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    The Monsoon Multimedia Vulkano Flow Review


    Dave

    I first met Monsoon Multimedia at CES 2011 and talked with them a little bit about their up and coming products.  I remember getting excited about what they were telling me but also had that bit of reserve thinking, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  First of all, I like it when a company speaks with me and remembers me  after the sales pitch extravaganza that CES is.  Let’s face it, HSS is not the largest blog out there but these guys got me a review unit of the Vulkano Flow after telling me they would do so at CES.  I like that in a company.  Now, lets see if the Flow can stand up to the hype.

     

    Let me take a second to steal some text from their website to tell you about the company itself.

    Monsoon Multimedia was founded in 2004 by a team of digital video pioneers and serial entrepreneurs with a track record of launching successful startup companies in the growing digital video space. In 1996, the founders of Monsoon Multimedia founded Dazzle, where they developed the world's first affordable PC hardware and software products to compress video based on MPEG standards. In 2000, they founded Emuzed, where they pioneered the convergence of PCs and mobile phones, with TVs and digital video.

     

    Now, with digital video exploding and technologies converging, Monsoon’s products and technologies sit at the center between TV, Mobile, home WiFi, Internet Video and the wide array of TV and video service consumers have coming into their homes. Our products let consumers watch TV, Internet and on-demand video on their TVs, PCs and mobile phones; in ways they never imagined possible.

    One word that you will constantly see when reading about the Vulkano product line is, “Sling.”  I’m not sure if it’s an honor to be lumped in with Sling or if it’s a slander to these guys but I believe they are trying to differentiate themselves from the word by making a slight different, if not better, product.

     

    Now that I’ve said the “S” word you now get the idea of what the product line is attempting to do.  Watch live TV from your cable or satellite provider on multiple platforms, schedule recordings from those platforms and devices, and more.

     

    image

     

    Here is where it can get confusing.  Wading through the details of the six products they offer.  I wish the website had a table of features for each unit.  They do have a link to a “which is best for me” page but it still left me a little unsatisfied.  Here it is in it’s entirety.

    The only difference is storage & DVR!

     

    If you plan on recording hundreds of hours favorite TV programs and downloading movies from the Internet to play back on your TV, then the Vulkano Deluxe Pro is the best product for you. It comes bundled with a 500GB external hard disk drive that lets you record around 900, 90 minute TV shows and movies giving you the ultimate DVR experience.

     

    If you feel you will only record 30 or so 90 minute TV and movie recordings, then the Vulkano Deluxe is perfect with its 16GB of Flash memory.

     

    If your just looking for a great deal on some terrific technology that lets you watch TV on your mobile, or stream stored movies, photos music and YouTube to your big screen TV, then purchase the Vulkano Platinum.

     

    Here's a hint; buy the Vulkano Deluxe Pro, once you experience DVR, you will record everything!

    Regardless of that, I’m reviewing the Flow.  The Vulkano Flow is a TV Anywhere box.  A placeshifter.  It has clients for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, and Android.  You can view and record on the PC and Mac and it has wireless N built in as well as Ethernet.  It’s crazily inexpensive at $99 and I’ve seen it at Amazon for $88.  The mobile clients are also half the cost of what the “S” word folks charge for theirs.   Don’t forget that.  If you just want to watch on the PC or Mac you are golden as the download is free.  Otherwise, be ready to pay $12.99 for a client.

     

    I want to see that crazy long list of technical specs

    Video

    • Decoders:
      H.263(Sorenson), H.264 BP, H.264 MP, H.264 EP, H.264 HP, AVS, VP6, M-JPEG, MPEG-2 MP@HL, MPEG-4 ASP, WMV7/8, WMV9/VC-1
    • Encoders:
      MPEG-4 ASP, H.264 BP, H.264 MP, M-JPEG

    Still Image

    • Decoder:
      JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP

    Audio

    • Decoder:
      MP3, WMA8, WMA9, WMA10 Pro, AAC LC, HE-AAC, FLAC, OGG Vorbis, G.711, G.726, G.729AB
    • Encoder:
      WMA8, MP3, AAC LC, G.711, G.726, G.729AB

    Analog Video Inputs

    • YPrPb (up to 1080i) or
    • S-Video + Composite (NTSC/PAL)
    • Macrovision x support
    • 3 10-bit DACs @ x MHz

    Network Connectivity

    • 1 10/100/1000Base-T Ethernet port
    • MII/RGMII
    • WiFi 802.11n

    Local connectivity

    • 1 USB 2.0 port

    Unboxed

     

    IMAG0827IMG_2795IMG_2796

     

    IMG_2797IMG_2798

     

    The Box

     

    IMG_2801IMG_2802

     

    IMG_2803

     

    IMG_2804IMG_2805IMG_2806

     

    Explain the ports please!

     

    image

     

    The Flow is meant to sit between the Set Top Box (STB) and the TV.  If you are lucky, your STB may have dual output ports and you can leave your setup the way you have it now and connect the extra outputs to the Flow’s inputs.  Notice, no HDMI.  Can you guess why?  Analog has no DRM or HDCP, hint hint.

     

    It supports up to 1080i and will down convert to 720x480 for the client.  No HDMI input but some of their boxes do have HDMI out.

     

    I know what else your thinking.  Does it work with Media Center?  Can I finally record satellite content with my Media Center?  Answer is…..No!  Their explanation?  The Vulcano has an Electronic Program Guide so you don’t Media Center.  See the conclusion of this review for more thoughts on Media Center.

     

    Hook it up and download a client to your PC or Mac in order to set it up.  The PC Software/Player is 110 Meg!  When I hooked up mine and plugged in power the status light was red for about 10 or so seconds, flashed red for a few more and then went green.  Looks like a good start.

     

    The obligatory setup screens.

     

    imageimage

     

    Did this thing just install MSSOAP ?  Didn’t that get left behind years ago for .Net?  I wasn’t fast enough to capture the screen but I swear it did.

     

    imageimageimage

     

    imageimage

     

    Asks you to create a password

     

    image

     

    Firmware update

     

     

     

    image

     

    Wireless Setup which I skipped in order to use Ethernet.

     

     

     

    image

     

    Choose your video input.  Composite or Component.

     

     

     

    image

     

    Advanced Button was impressive.  Every setup screen is in here.

     

     

     

    imageimage

     

    imageimage

     

    I imagine this is the part that could go wrong for some folks.  STB’s and IR.  It’s a pain but once you get it working you should be good to go.  The setup will coach you through all channel changing and whether you change channels by hitting 1, then enter, or 001, enter, 01, enter, etc.  It covers it.  Luckily, my setup was easy and I used the default settings throughout.

     

     

     

    imageimage

     

    Multiple digit channel changes worked without tweaking the speed slider.

     

     

     

    imageimage

     

    image

     

    It tried to configure UPNP ports and failed.  Probably due to my DIR-655 router which is flakey with UPNP at times.

     

     

     

    image

     

    Rebooted the router and still not working.  Skipping.

     

    image

     

    Launch the player please!

     

     

     

    image

     

     

     

    The on screen remote was not a cheesy set of buttons but rather the actual graphical representation of the remote that came with my box.

     

    image

     

    Changing channels works great with it.

     

    Watching and Recording

     

    This thing is great for watching satellite content on your PC but a DVR it is not!  You can record what you are watching but don’t expect it to do ANYTHING beyond that.  I started watching Space Cowboys and hit record but the EPG doesn’t indicate it’s recording.  It was recording but just not showing that in the EPG.  I guess it doesn’t matter since you can’t record via the EPG like you would normally do with a DVR.  The other thing I couldn’t get it to do was bring up my recordings that were on the Dish Network DVR.  It would be nice to be able to watch those shows via the player.  If there is a way to do this I’ll update the review.

     

    image

     

    Recording screen shot.

     

    Get out of the house and watch some TV!

     

    Like I said earlier there is a mobile client for almost every mobile device out there.  If there isn’t Monsoon is probably working on one.  WP7, ahem.  I tested Android and the iPad.  The Android app worked over 3G but I couldn’t get it to work via Wi-Fi.  Odd, but not a big deal at home.  What if I’m travelling and hooked up to Wi-Fi?  That I didn’t test but read in a forum that it didn’t work.  Streamed TV to my HTC Incredible looked very good and I was able to change channels easily.  Again, it would be nice to see my DVR’d content via Android.

     

    The iPad was also enjoyable but had it’s quirks.

     

    IMG_0224 IMG_0225IMG_0228

     

    IMG_0229IMG_0230IMG_0233

     

    IMG_0234 IMG_0235 IMG_0239

     

    As you can see by the screen shots there are moments of haziness( or digitization) but when the app has time to run it clears up pretty good.  The only gripe I had with it was during remote control actions.  When you press a button on the remote it would drop the stream and re-buffer.  I would recommend using the app’s EPG and not trying to navigate the STB’s guide.  That’s why the Flow gives you a guide after all.

     

    Android Screens

     

    April 033April 034April 035April 036

     

     

    Note to Monsoon Multimedia.  Get this thing working with Media Center and you will sell a lot more of them.  If I could use the Flow to pipe satellite content into Media Center I would be ecstatic!  The Flow never gave me any issues with IR, needing reboots,  or dealing with the STB.  It would be a great option for Media Center enthusiasts.   Monsoon, just make a backdoor setting that would somehow make it work with MC and let us bloggers publish the workarounds.  You will sell boxes!

     

    The only other thing I can think of for Media Center fans is to upgrade beyond the Flow and get the DVR version.  Record all the shows you want and put them in a directory accessible by Media Center.  The only other issue would be tagging the show properly and getting it to show up under Recorded TV.  There are many more questions for this type of setup so maybe I can convince Monsoon to send me the rest of their product portfolio.

     

    Conclusion

     

    I’ve seen the flow available for as little as $88.  Today on Amazon it’s at $94.95 but not shipped from Amazon.  It’s still a great price for the function it provides.  Just don’t forget that mobile clients will also add to the cost if you want to view on Android or iOS.  The PC and Mac clients are free though.  I thought it was easy to setup and get running but I can see someone having trouble with an oddball STB or if not familiar with the cabling requirements.  I don’t know if I would recommend using wireless to stream from the Vulcano but it has it if you need it.  For the price it’s a great way to get live TV where ever you want it!

     

    Vulkano Flow 010410VF Mobile Accessory for TV Anywhereir?t=&l=as2&o=1&a=B004M189OM&camp=217145 $94.95 on Amazon.com

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    It seems you have selected a wrong File for your Dishnetwork receiver. That is why you are not getting the DVR. You may select V1775 (For Dishnetwork System) from the Vulkano Setup Wizard to get all the DVR Function.

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    Review of dish hopper HD DVR is very informative!! I'm planning to change my old DVR system and this presentation is convincing me to grab this one as my new home DVR. Thanks. I admire your courage.

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    Very informative of dish hopper DVR receiver. Really i'm impressive and i would planning to changing my DVR system on that time. Thanks a lot for your audacity.

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