Intel has seen a sudden surge in demand for its CE41xx chips in the media streaming set top box market. Boxee was the first to bring a device based on the CE4100 to the market in the Boxee Box. At CES 2011, Syabas announced that the future generation of NMTs would be based on the CE41xx series. Boxee also made its way into some CE4100 based products such as the Iomega NAS boxes and some Viewsonic TV models. In the meanwhile, A.C.Ryan also announced their Fluxx media streaming STB based on the highest end product in the CE41xx lineup, the CE4150.

The main advantage of the CE4150 over its lesser cousins is the overclocked PowerVR SGX535 graphics engine which chugs along at 400 MHz compared to the 200 MHz of the CE4100 and CE4130. In addition, it also has an AV input which the CE4100 doesn't have.

The AV input in the CE4150 translates to a HDMI-In port on the Fluxx. This port serves two purposes. On one hand, users may opt to record the raw video coming over the link (as long as it is not HDCP protected). This, however, is not something of much interest to most users as the raw video is usually of very high bandwidth ( > 1 Gbps for 1080p30 video ) and it would take up too much disk space. That said, it does duplicate some of the functionality currently existing in products like Blackmagic Design's Intensity Shuttle (which itself is targeted towards professional video editors). The second functionality of the HDMI-In port is similar to the feature available in the Logitech Revue (acting as a passthrough / PiP functionality). This would also make it an interesting feature for game and widget developers who can dream up more fun / functional apps.

The CE4150 is the same chip which is being used in the Logitech Revue (Google TV) box. However, the markets targeted by these two products have very little overlap. A.C.Ryan is hoping for a premium set top box experience, with more frills added to the experience provided by the PlayOn! HD series. After having looked at both the Boxee Box and the Fluxx in operation, it is evident that the premium graphics engine in the Fluxx does lead to snappier and more pleasing UI.

There are features in the Fluxx which make it a 'social connected media player', but, thankfully, those features can be turned off. Facebook and Twitter widgets aren't ones I would particularly like on my media player / streamer, but I would definitely like to hear from readers as to whether it is a feature they would want. The processing power of the Atom SoC also makes it possible to have in-built scraping for media libraries and a Flash enabled web browser. Support for multiple DRM methods should make content providers happy.

Priced at $249 for the model without storage, it can't be categorized as an impulse buy. However, if it is able to get the capabilities of the Roku boxes while also delivering the local media capabilities of the Dune series, the Fluxx might well turn out to be worth the cost. A.C.Ryan tells us that they have a tie up with Samsung to provide drives for the internal hard drive included models without any markup. The 500 GB model comes in at $279, while the 1 TB, 1.5 TB and 2 TB models are priced at $299, $319 and $339 respectively.

A point to note is that A.C.Ryan doesn't believe in saddling consumers with the cost of 3D capable STBs. We completely agree with their decision, considering that 3D has really not been able to take off as a mainstream feature yet. There are lots of features which are yet to be perfected by media streamers in the 2D world itself!

The Fluxx model comes in at 200x190x62 mm, and is definitely an imposing player. It was much bigger at first glance than I expected it to be. The top of the streamer is made of aluminium, and acts as a heat sink. The motherboard itself is passively cooled, as can be seen in the picture below.

The system, however, still has a low RPM fan in order to facilitate air movement and apparently needs to be kept on even if no hard disk is placed inside the unit.

The Fluxx has all the oft-request features from media streamer users such as auto frame rate, extensive codec and subtitle support and an interface which can rival XBMC in usability as well as appearance. It has NFS/SMB/AFP and FTP support. DLNA and uPnP are also supported in client and server forms. The full spec list is linked here for your convenience. The backlit QWERTY IR remote also has an exhaustive set of dedicated buttons for various media control functions. We also have support for USB keyboards and mice.

Over the last few months, we have found that media streamer manufacturers are very willing to listen to user feedback (particularly, feedback from us at AnandTech). A.C.Ryan has a positive history of listening to users, and we believe any software features requested / issues reported by users will be attended to promptly.

We do have some concerns about the Fluxx product for the US market. The main problem is that none of the premium content providers have been linked to it. Netflix is slated to come in sometime after the launch in March 2011. Talks are ongoing with the other content providers. Our other concern is the absence of full BD menu support in the product. Given the price point, we would have liked full BD support like what is present in the Netgear NTV550. Without that, we would have gladly given up AACS / protected commercial BD playback if we could get full BD-ISO menu support for unprotected images. Full BD-ISO menu support apparently doesn't require a BDA / AACS license, but only a Java license for the BD-J implementation. We believe most media streamer users don't care for BD-Live, and would gladly give that up as long as they have BD-J menus working properly. However, the Fluxx doesn't have a Java license as of now. A.C.Ryan tells me that they are exploring the possibility of getting some of the above licenses, but they are not planned as part of the product right now.

In essence, A.C.Ryan is betting upon premium video services to entice users rather than providing advanced local media capabilities. Right now, it looks like they have a lot of work left to do. We will be keeping a close watch as the product nears the launch date (March 2011).

A.C.Ryan's Plans for the US Market A.C.Ryan PlayOn! Series
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  • warisz00r - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Has to be one of the silliest company logo ever.
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    It's like the A.C.Milan football club, but not.

    Perhaps we'll start seeing more initialized names in the future as the stand out and probably are more likely to be remembered these days because of that - afterall, the past 75 years companies have really used the one word approach. I'd like to see the marketing research behind it.
  • joebrooks - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Please read the title of the post you replied to.
  • rickcain2320 - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Its an asian thing, they like esoteric logos which may not make sense to the western brain. We prefer violent logos like arrows, flames, explosions, and we name our systems "Extreme", "Ultra", "Mega".
    Thats why video card manufacturers put werewolves with metal armor carrying battleaxes on the front of the box. The asian market may just have some japanese dude with long blonde hair and big blue eyes on the front.

    The Realtek logo works, when I see the crab on a chip I know where it came from immediately.
  • Samus - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    While I agree with your interpretation of Western logo choices (arrows mean moving forward, flames/explosions mean powerful, etc) opposed to Eastern culture usually revolving around the ocean (Daewoo logo is a Seashell, Realtek is a crab, many designs of products, specifically vehicles and motorcycles are inspired by sea creatures...)

    I have to completely disagree with the terminology aspect of your comment.

    Mega/Ultra/Turbo/Extreme/Super are synonymous with marketing and branding of almost all Eastern (and to some degree, European) products. American's specifically are NOT kean with these terms as they are inferior to our 'Premium' brandings, usually directly translated into numbers or abbreviations. Classification is paramount to product success in the United States, and identifying something as Super, Turbo, Mega, Extreme, etc, doesn't differentiate a product enough as 1, 2x, 3G, or XLS, XLT, Limited, or S, SE, SES, etc.

    You'll find most, if not practically all products in the United States that have the words Mega/Ultra/Turbo/Extreme/Super are actually non-American products, and are marketed here similarely because of a lack of understanding between the culture shift of differentiating markets.

    Many recent examples:

    Ford "Ecoboost" instead of "Turbo" (obvious exception is Intel Turbo mode) although turbo in the American market has a bad standing with vehicles because of poor quality turbo-charged vehicles in the 80's.

    i-Product generations (iPhone 3, 3G, 3GS, 4, etc)

    Windows XP, Vista, 7, editions: Home, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate.

    Gasoline: No longer referred to as Super Unleaded, rather "Premium" "V-Power" "Ultimate" and specifically based on numbers/octane. Most countries around the world have one choice for unleaded fuel, and it's usually 95 octane and marketted as just petrol.

    GHz. Higher is always better, right? Think of the Pentium 4...

    Hard disks: 5400/5900/7200 RPM. Marketed as Green, Blue, Black editions by WD, XT (high performance editions) by Seagate.

    I know what you're thinking. Ultimate is a type of "Ultra" and XT is a type of "Extreme" but the words don't trigger the same power as the acronyms. XE, XT, etc market better than "Extreme" just like windows XP marketted better than "Experience".

    These days, when most people hear Super, Mega, Extreme, they're likely to come up with some homophobic stereotype in response.
  • jabber - Thursday, January 20, 2011 - link

    Whilst I have no issue with a crab as a logo, what I do hate about the RealTek logo is that in this day and age you will have a lovely row of 32bit hi-graphic icons and then the crappy 8bit Win 3.1 style Realtek sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Looks like you have 15 year old software installed.

    Its the little things.
  • ckryan - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    The real tragedy is that these media players, and my HTPC, would both benefit greatly by having access to my HD cable service. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to make it work, on the pc or otherwise.

    If I could get a media streaming device with a built in cable box (true two way), that I could use with a CableCard and record HD content, I'd be happy. I'd feel a lot better about my ridiculous cable bill. The fact that AC Ryan doesn't think a media streamer/DVR would be of interest to the market irritates me, as I know many people who would dig such capabilities. The only real option (for PC anyway) looks to be the Ceton 4 tuner card (I believe that's the name. It's a heathy chunk of change, and may not even be a real product yet (or ever, not real sure). They sure as hell don't sell this kind of stuff on the Egg.

    I think the HTPC market and premium media streamer market could be huge in America with just one or two key advancements or capabilities. Just OTA won't cut it. The Cable companies need to keep making a case for their services with so much digital content. I think there is a compromise that could make everyone happy.
  • jcompagner - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    this is exactly the same here in Europa (the netherlands)
    Also there a very good multi tuner HTPC that works perfectly with the Cable provider would be a very good thing to have

    I am currently using things like that with FireDTV cable tuners, but those are all hacks and the company even stopped selling the tuners.

    Problem is that all those dedicated tuner boxes are just horrible to use. All of them that i know of that work for my cable company still work with time based recording.. Come ON!!!! thats so last century, i don't do that since i started to use Windows XP mediacenter now i guess 6 years ago... "Series recording" is all i want from a cable box.

    The extra nice thing about a HTPC is that i plays also all my other stuff.. The Windows 7 Media center really has a quite perfect UI and feature set.. I still don't get why Microsoft is unable to push this through, its one of there best products!!
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    My next HTPC build will include the Ceton InfiniTV 4 tuner/recorder. 2 CableCARDs, 4 simultaneous streams.

    I've been asking Anand to review it for some time, but he's like "no, i'm going to pretend you didn't ask." Why the hell do I want an HTPC that can't record? The purpose is to replace the set top provided by the cable company, with unlimited amount of space.

    If all these HTPCs can only "stream", then why do I care?
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    It is difficult for even reviewers to get hands on the CableCard tuners.

    Alan has had a pre-order up for ages, but yet to receive it.

    We are making all efforts to review all systems of interest to readers.

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