Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware
Patriot Box's Office media player is a surprisingly small and stylish device in my opinion, especially considering the amount of features it has. According to my measurements, the Box Office's dimensions are determined to be 14.5cm in width, 3.8cm in height, and 14.0cm in depth. It weighs in at a reasonable 540g. The entire unit is black in color, creating a stealth and subtle look that provides both excellent form and function -- all without occupying too much room, nor does it grab too much attention. The black brushed aluminum casing delivers a clean finish and look that well complements most living rooms, not to mention that it also doubles as a heatsink in dissipating the heat generated by electronic components inside. Its rounded off corners and gapless wraparound shell further reinforces its aesthetics. Meanwhile, the front face is composed of plastic -- again, black in color -- with Patriot's logo near the upper left corner, and a "Full HD 1080" badge on the right. Beneath the two icons is a darkly tinted plastic piece that resides in front of the onboard IR sensor, as well as an array of indicator LEDs labeled USB, HDD, LAN/ACC, and PWR/STBY from left to right, respectively. A front-facing USB port is available for users to plug in their USB mass storage devices; whether it is an external hard disk or USB flash drive, the Patriot Box Office will read and play the compatible media files on it. Otherwise, there are no front LCD displays, nor are there any physical controls on the unit itself. You will need to rely on the included remote control and your television display to use any function on the Patriot Box Office.
All of the connectors are located at the back of the Patriot Box Office. Available on the network compatible multimedia player is pretty much everything will ever need in both the digital and analog world. As shown in our photo above, from the left are the three composite audio/video jacks, optical audio out, HDMI out, mini-USB, USB, network, and DC +12V input. The mini-USB connector is used to connect the Box Office as an external drive to your computer, and the standard USB connector can host either USB mass storage devices, or the optional wireless network adapter as aforementioned. Ironically, the frame of the device actually interfered with the Wi-Fi adapter physically, preventing the adapter from having a snug fit. The LAN port is only a 10/100 adapter rather than Gigabit. While it should offer sufficient performance for streaming even 1080p videos, if you plan to double the Box Office as a network attached storage device, you are better off getting a real NAS device if network speed is a concern. Additionally, I believe that the optional (And possibly only compatible) Realtek RTL8187B chipset based Patriot PCB0WAU2-G Wi-Fi adapter would be much more suitable for handling high bandwidth media streaming if it had been a wireless-N capable device.
What you won't get is S-Video out and coaxial digital output. However, it should be safe to assume that most users using the Patriot Box Office are going to connect to their HDTV via HDMI, so having component audio/video jacks are more than enough for backward compatibility. Optical and coaxial audio out does pretty much the same thing, so all you are going to lose is some flexibility in this regard.
A row of organized openings are placed across the top of the back of Patriot's Box Office for air ventilation. The main power switch sits at near the center. Four rubber standoffs are placed at the bottom of the player, and the "Box Office" logo and branding are placed boldly on both the left and right side of the device. On a side note, I discovered that the rubber standoffs made markings on my white surface used for taking photos when it first came out of the box.
The included unbranded remote control is fairly intuitive to use. For most people, trying out a new device with its remote control usually involves logical trial and error, rather than digging through the manual -- having something that makes sense goes a long way. Generally speaking, I have had no problems operating the Patriot Box Office right out of the box -- the remote control functions are generally logical in implementation. For a more objective assessment, I gave the Patriot Box Office to operate to a base of users who are less technology inclined -- and they had no issues with it either. To be honest, I really didn't need to use every button on the remote to get the Box Office going; mainly the D-pad and the usual play/pause/stop/skip and volume control buttons are what I used 90% of the time. The layout of the remote control has the Power and Home button at the top, followed by the number keys, media control, D-pad, and the miscellaneous menu items at the bottom. In the end, I found that it strikes a good balance between hardware buttons and software controls, but the layout of the media control and volume control buttons could be organized in a more logical fashion for easier access.
There are two parts to disassembling the Patriot Box Office media player. The main portion consists of removing the internal component tray from the shell, kind of like what you would do with an external hard drive enclosure. This step is very easy and only requires the removal of two screws. From here, you can easily install a 2.5" Serial ATA hard drive, which is why Patriot made it such an easy procedure for the end user. The hard drive tray has ventilation holes at the bottom to reduce heat congestion. Adjacent to the hard drive tray is a fan on the right, and an add-on board that connects to the mainboard for SATA and the power switch, and that supplies power to the fan as aforementioned; it's shown in our photo above. The Power Logic-branded cooling fan as mentioned provides additional cooling for the device to ensure that it runs reliably. Although it is audible within close proximity to the device, it doesn't spin very fast, so it is certainly not a problem as far as noise emissions are concerned in the living room.
Since the pieces inadvertently interlock with each other, to fully disassemble the Patriot Box Office -- which, unless you are curious in digging through everything like me, is definitely not necessary -- will require more work. I ended up removing pretty much every screw found on the media player, haha. As you can see in our photo above, there are five LEDs directly connected to the mainboard as front indicator lights. You may recall me mentioning there is an "array of LEDs labeled USB, HDD, LAN/ACC, and PWR/STBY" earlier in this review. The reason why there are five LEDs is because two of them are for USB ports 1 and 2, respectively. All LEDs glow green, except for the network activity and power status LEDs, which can glow both green or red.
Items that may interest you include the Hynix HY27UF082G2B NAND flash, which means the Box Office has 256MB of onboard flash ROM. Nanya's NT5TU64M16CG-AC memory IC is found nearby, supplying 128MB of DDR2 RAM to the system. Under the heatsink is a Realtek RTD1073DD 400MHz digital media processor. This system on chip (SoC) device has a MIPS 24K core, which runs Linux. Meanwhile, the Patriot Box Office features a Cirrus Logic CS4352CZZ 24-bit/192 kHz stereo digital-to-analog converter, rated at 106dB A-wt dynamic range and -93dB THD+N, according to the manufacturer.
Plugging it in and setting it up for first use was totally effortless. I simply attached the power cable, network cable (Since I'll be mostly streaming over my home central network), HDMI cable to the TV, and optical audio cable to my receiver, and we're good to go! It was very nice that Patriot included the HDMI cable out of the box, but you will need to get stuff like the network cable and optical cable on your own. The box fits very nicely under my TV, although I actually moved it to the other side of my display after I took the photos, haha. Before I power on the Patriot Box Office and move to the next section, here's one thing I must note: The network LED blinks when media streaming is active. Since the Box Office must be placed in direct line of sight of the user for the remote to function correctly, it may prove to be a pretty annoying feature. The hard drive LED does not blink. In my opinion, Patriot should reconsider the implementation or at least the placement of activity LEDs, since this is a home entertainment product, and something that may be acceptable in the computer world may not always work in the realm of home theater products.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. A Closer Look - Software
4. Performance and Conclusion