Helios X5000 Build Quality and Setup
The Helios X5000 is, for the most part, an unconverting DVD player. Helios has added the ability to stream media from computers on your network over your wired or wireless network. The unit uses an internal 802.11g wireless adapter. All you need to do is connect the antenna on the back and you are good to go. So, in short, it is a DVD player that can stream media from the Internet and computers on your network.
The Helios X5000 came doubled boxed with foam endcaps and a foam piece protecting the front of the unit. The font of the unit is brushed aluminum that is a little larger than the box behind it. There are two USB ports (one on the side and one in the back). There is a detachable power cord and composite, s-video, and component outputs for video. Audio sports a pair of analogue connections, both coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs and an HDMI output. There is also an Ethernet port and a connector for the wireless antenna if you choose to select either of these options. Above the power cord there is a 120/240v switch so people all over the world can use this unit. If you live in the States, don't assume the correct voltage will be selected - mine wasn't.
The front of the unit looked slapped on. I would have much rather seen the faceplate better tailored to the rest of the unit. The brushed aluminum is nice and thick but the rest of the unit is constructed out of regular aluminum. The buttons on the front are large and click audibly much like the first cassette player I ever owned. There is a small LCD readout on the front that really doesn't have enough characters to be considered very helpful. Mostly, it is used to display the time elapsed during DVD playback.
When I opened the Helios X5000 I was surprised at all the unused real estate. What I saw were a couple small boards to handle the audio, video and wireless networking functionality along with a small power supply and PC-style transport. The cover of the unit is held onto the chassis by nine screws - two on each side and five in the back. The side mounted USB port has a long enough cord to easily work on the unit without worrying about fear of damage. A word of warning - do NOT take this unit apart. You know who you are. The ones that just can't help but take apart every new piece of gear. Resist the urge. I take apart stuff for a living and this thing was a PAIN to get back together. The cover has a lip that must be sunk into the face in order for the holes to line up correctly to accept the screws. The probably is, once I removed the cover of the unit, it immediately deformed. I felt like the guys from OCC as I had to place the cover over my knee and bend it into place. Even after all that, I still had a screw that I couldn't fully replace. So, if you buy a b-stock unit that has a screw about half way out the side, you got mine.
Setting up the Helios X5000 seems to be unnecessarily complicated until you realize that it is basically a scaled down computer. Once you understand that some sort of OS is at the core, some of the stranger behaviors start to make sense. First, you'll need to connect the unit to your display via Composite and whichever connection you'll eventually be using (hopefully HDMI). The reason is because the unit is preconfigured for a composite connection. Once you turn the unit on and get it up and running (about 30 seconds), you'll need to go to the setup menu and change the default output and resolution to match your monitor. Then you'll have to restart. Next, if you want to use the wireless adapter, you'll need to enable it from the setup menu. Don't worry that you don't see your network pop up on the dropdown menu, it won't... before you restart. Getting it yet? Restarting will be a major function of this setup process. You may also want to check out the firmware update (don't forget to restart - it should prompt you). As of now, there is no message that tells you that your firmware is up to date so it will let you re-update over and over to your heart's content (as of version 60-25-061020-01-HLO-230-000). Helios has indicated that they will be implementing a message to tell you that you are running the latest firmware but it will still let you re-install if you like. One irritant is that the unit defaults back to the composite out each time you upgrade the firmware. You may just want to keep a composite cable connected for just such an eventuality (I updated the firmware twice during the course of the review and I understand that another update will be out in a month or so). Though technically, you can hit the TV Modes button until you can see a picture and make your changes to the setup menu without the use of the composite cable though you risk locking up the machine (which happened to me on multiple occasions).
While you will be setting your output type and display resolution from the setup menu, you can also shuffle through them from the remote using the TV Modes button. You may need to do this in order to pick the best resolution for your display. For example, when I set the unit up, I selected 720p over HDMI. While this is the resolution of the Olevia 542i display I was using, I ended up with a black bar running down the left side of the screen. After running through the different options, I settled on 1280x768 (which filled the whole screen). Later, after a firmware update, I found the 720p resolution issue was resolved and I used that.