Zensonic, an Australian company, have recently released a number of home entertainment products including speakers, a home theatre receiver, a DVD/MPEG4 player, various cables, a learning remote-control and some wireless headphones. Their product lineup is clearly aimed at home theatre and audio applications - the Z400 digital media player we’re reviewing today is the latest addition.
From the Zensonic website: "The new Australian-designed Zensonic Z400 is a sleek set-top box which can play MPEG-4 video, MP3 audio and JPEG pictures directly to a TV and stereo system."
The Zensonic Z400 connects directly to your TV and/or home theatre and plays digital media (music, movies and photos) streamed from a networked PC, either through a wired 10/100 connection or using an 802.11g wireless interface. The file formats currently supported by the Z400 include:
Although the official specifications only mention support for xvid-encoded MPEG4 files, the Z400 will also play DivX4 and 5 files, but not DivX3. More on this later.
What’s in the box:
The Z400 is packed in a nice glossy box, containing:
Although the Zensonic has digital audio (both coaxial and optical) and s-video outputs, cables for these connections are not included. A CD containing the Zensonic Media Server software is also included, along with a pretty reasonable (but fairly brief) manual.
- The Z400 media player itself
- An illuminated remote control and batteries
- A wireless aerial
- A Cat5 patch cable
- The required plugpack
- A decent quality set of analogue AV cables with triple RCA plugs (composite video and stereo audio) – also a Zensonic product.
The Z400 is quite small and light. The housing is silver plastic, looks pretty schmick and is thankfully free of flashing lights, glowy bits or fluorescent stickers (thank you Zensonic!). On the front of the unit we can see the very simple display, which has power and network activity LEDs. All other controls and feedback are via the remote and on screen display.
On the underside of the unit we can see four small rubber feet. There’s also a small sticker with the MAC address of the onboard wireless network adapter (which I’ve blurred).
On the back of the Z400 we can see its various plugs and connectivity options. From left to right we have:
Setting up the Z400:
- the wireless aerial connector
- a PAL/NTSC output switch
- coaxial digital audio out
- optical digital audio out
s-video video out
- composite video out
- composite stereo audio out
- component video out
- an RJ-45 ethernet jack
- the socket for connecting the AC/DC plugpack
The Zensonic Z400 “system” comprises three components, which we’ll examine separately for this review.
The first component is the Zensonic Media Server software, which is installed on a networked PC to stream the digital media to the Z400. All the media remains on the PC, the Z400 has no local storage (other than cache).
The second component is the Z400 media player and its connections into a TV/home theatre.
The third aspect we’ll examine is networking the Z400 to the PC running the media server software. For this review, we’ll refer to this PC as our Media Server PC.