QNAP NMP-1000 Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware

QNAP is one company who consistently get their product design schemes correct. By 'correct', I mean the design fits into the implementation context which it addresses. While QNAP's network attached storage servers such as the TS-439 Pro, and its predecessor, the TS-409 carry more of a sleek industrial look (Which is very good, because its look fits right into where it belongs -- the networking room), the NMP-1000 network media player features a clean and modern design to go with your living room -- again, where it belongs. Measuring 20.4cm in depth, 17.6cm in width, 6.2cm in height, and specified with a net weight of the product at 1.54lbs, it is clear QNAP's NMP-1000 network media player is considerably larger in size than the Patriot Box Office. It is certainly sized reasonably by all accounts, but you will see later what contributes to this size disparity. It is incredibly lightweight at 1.54lbs, however, because the casing is made of plastic rather than a metal.

The NMP-1000 features beautiful rounded off corners on all four sides, placed above four soft rubber feet to give it a bit of clearance at the bottom, as well as dampening vibration generated within the device to reduce noise. The minimalist front face consists primarily of a darkly tinted plastic window that covers nearly the entire surface. Its simple design is also very functional; underneath the QNAP logo at the upper left corner is the IR receiver for the included remote control, and a power button with a blue LED backlight is situated at the lower left corner. On the right, we have a square D-pad and a large 'OK' button in the middle of it. Beneath it is a button labeled 'Option' -- all can be used for navigating most of the basic functions of the device's menus without the need of the remote control. At the center of the front face is a single line, nine digit alphanumeric LCD display. Information displayed here is usually a reciprocation of the highlighted menu item that is also outputted onto your television, or the status of the device such as the boot process. It also shows 'NAS' when it is in NAS mode. Generally speaking, this is a great thing because this means you can at least navigate the device get some tunes going without turning on your TV to see the menu items. There is more than one way to use the QNAP NMP-1000 rather than being restricted to TV plus remote only, and it is certainly appreciated! My only complaint is that the front face is very prone to fingerprint marks.

Being an upper market device, one would expect the QNAP NMP-1000 to be compromise-free as far as hardware is concerned. Turning the device around reveals a serious array of available connectors. In our photo above, we can see the DC power input from the left, followed by an USB Type-B and eSATA connector for a direct connection to your computer which act as an external hard disk drive. Power input comes from an external power supply brick, and do take note that the NMP-1000 will have to reboot to enter eSATA or USB mode -- you can't run it with its embedded OS active. Anyways, the NMP-1000 has no lack of audio and video connectors -- in fact, you'll find all the standards from the past few decades here. We have the de facto HDMI port to go to your TV, along with component, composite, and S-Video A/V cables from yesteryears. Both S/PDIF digital audio output jacks -- coaxial and optical -- are present on the QNAP media player. Towards the far right are two USB ports for accommodating USB mass storage devices, as well as compatible USB wireless adapters, which QNAP does not sell. An onboard Gigabit Ethernet port bridges your device to your local area network, with standard indicator LEDs on the edge of the port. And last but not least, a 40mm fan adjacent to a Kensington security slot can be found to provide airflow to the NMP-1000's internal components. All in all, the QNAP NMP-1000 has pretty much every connector than one could ever wish for in a network media player and beyond.

Four screws at the back hold the QNAP NMP-1000's upper shell in its place (Well actually I lied, you will need to unscrew two more located inside the hard drive bay, but this just makes writing the sentence a little easier haha). The 3.5" internal Serial ATA hard drive bay, which we will get to in just a moment, is externally accessible; these screws are required for removal only if you want to disassemble the device entirely. Unfortunately, there's the unpopular warranty seal over one of the screws, so unless you want to void your warranty there's nothing in particular that may require you to open up your NMP-1000. But for the purpose of this review, I cracked open the box to see the components in detail within the network media player, just for you!

QNAP's included remote control is generally intuitive to use. A nice touch is the green glow-in-the-dark commonly used buttons -- these include the Power, Mute, Slow, Pause, Seek, Rewind, Stop, Fast Forward, and the D-pad controls. 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 QNAP NMP-1000 right out of the box -- the remote control functions are generally logical in implementation with regards to their respective on screen function. For a more objective assessment, I gave the QNAP NMP-1000 to operate to a base of users who are less technology inclined, and they had little issues with it either. To be honest, however, I really didn't need to use every button on the remote to get the NMP-1000 going; mainly, the D-pad and the usual play/pause/stop/skip are what I used 90% of the time. While I experienced no significant problems using the remote control with QNAP's NMP-1000 network media player, I found the overall layout of the remote control to be somewhat disorganized; it would be excellent if certain groups of related buttons were placed closer together in a more organized and logical manner.

The QNAP NMP-1000 is quite a versatile device in the sense that it can not only act as a network media streaming device, but it can also accommodate one 3.5" internal Serial ATA hard drive to store media. As QNAP is well known for making high performance network attached storage boxes, the NMP-1000 is also a native NAS system, besides being advertised as a network media player -- a huge plus if you're looking for a device that doubles as a network drive, and if you don't need RAID. The benefits are potentially reinforced knowing the fact that the QNAP is a well known NAS manufacturer, and the NMP-1000 runs the same web based configuration interface as some other dedicated QNAP storage systems. We'll cover its NAS features, web UI, and performance in just a moment.

Installing the SATA disk is simple. Simply remove the bay cover located on the left side of the device, and slide out the plastic internal hard drive tray. Attach four screws on both sides, slide the tray with the hard drive back into the bay, and you're good to go. Clear instructions in the form of diagrams can be seen on the orange sticker at the top of the NMP-1000. The sticker can be easily removed anytime with no adhesive residue left behind.

We took step further in disassembling the QNAP NMP-1000 to take a look at its internal hardware components. A word of warning is that this procedure will void your warranty, as aforementioned. Back on the topic of disassembly, a total of six screws are required to be removed to relieve the upper shell from the rest of the chassis. A large tray across the middle essentially splits the NMP-1000's interior into two partitions, separating the internal hard drive bay from the system board, as shown in our photo above. There are two distinct PCBs inside the QNAP network media player; one mainboard contains all the core components, whereas a secondary board controls the front LCD and all its relevant controls. A 40mm fan resides at the back to draw air over the system board to reduce temperature inside the box, and exhaust heat through the back of the system.

Our close up examination reveals that beneath the small aluminum heatsink is Sigma Designs's SMP8635 SoC (System on chip) processor. QNAP also uses one Spansion's S29Gl512P10TFCR1 64MB NOR flash chip to store its onboard operating system, and four Hynix HY5DU121622DTP DDR memory ICs for a total of 256MB onboard RAM. A JMicron JM20330 Serial ATA 1.5 Gbps bridge chip is used for controlling the hard drive. Meanwhile, Silicon Image's Vastlane SiI9134 HDMI 1.3 transmitter is utilized to handle its multimedia output tasks. According to the manufacturer, this chip supports up to 1080p resolution at 60Hz and 36-bit color depth, and Dolby True HD and DTS-HD audio formats. It also supports 3D over HDMI in the HDMI 1.4 specification, DVD audio with 7.1-surround at 192kHz, SACD audio standards, and stereo audio at 192kHz.

Plugging the QNAP NMP-1000 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 were good to go! It was very nice that QNAP included both the HDMI and network cable out of the box, but neither of the two S/PDIF cables are supplied. The QNAP NMP-1000 fits very nicely next to my LCD HDTV in my living room, as it incorporates elements of excellent modern industrial design for a distinct yet sleek and clean look. The NMP-1000 is a home entertainment device, and it is certainly designed to look like one that is done right in every respect.

An LED strip provides a stylish blue glow aimed at the bottom of the device to further accentuate its look. I found the QNAP NMP-1000 very cool looking when turned on in my living room, and having the light aimed down ensures that it won't be blinding in operation. I also find its brightness to be just right to make it look great without being overwhelming. However, if you find the blue LED strip to be distracting in a dark environment, or that it is simply not your cup of tea, it can be turned off anytime in the Settings menu. Once media is playing, the LCD screen displays the current elapsed time of the file, so it's useful without being distracting either.

During normal operation, the QNAP NMP-1000 is nearly inaudible. The 40mm fan spins very slowly, and its rotation speed setting is dependent on the temperature of the system. I have never heard it spin up in everyday use, but just remember to keep the side drive bay cover closed, otherwise it will create some unwanted turbulence noise. (To be honest there's no reason to keep it open anyway; I am just presenting an interesting find from my usage experience.)

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. A Closer Look - Software
4. Performance and Conclusion