UEBO M50 Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware

The UEBO M50 is a tiny, palm-of-your-hand sized media player. Now, I'm sure the readers here are curious as to how 'big' a palm-of-your-hand sized media player really is. Measuring in at 7.7cm in depth, 7.8cm in width, and 1.8cm in height makes this device fairly small. The UEBO M50 weighs approximately 70g, which is pretty lightweight, considering an Apple iPhone weighs more than twice as much. The most interesting part about the M50 is the fact that the power adapter is actually bigger than the media player itself. Although the media player is small, being a mobile device that requires external power means you have to carry the adapter with you at all times. To top it off, you also need to carry an external storage device with you as well, since the UEBO M50 has no built-in internal storage. Not that a USB stick or an SD card is something to get worried about carrying around, haha.

So what do you put on the front of a tiny media player? Well, the ports, obviously. The UEBO M50 has all of the external storage ports on the front. The first one is a USB 2.0 port on the left side, with a label indicating it is a USB host port. The other one is the card reader on the right side, marked at the bottom with a label showing a card symbol. It is very clean and plain front panel, but nothing to complain about here. It keeps things super simplistic for the end user. To the left side, there is also the power LED indicator, which is blue during normal usage; however, this is not visible in the image above, because the M50 isn't plugged in. The card reader offers support for SD, SDHC, and MMC cards, which is very convenient if you want to plug in your SD card directly from a camera. When it comes to the front, it offers all the basics of what you need, and leaves everything else behind.

The back side isn't that much different from the front, other than white lines outlining the ports, and electrical information written beside the display ports. Starting on the very left, you can see the clearly labeled HDMI connector. The next port is A/V out; used for composite video/audio. Finally, on the right side is the power port, which is labeled as DC in. This keeps things very simplistic, and nothing is unclear about which port is to what. My only complaint is that it has no S/PDIF output, so for carrying the digital signal, you are limited to HDMI only. If you haven't guessed by now, the whole unit is passively cooled. During use, it gets does get warm, but not to the point that it would be unpleasant to pick up. In addition to the ports on the back, you can also find four screws. These hold the internal components of the media player to the metal exterior. These screws are very easy to remove, but due to their size, they are also extremely easy to lose. (I guess I'm a poet, and I didn't even know it.) (Sorry Devin, I fail to see why. :P - Editor)

As you would expect from such a tiny device, the UEBO M50's remote control is tiny as well. In fact, it uses a button cell instead of a single AAA battery. The power button is at the standard top-left corner of the remote. The navigation arrows are in a circle around the top half, with the 'Enter' button in the middle. I found the compact layout of the remote to be very intuitive, as every button can be easily pressed with one hand, and nothing is difficult to reach. All of the common functions are grouped up together allowing for quick switching between actions. I do have larger than average hands, so I would have been happier if the remote was a more reasonable size, so that I can get a good grip. After using the remote for a few hours, and giving a few other people a test drive, the results were the remote was fairly intuitive with only minimal trial and error during use. Of course, this can easily vary between people, as each individual will have a different experience in using it.

The remote itself wasn't bad at all, but it certainly had a number of issues that should be noted. First off, the remote has to be in direct view of the M50 in order for the system to even respond. This typically isn't an issue, but the fact that it also has to be pointed directly towards the media player with very little room for error resulted in a number of irritating situations. I mean, playing laser tag with your media player really isn't a lot of fun, haha. The range on the remote is reasonable, but sometimes, at further distances, it would not register some of the button presses. The remote is small, but the worst part was that it felt flimsy and would bend under normal usage. I'm not convinced this is something anyone would like to use on a regular basis. Not that I am expecting a high-quality remote, but there are certainly expectations to be met when it comes to basic product quality. A stiffer and more rigid remote body, as well as an increase in length of the remote, would go a long way for the UEBO M50.

After giving the outside a detailed examination, I decided to take the covers off the UEBO M50 and see what was underneath. The task was actually quite easy. The outside metal case was held in by four black metal screws; it was almost as if it wanted me to get inside. The internals are resting on a tray that simply slides out of the metal case. I first noticed the M50's PCB was attached to the tray with another four black screws, so naturally, I had to remove them. Lifting the board from the tray, I was able to see the thermal compound used to dissipate heat from Realtek's 1055DD processor. I will say this is a reasonably way to have a built in heatsink for the device to allow for passive cooling. As mentioned earlier, the UEBO M50's metal case does get warm during long periods of usage, but certainly not to the point that you would have to worry about overheating.

By closely examining the inside, I was able to find a number of interesting components. The UEBO M50 uses Nanya's 1026 NT5TU64M16GG-AC DDR2 chip to provide 1GB of onboard RAM. The USB 2.0 and SD/MMC/MS flash card reader are driven by a Genesys Logic GL827L IC, which allows for a smaller and simplified layout on the PCB. This is a very respectable choice, considering cutting down on size was a major priority for the M50. The operating system is stored inside an ATMEL AT88SC0104ca flash memory. Of course, for video decoding, the UEBO M50 is powered by the Realtek 1055DD processor, which is used in many other media players for the same purpose.

Installation of the UEBO M50 was probably the most effortless experience I've ever had. This is because the device has so few ports, there isn't any way a user can get confused. Its lightweight and compact design means the M50 will fit in almost anywhere. However, if you want to take advantage of the high definition capabilities, you will need to provide your own HDMI 1.3 cable. Having a completely silent operation is certainly a plus, as the device is passively cooled. In fact, the UEBO M50 utilizes the same approach to cooling as Apple did with its Macbook. Using an aluminum case, heat is distributed to the exterior, where it is then dissipated to the device's surroundings.

When first plugged in, you will see a red light, indicating the system is starting up. Once this light goes away, a soothing blue LED takes its place. This makes it easy to tell the M50 is turned on, and every time the device receives an input from the remote, it will blink. The blinking is almost like its saying, "Command Accepted". One point that should be mentioned is if you carefully look at the specifications, you see something about wireless. Allow me to clarify, out of the box it also cannot be used on a network, because there are no built-in hardware networking capabilities. The wireless functionality requires a USB wireless adapter, and since you only have a single USB port, that would mean any external data must come from the network or an SD card. I'm disappointed in this, because of the lack of functionality out of the box. However, the device is fairly flexible to your needs, and it's always easy to ask for features without accounting for manufacturing costs in mind. Now, that we've taking a full look at the hardware, I think most people are also very curious about how the software performs, so read on to find out.

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