Hantech SISO Markus-800 Full 1080p HD Media Centre Review
We live in the multimedia age that is ever growing and has created wonderful possibilities. Never before has there been various ways where we can attain and enjoy media on our personal computers. We have a vast variety of media to enjoy such as high definition videos that we can download, video blogs that we can watch, and streaming media such as YouTube that we can enjoy. There has never been a better era to live in and the fact that these technologies are still advancing makes it so interesting to look forward to.
Now what if there was a way to interconnect the media we have on our computers and bring these to the comfort of our living room. Today we have that possibility by building our own home theatre PC but now there are standalone units that are being sold as media players where we can view all types of video on our HDTV’s.
Today I will be reviewing one such media player from Hantech that looks to invade the market with an affordable full 1080p HD media player solution that you can use to play all sorts of video, photos and listen to MP3’s. Introducing the Hantech SISO Markus-800 Full 1080p HD Media Centre Review.
“Hantech is a high-technology oriented company specializing in entertainment systems. Our mission is to enrich people’s lives through innovative digital products which far exceed those traditional technology.
We have worked hard to achieve our goal. Our dedication is evidenced by our revolutionary patented technologies, and exceptional support systems for our product lines.
We have worked hard to establish a presence in the Canadian market and hope to become a world leader in digital innovation and technology transfer.”
Hantech was founded in 1998 and operates in the business fields relating to computer networking devices, multimedia players, computer peripherals and audio reproduction system including speakers and digital amplifiers. Hantech has its head office located in Markham, Ontario, Canada and other offices are in Korea, China and Frankfurt, Germany.
Hantech SISO Markus-800 Product Overview
“Top of the line in Media Center. Markus-800 is designed for High Definition media lovers and it plays most of the latest files codec’s & formats. It has 2" LCD screen for easier access to the menu. Markus-800 support true 1080p resolution with HDMI port. Markus-800 has E-SATA support for fast data transfer and has two USB host for more USB devices. You can enjoy Blue-Ray Disc quality movie with H.264 codec MKV files.”
Hantech SISO Markus-800 Product Features
Hantech SISO Markus-800 Product Specifications
I was very excited to do a review on the Markus-800 since it looked so attractive when viewing on Hantech’s website. The device looks elegant and features a small color LCD! How cool is that?
The Markus-800 comes in a cube-look corrugated box. The graphics on the packaging is designed attractively and done in a professional manner. The product photo is placed right in the middle of the box with logos displaying its features around. Some features that are revealed is a 2” LCD color screen, eSATA port, HDMI connection, 1080p full HD, NDAS network streaming, MKV support, H.264 support and X.264 support.
Turning the box around reveals full specifications listed on the box and full information regarding the rear inputs of the Markus-800.
Opening up the package will reveal the following items as bundled…
The bundled contents included with the Markus-800 looks to be just about complete without a supplied HDMI cable (component/composite cables are included) and the Markus-800 doesn’t include a vertical stand because the actual unit is meant to be placed horizontally.
One of the nice things about the Markus-800 over the HornetTek Mirage that we reviewed previously is its tool-less installation. The Markus-800 needs no screwdrivers or anything like that. We’ll go over that later on.
What you notice of the Markus-800 is that fact that it’s constructed fully out of plastic. The plastic construction is more of a con than positive in my eyes because the plastic is going to trap the hard drive heat in. Although the Markus-800 does have an exhaust fan blowing the heat out of the system, under operation the Markus-800 felt warm whereas on the HornetTek Mirage felt none of this because of its aluminum design. The plastic construction obviously doesn’t inspire confidence if it were to sustain a fall because I could flex the plastic a bit. The only good thing about being constructed out of plastic is that the Markus-800 feels lightweight.
Let’s go over the Markus-800 enclosure. The enclosure is just gorgeously elegant and forces you to say “wow” each time you lay eyes on it. The whole enclosure (except for the rear) is covered in glossy black plastic. The glossy look given to the Markus-800 makes it an immediate standout in your TV cabinet and makes it look upscale. The design of the Markus-800 is basically rectangular with curved edges to give it that sexy look.
Coming to the front of the Markus-800 we have the SISO logo located top left and the power button below surrounded by a bright blue LED. This blue LED is very bright and can be turned down/off in the menu later on. The 2.0” color is located at the center of the device and this too can be turned off in the menu because watching movies at night, this LCD is distracting. The purple looking LED is the IR receiver for the remote control, TV OUT LED is below and there are three LED’s at the right hand side pertaining to VIDEO, HDTV and HDMI modes that the device supports.
Navigational buttons are located at the top of the Markus-800. We see the Markus logo in the middle and feature set sticker to the right. On the lower half we see the navigational buttons that include from left to right the Setup button, Stop button, up, down, left (rewind), right (fast forward) button, play/pause button and OK button for confirmation purposes.
Both sides of the Markus-800 feature what looks like to be vents but they are actually just decoration with no functionality.
Coming to the rear of the device we see various ports and connections to our disposal and they are all labeled. From left to the right we see the DC IN port (12V), RJ-45 Ethernet port, 2x USB host ports (for your USB flash drives, storage devices), component video connectors, RCA audio connectors below, HDMI port, S-Video port, USB A port (for connecting the Markus-800 to your PC to transfer files), digital audio coaxial connector, digital optical audio connector (TOSLINK), e-SATA port, external IR receiver connector and exhaust fan. Those look-a-like vents in the rear are just for show. During my time with the Markus-800, I found that the two USB host ports that stick together is a downfall. They should have separated these with space in between because if you have a fat USB stick, you won’t be able to place another USB drive underneath because the port will be blocked by the one above. One solution I found to working around this problem is to utilize two USB extension cables if you would like to use both USB ports without fitment problems. In fact placing those two USB ports at the front would have made things a whole lot easier such as they are on the HornetTek Mirage.
Lastly if we flip to the bottom we see four rubber feet to prevent slippage and real vent holes. And we have the hard drive cover on the side with instructions which tell us to “press forward slightly and pull out”. The cover pops off easily and you have access to the hard drive bay.
The full-size remote that is included with the Markus-800 is one that isn’t too bad but not the best I’ve come across either. Some of the buttons on this remote, I would have placed them somewhere else and the general feeling when using the remote is that it tends to feel too rubbery and sticky. It’s not a bad remote but I don’t fully enjoy using it, it doesn’t feel right in my hands.
Installing a hard drive into the Hantech Markus-800 is an easy ordeal. No screwdrivers or tools are required when installing the hard disk drive into the enclosure which is perfect.
Flip over the Markus-800 and open the hard drive cover to access the hard drive bay. There is a small locking piece that you need to remove by squeezing and sliding out. Once that is out of the way, slip in the hard drive (with it being in MASTER setting) and put slide back the locking piece in place. At this point all you have left to do is to connect the SATA data cable and SATA power cable in their respective places. Easy as 1-2-3.
Results – Is it any good? How does it perform?
Turn on the Markus-800 by pressing the power button on the enclosure or on the remote and you are presented with a boot screen that displays “Real HD Multimedia Player”. The remote control is pretty sensitive and will function at various angles which you will point toward the unit and commands are executed from the press of the button very fast. The execution of these commands I will talk about later.
Here is where things become different when compared to the HornetTek Mirage. It comes down to ease of use and with the Markus-800; they make it harder than it needs to be. With the Mirage, HornetTek makes it easy as you have the ability to format the HDD inside the enclosure with either NTFS or FAT32, with FAT32 being recommended since it’ll enable features such as file copy and more. This is done without needing to connect to a PC/MAC machine. The HornetTek Mirage doesn’t need to touch your computer. But with the Markus-800, that isn’t the case.
With the Markus-800 you don’t have those neat features and you have to format the HDD (if you haven’t already done so) through connecting the Markus-800 to your PC as regular HDD enclosure. Once it pops up on your computer as a regular HDD enclosure, you format the hard drive with the Windows Disk Management software preinstalled in Windows (Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management (Local)). The manual recommends formatting into the NTFS file system.
Once you are done formatting becomes the issue of dumping your photos, music and videos onto the Markus-800. You have to manually make three folders in the root directory of your hard drive named “MOVIE”, “MUSIC” and “PHOTO”. These three folders will house your respective files. Dump a movie file into the “MOVIE” folder, dump some MP3’s into the “MUSIC” folder and dump some photos into the “PHOTO” folder.
It’s quickly becoming aware that the Markus-800 isn’t as intuitive as I’d hoped. This alone is the Markus-800’s biggest negative attribute; no ability to dump media from your USB drive onto the hard drive without needing to bring the unit to the computer. There is no such thing as file copy on the Markus-800. So if you want to delete something/put on more files from and to the hard drive, you need to disconnect the device from your HDTV, bring it up to your computer room and hook it up via the USB cable to be able to achieve this.
With that aside, we can continue on with the review.
Once hooked up to your HDTV, you are presented with the main screen featuring six icons. These six icons resemble MOVIE, MUSIC, PHOTO, USB 1, USB 2 and Network. I like the fact that when you connect a USB storage device to the Markus-800, either the USB 1 or USB 2 will respectively start glowing to indicate that the machine has found a device attached to the enclosure.
One of the first things you should do is enter into the SETUP menu to change resolution and anything else that you desire like the date. The main menu features no SETUP icon of any sort. You have to find the SETUP button on the remote to enter. The SETUP menu features five sub menus that include: Video, Audio, ETC, Network, Wireless (if you have the wireless model) and Exit. The Video sub-menu includes options that can change from NTSC to PAL, aspect ratio, Video Out (composite 480, component 480-1080i, HDMI 1080p). Additionally you can switch through various Video Out options simply by pressing the Video Out button on the remote control.
Similar options are included for Audio sub-menu (pass-through/down-mix, 2ch, 5ch) and for the remaining menus.
Navigating the menus is super easy and no one will have problems. All you do is use the left, right, up, down, and OK buttons on the remote and you will other buttons such as play, stop and return key. I dislike the decision to place the return button where they did on the remote (they should have placed it right beside the stop button) but that’s how I feel about some of these buttons being illogically placed.
The menus don’t look too bad but the GUI reminds me of Linux (probably coded in Linux) and navigating the files on the hard drive reminds me of DOS dir command. The user interface is easy to use.
The 2.0” color LCD that is on the Markus-800 will basically replicate what you see on the television screen menu. At first I thought having an LCD was cool but in hindsight, it really serves little to no use.
Under usage the Markus-800 is a mixed bag. While picture and sound quality are great, the general execution of playback leaves more to be desired. Colors look pleasing to the eye, video is sharp looking, and playback is smooth being able to play 1080p files with no stutter. Additional picture enhancements such as brightness, contrast and saturation can be changed within a press of a button on the remote.
The Markus-800 is a powerful unit being able to play high bitrates files with no major troubles. Audio is as good as anything I’ve heard from such a device.
The big advantage this has over the HornetTek Mirage is that it can play a few more codec’s natively without trouble. I can play my MKV and WMV files now without converting it into another container and this saves so much time. It still can’t play MP4 but the Markus-800 can play just about anything you can throw at it. Like the Mirage, the Markus-800 played any movie file I gave it without having problems or choking up, no matter the size, no matter the specific resolution, no matter the subtitles, it played and thank is very good news.
About the only major issue that I struggled with on the Markus-800 was pertaining to fast forwards and rewinds. When I executed these commands, they choked up. I would fast forward and it would take a while (not too zippy) and when I would rewind, I would stop at a scene where I wanted to watch, but the Markus-800 randomly stopped at an entirely different scene that I did not want to watch. It was like I would stop it where I wanted to watch and the Markus-800 would stop it somewhere else. Too frustrating. I learned later on that not touching anything when playing videos made life easier. But seriously these problems should be fixed with a firmware update of the software if possible.
The only other major negative that the Markus-800 has is that it has no file copy feature as the HornetTek does and that it has no recording from a source feature, yet again the HornetTek does have this feature. The file copy feature that is missing is sorely needed as this would erase the need to connect the Markus-800 to a computer to be able to get stuff done. It makes life a hassle and makes things harder than they need to be.
When I look at my time with the Hantech SISO Markus-800 as a whole, I don’t find it to be totally bad. It’s actually a solid basic player. The biggest thing is the lack of feature set compared to the HornetTek Mirage. Again it has no file copy feature, recording from a source feature and that fact that you need to connect it to your PC once you want to upload or delete a file from the device is a con I can’t let go.
But under usage it only has minor bugs that need to be fixed with a firmware upgrade and it can play two more codec’s over the Mirage natively and display in full 1080p with wonderful looking picture quality. But at the end of the day, it falls just a little short of what I expected the “perfect” media player to be.
Pros and Cons