I tested a few files, even with quad audio (rare), and as long as the audio was ac3 or aac, there were zero problems with syncing, switching, or anything. It does jump back to the previous keyframe when you switch, so you might end up rewatching the last few seconds of a scene. Neither a plus or minus, it might be interesting to compare what's said in each stream. I always encode all available streams even if I don't know the language.

The player automatically adjusts to hdmi by default if you have it connected, and you can switch between av and hdmi via the remote easily. Older models required you to make the switch half blind. It wasn't difficult, but for the non techie, it could have posed a challenge.

You can enable autoplay for movies, photos, or music. I don't personally use this feature as you may have problems if there is a lot of content to scan or if some of your files are corrupted, as even the higher end player sometimes freezes because of it. Still, if your media is in good condition, you can enable this feature. The manual states that it plays objects in the root directory. I have not tested this, but you should be able to setup a picture slideshow, music, or movie playback to start automatically upon powering on. Combining it with the random feature adds some flexibility.

This player features support for mkv, rmvb, rm, and although it does not mention it, flv as well, which means you can watch those youtube videos you've downloaded via your browser. It improves on the micca mplay, which does not support all these formats, and has problems playing them back on some occasions even when it does (such as rmvb). This player is nearly on par with the mid end MPLAY-HD, which I would recommend over this player, but it may be missing the random function, and has its quirks as well, as do most media players. The speck will not list OGM files at all. Unless you have been encoding for a while, and have not converted or reencoded your media, this is very unlikely to affect the vast majority of users. If you use handbrake or a similar tool, it will likely convert to m4v or mkv and use either dts, ac3, or aac audio, none of which ever gave any problems with the files tested.

Subtitles:

In some cases, subtitles did not show, probably related to the encoding process. Both sets of files with this error had ogg audio. Quite possibly, the subtitle embedding method may be related to the issue. Curiously, I had some old avis with an experimental method of embedding subtitles and they worked, no problem.

Speed/Seeking:

One thing that may worry the new customer. It can take up to 15 seconds to start up. It does not feature a quick splash screen while you wait. The first thing you will see is the main menu after a wait. Not a big deal, but it did cause me to doubt whether it was working or whether something was not properly connected.

It plays at 1x speed with audio only which is not surprising. It is probably better to forward at 2x than 1.5x since the keyframes do not seem to update when you seek at the latter. To resume playback, there is a little button for pausing/playing. Though hard to find, it is an improvement over the older system which required you to quickly scroll your way back to 1x speed. The goto function works well enough. Only had one file where it didn't work, again due to encoding standards. One feature which is lacking, is that there is no faster way to scroll through content other than the down or up button. Other players let you page through the content with the next and previous buttons, but this feature is not included in the speck. Still, not too bad.

The remote control is pretty good. Not as good as the higher end models, but definitely an improvement. You can switch display types, switch streams, change repeat method, and perform other actions without ever needing to go to the setup screen or access the OSD. Pressing ok while playing gives codec and encoding info (sometimes wrong), and the exit button allows you to cancel or go to the previous screen.

I have bought several micca players over the last year, and have been satisfied with all of them. The higher end models aren't powerful enough to justify the added expense and the lower end ones are too simple. I would recommend this as an introductory player for someone who doesn't need any bells or whistles, and who has access to a significant amount of local content. This will play what your netbook may not. It will not however, rival an htpc or even the playback functions available through free players on your pc such as VLC, GOM Player, or The KMPlayer.

The most important features for me are:

1) File compatibility. I keep alot of media in alot of different formats. Compatibility for this player is very good, but compatibility for the MPlay HD is even better.

2) Playback with audio at 1.5 or 2.x. Unless I have guests, I do all personal viewing at above 2.x if possible, even on youtube. I use a combination of free and paid software. This does not play at anything other than 1x with sound. The Mplay HD does play most content at 1.5 or 2.x with sound (has trouble with 2+ variable bitrate streams on occasion). So it gets the vote for this feature.

3) Random function. Kind of important. I rarely watch offline media anymore, but when I do, I don't want to be kept busy managing my content. It's easiest on a pc, but a mediaplayer with a random function is almost as good as a randomized playlist. This player does its job well enough. This was not available in the Mplay HD. There is a newer firmware for the device, but no file detailing changes. This could just be something they threw in, and not a sign of things to come.

4) A good OSD. I don't care about artwork, or any of that, but a quick preview of what you are about to watch is nice. The speck features a functional file list, so no complaints. That is all I need. However, when I have guests, a quick preview is great. The MPLAY-HD has a pretty good one.

So far I have not been able to find anything as good as vlc running a random playlist. Until the day when media players have 3-4x playback with audio, playlist, and random playback, plus accellerated streaming/playback of online content, these players will remain a nice diversion from PC playback. Even so, they are leaps and bounds over what was available until recent years.

The chipset of the Speck is not advertised, but it is likely pre 1055. All micca players use the realtek chipset. Also chipsets of the same generation generally perform very similar. Get this product, if it looks like it will need your basic needs. Otherwise I would recommend the MPlay HD. Their other players with the 1185 chipset, are basically like 1055s with online capability and extra memory. The 1186 chipset mainly adds 3d support. Playback compatibility (#1) will feature minimum improvements at best, due to the increased memory, but almost everything will work exactly the same as older products. At the original time of purchase, online functions were too buggy to satisfy, so I recommend either this product or the Mplay HD as the best bang for your buck. Then again, if you use netflix or hulu, you might want to reconsider. I personally would just buy a different player for each purpose, say the Roku. I am not fond of the Sigma chipset since it omits some important file formats, but the average user is unlikely to be affected. Consider trying out the WDTV or similar products if that meets your needs. I however, will continue to hover around realtek based products until something better comes along.

Hope this helps someone make an educated purchase decision. Specifics are generally lacking from these reviews, which makes it harder to know what you're getting.
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