Page 3 - A Closer Look - Software
When you first look at the UEBO M50, you would think it would take an average amount of time to boot up before being ready to use. However, this was not the case. The M50 goes from turned off to ready in seconds, and I am quite impressed. Not bad for a paperweight sized object. The first thing you will notice about the UEBO M50 when you start it up is that it has a very simplistic menu, and as you dig further, you will find that initial impression is quite accurate. I certainly was not expecting anything extraordinary with the main menu, but it sure doesn't look horrible like the first Playstation's CD Player application.
The main menu presents itself like a stripped down version of a media player. It offers a nice background out of the box, but the menu items themselves do not have the same visual quality. This reduces the overall aesthetic look of the screen. Now, a nice feature of the UEBO M50 is the ability to change the main screen's background as well as modifying the system font, but more on that later. When scrolling through the menu, the first thing you will notice is the icons sort of roll over to the next. You could call this an effect, but it doesn't offer anything visually appealing to me. It is just a side scroll where the background moves -- no fancy transitions, the background doesn't change -- there is virtually no visual stimulus.
Selecting the first menu item, you will go to the video sub-menu. Here, you can watch all of your
dirty movies favorite videos with an easy to navigate menu. Each sub-menu has three viewing modes: Preview, list and thumbnail. The image above shows the system in preview mode; basically, it is a list with a small picture view, and details about the currently selected item. I understand the basic idea of 'starting to play the video when hovering over it'. However, if I honestly wanted a basic idea of the video, I would like to see random intervals of the video, instead of just playing it from the beginning. That is certainly more of a nice-to-have thing than a requirement, but it will make this feature actually useful. I do like the fact when viewing a file name larger than what can be displayed, it scrolls to the side. What I don't like about it is the fact it doesn't do so smoothly, and it does so way too frequently. It also doesn't consider the text length and will slowly scroll through a very long title. The UEBO M50 supports the following file formats: AVI, MPG, DAT, VOB, DIV, MOV, MKV, MPEG, TS, MTS, M2TS, RMVB, WMV, ISO, IFO, MP4, FLV, TP and TRP. This is a very respectable list, and for the most formats I have tested, there were not any issues.
What happens once you press 'play' on a video? Well, to no one's surprise, it plays the video. I'm slightly disappointed as there is no simply way to stretch a video to fill the screen. The only option is to manually zoom during playback, and position it in the right place. The zoom is a bit 'funky', because once you have moved the position of the zoom, you will have a very difficult time re-centering it. The visual quality of playback is fairly impressive over HDMI, but more on this later. Subtitles do work with the UEBO M50, and as we all know, this is a requirement for watching anime if you don't speak Japanese. During playback, you can press the menu button to provide a number of options when watching a movie, such as changing the video, audio, or subtitle settings, as well as the ability to jump to certain points of the movie. The most unusual aspect of the UEBO M50 during video playback is that you cannot view the duration of the video or where you are currently. This makes it nice if you never liked seeing the video progress bar, but being a double edged sword means if you did like that feature, you are out of luck.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so obviously you want to share them with people about a vacation, a special event, and the such. The most interesting aspect with presenting pictures on the UEBO M50 is the ability to play music during a slideshow. This can not only make it more interesting, but lets people to have something else to enjoy while being bored with your photos. You also have the ability to set a timer for changing the slides along with a few typical settings. I know most will end up using the remote, since not every picture is worth talking about, haha. I was also happy to notice that you could zoom in during the slideshow to help point people to certain spots on the image. The following image formats are supported: JPG, BMP, GIF, TIF and PNG. This is a far from an impressive list, but covers the most commonly used formats. The fact that you can plug in the SD card from your camera and start showing off your pictures right away is definitely a selling point for the UEBO M50. However, if you have any pictures in a different format than what is supported such as RAW, then you will have to convert them if you wish to view them on the M50.
I was not impressed by the simple music player provided by the UEBO M50. This is simply because it was nothing more than a basic playlist with the information about the currently playing audio file. With no visualizations to watch while listening to music, the only thing you are waiting for is the screensaver to turn on and watching the UEBO logo stagger across the screen. Not that it is really a huge deal, as you don't particularly watch the screen while listening to music, but some effort could have been put into making this more interactive and engaging. The size of the text box in the audio description panel is not efficiently allocated. Typically you would instead position the text below each label to maximize space, but the UEBO M50 doesn't offer much screen space for the media information. For file formats you have the selection between the following: MP3, OGG, WMA, WAV, AAC and FLAC. These are typically the main formats for audio that a consumer would have, and if you have any audio files of a different format, you will have to convert them if you want to play them on the M50.
Coming to the File Manager screen, I really feel it should have been named "Devices". Considering the very first screen you see tells you to pick which device, the title "File Manager" seems a bit out of place. The first thing you will notice when using the file manager is that the card reader and USB device are both labeled as 'USB'. This initially confused me when I inserted an SD card, because it only showed up as USB. That really just seems like a bug, as there is no reason to have the card slot show up as a USB, even the word external would have been better. Of course, this sub-menu also shouldn't even exist on the M50 in the first place, since the only thing displayed ever is external. I understand that UEBO would want to use the same software between all of its devices, but it isn't really that hard to make it differ slightly between them. Another interesting little quirk I noticed is that the devices use a Windows-like drive lettering scheme. This gives the illusion of a Windows-like feel to keep the file management familiar for most users. I'm sure this will just confuse people as the lettering scheme is simply based on order of the device inserted, and gives you no other hints to what the drive letter means.
When it comes to the file manager, you are really at a one-stop-shop for all of your media needs. Providing a file system like structure allows users to easily navigate to through their devices, making it is easy for you to find the file you want to play. There is also a nice search feature, but it is a bit cumbersome. Searching requires you to use the onscreen keypad, which really just takes a lot of effort to type out any query. Nonetheless, it is certainly a nice feature to have, and does provide uses for when you have a large number of items to browse. The file operations themselves were handy, but not very useful, since there is no internal storage. The device is not meant to be a file manager, so the idea of having these extra features is only for the sake of convenience. The biggest catch with the file manager is it only displays files that it supports; this means it is extremely deceptive when you have many other types of non-media files on the device. It could easily worry a user, especially when browsing a device and having it appear like files are missing. I feel a much better solution would be to show a generic file icon and leave it at that.
The settings menu is very simplistic and doesn't offer any significant features. Here is where you can change the video and audio settings between different resolutions and modes. The system menu allows you to set the most basic configurations, such as language, system font, desktop image, text encoding, using the screen saver, keyboard language, resume last played position, format device, restore settings and whether or not to scan the storage. By default, scanning is turned off on the UEBO M50, so none of the video, picture or audio menus are populated. This resulted in some confusion when I was first using the device, as none of my files were showing up. The last setting menu option is the miscellaneous menu. This allows you to display the current software version or upgrade from a USB flash drive. Personally, this menu item should be called 'software', not 'miscellaneous', as this really only has to do with the firmware of the system.
Looking back at the settings menu, there are two particularly interesting sub-menu items. The first one is for changing the system font, and the other is for changing the desktop background. These two items allow you to use your own image for the background of the main menu, and a different true-type font for all of the system text. Those are pretty handy features to say the least, but there is a down side to this as well. Firstly, the desktop image will be stretched to fill the screen, so make sure whichever image you choose fits the aspect ratio of the screen. Secondly, the font cannot be resized. so hopefully the font you picked looks good with UEBO's default setting. Finally, these two features require you to have an external device plugged in at all times to work. This is really irritating, as they will default back when you need to switch USB sticks or SD cards. It would have been vastly better if the UEBO M50 offered a limited amount of internal space for user data, especially considering how inexpensive it is to add some flash memory to a device nowadays. Now setting the font to whichever custom font you like is a pretty awesome feature as well, but it really should have an option to allow you to adjust the font size as well.
When it comes to software, as a software engineer, I could say many things. However, I'll stick to the basics. Stability is a very important aspect of software; it is even more important that usability, because without it, users will have no confidence in the device. On three occasions under normal use of the menus, I experienced a major decay in responsiveness, which was followed by a complete lockup of the device. Considering this occurred multiple times while nothing demanding was happening leaves me unconfident of the UEBO M50. Usability is typically what many users are going to be most interested in. As far as this device goes, it does provide a number of convenient functions and easy navigation, but not everything is self-explanatory or friendly at first. The file manager is a good example of where things get rough. UEBO has the device scanning feature turned off by default; a feature used to build up the library for video, audio and pictures of the devices. This means that many users are going to think something is wrong with the M50, and those less technologically inclined might never even bother going to the settings menu and turn it on. Responsiveness is also a major aspect of software; this is usually what keeps consumers wanting to continue to use your device. People rarely ever want to sit around and wait for something to finish. The implementation of a busy icon was very nice to have, but occasionally I found I had to wait around too frequently when simply using the device. The only issue I had was sometimes pressing keys on the remote would go undetected. This was frustrating, as I had to press the same button a few times, and make sure my view is clear. This is less of a software aspect, but even sometimes when I was a foot away and the remote pointed directly at the UEBO M50, nothing would happen for a few key presses. For performance, well, the next section is for you.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. A Closer Look - Software
4. Performance and Conclusion