Most media player appliances (including the Playstation and Xbox 360) rely on the use of a UPNP server. The Patriot Box Office breaks this mold by allowing you to play media not only through locally-attached devices, but direct network maps in addition to UPNP. The available options from the Browse menu are:
By default the DVD option does not show up unless you have an attached USB-based DVD drive. You cannot play a traditional DVD movie as you would a DVD player. The Box Office will play DVD movies only from a single image (ISO) file, which must be pre-ripped. Many people like to back up their movies to DVD as files. Use the DVD option to play individual files from a disc. You cannot rip a DVD movie to any other attached device using the Box Office.
All media can be sub-categorized by selecting “All, Music, Photo, or Movies” (press left or right on the remote control). Most people usually have their media already organized, so it’s generally safe just to keel this on “All”.
USB and HDD
You can navigate to any device using these main categories. If you have two USB devices attached (one in front and one in back), then two devices will show up in the USB sub-menu. You can then navigate to your media files. If you have not installed an internal hard drive, then the sub-menu of “HDD” will be blank. Playlist is where you select any previously-configured media playlists so that you don’t have to browse through several levels of folders to reach your media.
UPNP finds files as any other UPNP client would, and is dependant on the UPNP server indexing files before they are presented. The NAS devices I have used have pre-defined categories of media (photo, video, and music), and all files must be placed in these directories before they will be indexed by the UPNP server. How you play your media can also be affected by the UPNP server. I ran into some limitations such as (1) only being able to fast-forward up to 2x, and (2) inability to jump to within a movie, among other weird playback issues. These issues were not present when using the same file over “NET” or through a local device. These issues were resolved when I upgraded the firmware on the Synology Diskstation NAS. The point to this is: if you run into any playback issues, then the problem probably lies with your UPNP server version.
The “NET” option is a direct method to connect to any shared media on any type of comptuer or server, and can be password protected. When you dig down into the NET option, you are presented with all of the workgroups or domains the Box Office detects. You can also select “My Neighbors” to browse all of the computers on your local LAN. When you find a share you want to connect to, a menu is brought up with an on-screen keyboard that allows you to login to the share, just like you would from any computer. You also have the option of making a shortcut with the login credentials, so that you don’t have to repeat this process every time you want to connect to a share. These shortcuts appear under the “My Shortcuts” sub menu. When using files under the NET menu, sometimes the detected network speed is displayed in the top left corner, which can be distracting at some times.
When you have selected a file you want to play, there is a slight pause as the Box Office determines the file type. If you have “Movie Preview” turned on, then the movie starts to play in a little preview window to the right. The video preview starts from the beginning, which usually have credits or a few minutes of other stuff that you really can’t identify the movie. In my honest opinion, the “Movie Preview” option is really unnecessary, and would have been better if you could assign thumbnails to the video files instead. There is an additional lag beyond the file identification process before you can select the movie. You can watch an entire movie in “preview mode”, but the screensaver could kick on, and the system will not automatically move to the next file at the end.