Philips HMP2000 Netflix Box review

A quick fix for Netflix, but this Wi-Fi box isn’t as smart as it could be
Photo of Philips HMP2000 Netflix Box
£49.99

Boxee, WD Live and other tiny streamers are trying their hardest to offer a no-strings alternative to the market leader, but the gloss black and diminutive 90 x 50 x 100mm HMP2000 arrives looking every bit like an Apple TV wannabe.

What it lacks in smartphone or tablet integration the HMP2000 tries to make-up for in affordable content – and it does that almost solely through its provision of Netflix; pay £5.99 per month to set-up an online account with the newly arriving challenger to both Lovefilm and Sky Go, and the HMP2000 will stream you movies and TV from the Netflix collection.

Hardware

The HMP2000 has a built-in Wi-Fi module alongside a single HDMI output and a USB port. Oddly there’s neither wired option nor an optical audio output for those with older home cinema systems, but it’s got enough to please most basic users. A tiny remote control is supplied, complete with navigational controls and a big red button labelled Netflix. No doubts about the HMP2000′s main trick, then.

For all the stability and reassurance that wired LAN connections bring, the Wi-Fi module quickly found our network, though we soon stumbled upon a problem for a so-called ‘streamer’ – the HMP2000 doesn’t support DLNA or UPnP, so can’t fetch digital files from other devices on the same network.

At least it plays digital files via USB, though bear in mind that that HMP2000 supports thumbdrives only – an HDD we tried wasn’t recognised. The file support is way ahead of most mainstream AV gear and considering the price it does a pretty good impression of a dedicated streamer. File support includes MKV, AVC HD, MPEG, MP4, although we did have trouble with some AVI files. Video files are listed complete with preview screens, with a similarly generously approach to photos (BMP and TIF as well as JPEG) and music (WMV and MP3 are joined by FLAC, OGG, AIFF and WAV).

Netflix content

The HMP2000 is all about Netflix, and if you’ve no wish to spend the very reasonably £5.99 per month for unlimited movie and TV downloads, there’s really not a lot of point investing in this device.

It’s the TV content on Netflix that makes it worth having; we found South Park, Skins, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Dexter, Peep Show, The Thick of It, Outnumbered and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, as well as all 93 episodes of The Office (US) and, err, The Only Way Is Essex. Its choice of movies is on a par with Lovefilm, i.e. not great. During our test its new releases section was headed-up by The Next Three Days, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Misfits. Hmmm – perhaps that cheap subscription price is partly to blame.

Five covers are displayed on each line, and can be scanned through, with full details of whatever you hover over displayed in a right-hand panel. Physically click on a cover and a static thumbnail is shown in the centre of the screen with an option to rate the film, and check-out the audio language and subtitles available. It’s a nice enough interface, but needs some ‘more like this’ options that link to similar titles, genres or actors, as well as some kind of planner to store titles you might want to watch in future.

Choose a title, and it plays smoothly and stably, with a rather novel way of scanning; opt to scan forward or back, in up to three speeds, and the picture shrinks to a single frame in the centre of the TV at the centre of a carousel. It’s visually quite arresting at first, but it doesn’t appear to serve much purpose.

Other apps & services

From the five icon-strong central hub screen the Internet Services icon offers a meagre three-way list of apps limited to Facebook, AccuWeather and Picasa. If that’s a bit disappointing, so is the lack of Netflix alternatives; the HMP2000 should provide an easy solution for those wanting the smart TV experience without needing to replace their TV – ideally we’d like to see access to the services already available on most smart TVs and games consoles; BBC iPlayer, 4OD, Five and Sky.

Despite a largely impressive Netflix presentation, the HMP2000’s YouTube architecture is arguably the slickest thing here; popular content plays automatically on start-up, it’s easily searchable by both keyword and genre, and there’s a carousel-led approach that mimics smartphone operation. It’s so quick and easy to use that it makes YouTube a very lively experience, and really quite addictive.


Company: Philips

Website: http://www.philips.co.uk/

Contact: 0906 1010016

Positives
  • Excellent Netflix
  • YouTube presentation, affordable, small size, WiFi, file support over USB
Negative
  • Patchy AVI support, lacks BBC iPlayer, no DLNA/UPnP streaming

Verdict

The lack of media streaming and BBC iPlayer hampers this otherwise spick-and-span smart TV add-on, but purely judged as a Netflix box it appears good value. Netflix integration is excellent and digital file support from a USB stick is comprehensive amid a user interface that’s just about friendly enough.

Great for a bedroom where bulky AV gear is not wanted, or as a simple smart upgrade for a living room TV, the HMP2000 is a lacklustre competitor to both Apple TV and bona fide media streamers, but its low price could help Netflix gain some ground on Sky Go and Lovefim.