by Kevin O’Brien
Frequent travelers and office drones who want to watch TV while away from home have had a few options available to them, including external TV tuners, online TV shows, as well as personal video streamers. The Hava Platinum HD falls into the last category, and it is a device you setup at your home with a fast broadband connection and hook up a video source such as your cable box or Tivo. Once it is setup you can stream video remotely, or locally if you want to watch shows anywhere within your wireless network’s reach.
Hava Platinum Specifications:
- Built-in hardware MPEG encoder (ViXS Xcode 2105)
- Pass-through Outputs for every A/V input for connection to TV set or other A/V equipment.
- Macrovision detection (not currently supported yet in the HAVA software)
- Networking: Wired Ethernet (802.3) 10/100 Interface
- IR Emitter for set-top box control
- Connections: Composite Video, S-Video, Component, IR Blaster output
- Driver on the PC represents the HAVA Platinum HD device as "Virtual" WDM TV Tuner device, fully compatible with Windows Media Center under Windows XP and Windows Vista.
- High quality full D1 MPEG-2 video for home viewing and simultaneous CIF MPEG-4 for remote viewing over the internet
- Send your video content to multiple clients at once on the local network
(number of simultaneous clients dependent on available local network bandwidth)
- Broadband internet connectivity for remote viewing (recommended 300Kbps upstream)
Build and Design
The common phrase "You can’t judge a book by its cover" really applies to the Hava Platinum HD. The case design is very simplistic, making the video streamer look like something you might pick up from a discount store. They really could have improved the look by adding anything to the case, even a company logo on top or thrown in some additional color. Even though it will sit behind the scenes throughout most of its life, a better design could make a buyer feel their money was well spent on a high quality piece of electronics.
Build quality is average and the video connection choice is somewhat odd compared to the competition. Instead of RCA connectors the Hava player uses 3.5mm headphone style jacks for the composite video and stereo audio, as well as the component video connections. This does help to save space on the back of the case, but it also plays into the design that it might look nicer if it used solid and rugged looking RCA connectors.
The setup procedure is dead simple, where you plug the cables into your video source and TV, then attach it to your network and run the setup application. The Hava Platinum has three input sources available, including composite video, s-video, and component, with the later being used throughout this review. While other models of the Hava video player offer wireless network capabilities, you are limited to just wired Ethernet for the Platinum model. With everything hooked up and the Hava unit powered, the only step left is to run the setup wizard on your computer.
The setup application checks for software updates for both the software on your computer, and firmware for the Hava unit itself. During my review I was prompted to update both parts, which only took a few minutes to download the files and install the new parts. Once that is done you setup what input you are using for your video source, and IR remote profiles to properly control your source. I was using a Tivo HD, and the profile needed was present and at the bottom of the list. While most of the remote profile was there, I could not find the period key needed to directly input digital TV stations.
Non-network savvy individuals will rejoice at the remote viewing setup, which consists of setting up a unique user ID and password to connect to your HAVA player, and that’s it. You don’t need to forward any ports, enable UPnP, or even access your router at all. The Hava Platinum establishes a constant connection with the Hava main servers, and to connect to a remote viewer you use your username and password to connect. It handles the IP address and everything else making the entire process painless.
Local viewing is very nice, using bitrates between 2000kbps and 8000kbps Mpeg-2 video streams. For my local test I was using a 1080i PBS video source, and grabbed screenshots at the highest bitrate my laptop could pull over my wireless network.
Local streaming at 6.7mb/s
The video quality was excellent, although compressed down quite a bit from what it looked like on my HDTV. I had hoped that using an HD video source would mean compressed high resolution video, but it scales down the source to lower the bandwidth needed for viewing. Audio was nearly perfect compared to watching it in person, and the only noticeable difference was the 5 second delay between the live video source and the streaming video.
While connected through a remote source, the Hava uses a more lossy Mpeg-4 compression to further reduce the bandwidth needed for a given video source. For the first remote viewing test I had a friend remotely connect in from their broadband connection. With nothing else uploading on my internet connection, his video bitrate peaked at 640kbps, leaving ~100kbps for connection overhead. He described the video source as very watchable with no noticeable audio quirks. His only complaint was the lag when controlling the Tivo through the remote connection, where it has a 3-4 second delay between pressing a button on the remote and the Tivo following through. This problem you can’t really get around just because of the way the streaming hardware works, using a video buffer to handle connection interruptions.
Remote streaming at ~200kpbs
Remote streaming at ~600kbps
The next remote viewing situation was using my Dell D630’s Verizon WWAN for a remote connection. I was not really expecting it to work that well, considering the laggy cellular connection that it is, and its limited bandwidth. Surprisingly it actually worked quite well, streaming in video between 350-500kbps, although it took 30-45 seconds to finally stabilize the connection. Once going looked very similar to a normal remote video session, but had more lag than normal for controlling the IR remote.
One pretty cool feature that the leading competitor does not currently offer is the ability to stream video through multiple connections (local and remote) at the same time. This means if your broadband connection is up to the task, more than one person could enjoy the Tivo during the work day, even though you would be sharing the same video content.
Overall the Hava Platinum HD turned out to be a very well thought out video streaming device, and a pretty good competitor to the Slingbox. Video quality is very good through both local and remote viewing sessions, and once the stream stabilized it was hiccup free. The simultaneous video streaming feature is one thing I really love, since you don’t become locked out of the player if someone else is already watching something. Some of the remote profiles could be improved, and the case design could get some added flare, but in the end the device works just as intended.
- Simple installation
- Supports multiple viewers at the same time
- Good quality video viewing remotely as well as on your local network
- Design could be better