Eminent EM7280 hdMEDIA RT3 review
While most of the media streamers we see rely on a network connection to find content, Eminent's hdMEDIA RT3 also has a 500GB hard disk, which can serve as a central repository of your favourite media files. If you don't already have a NAS or a large external drive, the hdMEDIA RT3 kills two birds with one stone, acting as both networked storage and media player.
To make it easier to transfer your existing media, the hdMEDIA RT3 comes with a USB3 input and cable, making transfers from a USB3-equipped PC or laptop even faster. You also get a Gigabit Ethernet port (a wireless version, the EM7285, is also available), two USB ports and an SD card slot, giving you plenty of ways to fill up the hdMEDIA RT3's disk. The USB ports both accept mice and keyboards, as well as storage.
As far as outputs are concerned, there's HDMI, composite video, and a choice of phono, optical or coaxial audio. Eminent bundles HDMI, composite and optical cables in the box, too, and it's all covered by a five year warranty, which makes the hdMEDIA RT3's price more palatable. The current high price of hard disks is also a factor here: hopefully we'll see the price fall as supply gets back to normal.
Media is only visible under the main menu headings - Movies, Music and Photo - once it's stored on the local disk. To access networked media (SMB or UPnP) you have to use the Manager option instead to navigate through your network. Once you've found network content you can either play it or copy it to the local disk.
We couldn't find a way of storing network locations for easy access and the hdMEDIA RT3 encourages you to store things on its hard disk. That's not necessarily a bad thing. File support is excellent, and you can upgrade the hard disk to a larger one if need be. There's support for DVD and Blu-ray menus, although we couldn't get the latter to work with all of our test discs and the hdMEDIA RT3 just listed the video files. Impressively, this player supports DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD – the HD Blu-ray audio formats – and is the only streamer we've seen to do so.
Music support is similarly as good. There's also support for playlists, but you can only create a playlist whilst in the Manager section, and not in the Music section.
Internet services are listed under Apps. The first page lists Facebook, YouTube XL and Picasa apps, a Buddy Link IM app, a weather app, a browser and two Yahoo! news feeds. There's also a link named "Eminent AppCenter" and then a further link before you get another page of apps. Why these are split off from the first page of apps is a mystery, and an annoyance. The extra apps include Shoutcast radio, Revision 3 videos, Apple trailers and a host of less well-known services. It also includes adult content from PornHub, which can't be blocked or removed from the list.
Compared to the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub - our favourite disk-equipped streamer - the hdMEDIA RT3 looks a bit shabby, with its fewer internet services and an interface that's both uglier and less intuitive, plus it has half the space of the Live Hub in a box twice the size. While the ability to transfer files to the internal disk via USB3 is a big plus for some, in everyday use it's far more cumbersome to operate, so if you'd prefer a disk-based streamer, we'd advise spending a bit more on the WD TV Live Hub instead.