Last week, Joe Baguley tweeted about a media player he had bought for his kids for just £18 (after discount). The device in question is the Sumvision Cyclone Micro HD HDMI Upscaling Multimedia Player Adaptor and, as the name suggests, it’s a nifty little box to upscale standard definition/DVD video to high definition (HD). It works just as well for those who don’t have an HD television as it comes with a composite cable to hook up to most TVs (including my aging Sony Trinitrons). Basically, this tiny box of tricks takes a memory card or USB 2.0 input and provides HDMI 1.3 or composite A/V output, for not very much money at all.
Unfortunately, many of the forums/online retail sites that review the product are full of people saying “it doesn’t work”! I spent some time working on some of the issues that people were having and thought I’d post the results here in the hope that it’s useful to others.
What’s in the box?
Unfortunately many of the questions I saw on certain forums were asking (repeatedly), “does it come with…” so, just to make it clear, this is what you get in the box:
- Media player.
- DC power supply (5V, 2A).
- Remote control.
- Composite out cable.
- Mini-CD with instructions.
There is no HDMI cable, and European users may need a composite to SCART converter (which should cost no more than a couple of quid at your local electronics store).
Remote control issues
The remote control looks cheap (it is!) and has blue text on black background making it difficult to read. In addition, the buttons may be difficult to press but it’s functional. Some people are complaining of interference with their TV functions – I didn’t experience that but I guess it depends what TV you have. Remember this unit only costs around £20 and you get what you pay for!
If you don’t want to use the remote control that comes with the Cyclone Micro, there are reports that it will work with a Logitech Harmony One.
Unable to access external hard drive
This issue seems to be pretty common and is probably one of two things:
- Disk (partition) format: according to Sumvision, the Cyclone Micro can read USB devices with a FAT, FAT32 or NTFS file system, or MS, MMC, SD or SDHC cards with FAT or FAT32. Note that does not include ExFAT, or any Linux/Unix file systems. I’ve used an 8GB Sandisk Extreme III SDHC card (straight from my wife’s Nikon D40) to view pictures (in .JPG format) on the Cyclone Micro, as well as a FAT32-formatted USB thumb drive and an NTFS-formatted external hard drive with a variety of media types.
- Power: If your hard drive won’t work with the Cyclone Micro, it’s probably down to the power it needs. Some drives need more power than others. Sometimes they are supplied with a Y-split USB cable and, as the Cyclone Micro only has a single USB port, that won’t allow enough power to be provided. If your device works off a single USB port, or has its own power supply, it should be OK. I used a Freecom ToughDrive 120GB with no issues.
Unable to play .AVI files from compact cameras
I have a Canon Ixus 70 and, like many compact digital cameras, it can record video. The resulting files are 640×480 @30fps, in a .AVI container format and GSpot informed me that they use the Motion JPEG codec.
Although the files show up in the menu on the Cyclone Micro, any attempt to play them results in an unsupported format error message. Converting the files to Xvid format (e.g. using WinFF, with default settings), resulted in a .AVI file that could be read and played by the Cyclone Micro. [Credit: I got the idea of using WinFF from Jake Ludington’s post on converting AVI to iPod-compatible MP4]
Unable to play MP4 files
I’m still not entirely happy I have found the final answer to this but, according to Sumvision, the Cyclone Micro can play MPEG1/2/4 (.MPG, .VOB or .AVI), DivX (.AVI), or Xvid (.AVI), as well as ISO files using these formats.
Certainly none of the MPEG4 files I produced worked (they were not even displayed in the menu on my Cyclone Micro, which is running firmware version 3.3) but programs like WinFF or Handbrake should help here (indeed, in testing, I successfully converted an H.264 .MP4 file to .AVI using WinFF).
Alternatively, ripping DVDs to .ISOs is faster than transcoding them, and it seems to work a treat. Windows users could probably use something like Lucersoft ISO Creator (or any number of tools) but I followed Slash Dot Dash’s advice to create a .ISO CD/DVD image on a Mac:
- Insert media.
drutil statusto get the device name for the DVD drive.
- Unmount the media using
diskutil unmountdisk devicename(e.g.
diskutil unmountdisk /dev/disk1).
- Create a .ISO using
dd if=devicename of=filename.iso bs=2048(e.g.
dd if=/dev/disk1 of=myvideo.iso bs=2048).
- Sit back and wait for a while (you should be able to hear the DVD spinning so you’ll know its working).
- Test the image by mounting it with
hdid filename.iso(or opening it in Finder).
- Eject media and (optionally) burn the .ISO or, in this case, copy it to a device that can be read by the Cyclone Micro.
The resulting .ISO file should play on the Sumvision Cyclone Micro. Just to be clear, I’m not condoning making copies of copyrighted material (although it may be legal to make backup copies for personal use in certain jurisdictions, sadly not in the UK though) – I’m assuming the DVDs that you want to copy are home movies, etc.
This post covers some of the more common issues that might be experienced when working with the Sumvision Cyclone Micro. Whilst it’s not without its faults (H.264 and Motion JPEG support would be a huge step forward), I guess issues like the ones described in this post should be expected with such an inexpensive device. If I find any more tips and tricks, I’ll post them on this blog.
The following resources may be useful for additional technical information: