Naming a product after the subject of a Ludacris song definitely garners up images of fast cars, hot women, and wealth. Does the Fantasy from HornetTek live up to my fantasies of a personal media player, and is it something you should consider adding to your already crowded home entertainment system? Read on to find out!
Product Name: HornetTek Fantasy
Review Unit Provided By: HornetTek
Review by: Chad
Pictures by: Chad
HDMI 1.3 Out
Audio L/R Out
File Transfer Port
USB 2.0 port
SD/MS Card Reader
MPG/MPEG/DAT support up to 1080p
MP4/AVI/MOV support up to 1080p
DivX 3/4/5/6 XviD
AVI/MKV support up to 1080p
TS/AVI/MKV/MOV/M2TS support up to 1080p
WMV support up to 1080p
Real Video 8/9/10
RM/RMVB support up to 720p
FLV support up to 640x480
Dolby Digital AC3, DTS
WMA, MP3 Real Audil (RA), WAV, OGG, AAC, FLAC
JPEG, BMP, PNG(TIFF, GIF-no Support animation mode)
Unboxing and Initial Impressions
Unboxing the HornetTek Fantasy and removing everything from the box is a very simple process. The box is actually quite large for the size of the device in the box. It is smaller, in my opinion, than the Roku that would be this device’s competition.
My initial impressions are not the strongest, if I am honest. The device only comes with a set of Composite video cables (the red, yellow, and white connectors). Also, there is a complete lack of a network port or built-in wireless. Even though the Fantasy carries a relatively low base price of $64.99, the Roku starts at $49.99 (It should be noted that the Roku that supports 1080p video playback carries a $79.99 price tag).
I will be making a lot of references to the Roku and other media players in this review, as I believe there are some that will be a direct comparison to the Fantasy.
Another weird thing to take note of is that the Fantasy actually has a power toggle switch. Most of these devices always stay on, because they use so little energy. It is nice though that they’ve included it, but during testing I do not really see myself using it.
The Fantasy can be hooked up to your television one of two ways. The device includes an adapter that will allow you to hook it up to your television via composite video ports (the traditional yellow, red and white connectors). I would recommend that you connect it to the television with the HDMI connector that is supported on the Fantasy.
Once you power the device up, it most likely will boot up into 480p 4:3 mode. On a 1080p HD television like in my lab, it will look compressed together and distorted. Quickly jump into the settings menu and turn on HDMI Default for the video resolution (or choose your resolution and refresh rate should you desire).
There is also a digital audio out (the TOSLINK) connection as well for connecting to a surround system. I do not have a surround sound system in the lab for testing purposes, so I was unable to test surround sound through the HDMI connection or the TOSLINK connection.
User Interface and Remote Control
The remote control is a small curve-shaped device with bright orange buttons at the bottom for navigation. It feels a little small in my hands, but is easy enough to use. It has shortcut buttons for every feature of the device, so you can access it with one click instead of navigating through various menus.
The user interface on the screen is bright and easy to read. The main home screen has four bright squared buttons for accessing the File Manager, Videos, Photos, and Settings. Once you plug a device into the Fantasy it will scan the device (this takes a little bit of time, especially if you have large amounts of data on the device. Once the drive or SD card is scanned, you can then use the File Browser to navigate the device, or select Photos or Videos and access a menu that is exclusive to those file types. Simply click on the file you want to view, and it instantly appears on the screen. One really nice touch on the video playback especially is that it fades in the volume when you start a video.
I am a fan of the BBC’s Top Gear television show. If you have not seen it, you do not know what you are missing! Anyway, as a huge fan of the show I have every episode accessible on a hard drive in my office. When it comes to testing video hardware, I often break out the 1080p HD rips of the show. For the purpose of the test I used a 720p MKV file, as well as a 1080p TS file. I chose the MKV format for the first video test because the box clearly describes this device as a file to play the MKV format.
The MKV format is great. The television used in the lap is a Vizio 47” 240hz display. I also enjoy turning on the compression fixing elements of the television, which makes motion very smooth and makes Netflix content look great. On the 720p file, it actually shows a limitation of the file format, because during panning shots it seemed to stutter. I have seen this before on lower-quality content; I just never imagined 720p content to be considered “lower quality”.
I will not hold that against the Fantasy, because I believe it was a limitation of the file. The reason I say that? I have a 1080p TS file (even though the Fantasy does not specifically say on the documentation that comes with it that it will support it) and it play beautifully. Even though there is only a USB 2.0 connection to the flash drive I had attached to the unit, the video looked excellent. It was smooth, there was no stuttering, and it fast-forwarded perfectly (something my PlayStation 3 cannot say for the same file type).
Conclusions and Final Verdict
The Fantasy is an interesting product that does not seem to make a whole lot of sense to me. Yes, it’s a media player that can attach to the television and supports a lot of formats. It is a software pirate’s dream! The lack of a network port or built-in wireless access does seem to limit the device. I would like to be able to stream media across my gigabit network to the television via this device, as many modern users would also like to do. You cannot with the Fantasy. The price of the Fantasy is less than the equivalent Roku unit that supports media playback.
So does that make the Fantasy a bad product? Absolutely not! If you are willing to “sneakernet” your data to the device, the fact that it will play back all of the popular formats without any mess or fuss is fantastic! The built-in support for surround sound and the TOSLINK connector give you some great functionality.
If you understand those caveats going in to it, then you will think the Fantasy is a great device. I would like to see a network connection for streaming media from a DLNA device, and of course a Netflix app would be useful. Perhaps a newer version will bring that functionality?
There is one positive though about the Fantasy that I cannot emphasize enough; it will seek on 1080p HD media without any hiccups. I think that is spectacular on a device of this size and power, with only a USB 2.0 connection to the media.
The competition for media players is intense, and it is interesting to see how it plays out. For the Fantasy, it is far from being a fantasy device, but a great inexpensive media player if your media exists on an external hard drive. Perhaps with an update or two it will become a highly recommended device, but for now it caters to too much of a niche market to gain the adoption needed to be competition to the Roku and the game consoles.