There’s nothing that’ll make you say ‘ooh’ or ‘aah’ about PBO’s interface, and some user might feel a bit lost. However, the interface does have everything you need. The “Browse” heading is probably the one you’ll visit the most. You can filter media by file type if you choose “Movies” or “Music”, or you can see all media on a device by selecting “All”.
I’ve chosen “All” from the main “Browse” menu. Now I have to select what type of device I want to view media from. Since all of the media I tested was on a USB thumbdrive, I picked USB. The PBO shows a straight folder view of the device you select. So, all of the folders you see are ones I created to keep everything organized.
Once you get inside a folder, you can preview a piece of media just by highlighting the title in the list. The preview feature is a gift and a curse. It is nice to be able to see a piece of media without having to open it, however, the preview feature has the following disadvantages:
You can’t open the media until the preview has started playing
Like the heading says, unless the preview has started, you can’t ‘open’ the media for full screen playback. This becomes frustrating when you have large files (1GB or larger) on a USB thumbstick or an external hard drive connected via USB. It can take the PBO about 5 – 7 seconds before previews start to play for large files. So it if you have a lot of large files, it can become annoying having to wait each time.
Watching the preview doesn’t save time
If you watch two minutes of the preview then open the media, the media starts from the beginning, not from the point you opened it at. I understand that resuming playback in full screen from a preview window isn’t the easiest thing to code, but it’s really why the preview window exists. No one wants to have to fast forward through the two minutes they just watched. A simple toggle of preview to full screen and vice versa is ideal in this situation.
Even though the preview window is a nice idea, I find its implementation more cumbersome and frustrating than useful.
If you’ve watched 20 minutes of a video in full screen, you can resume playback at a later time. Resuming playback is easy. Just start a video you’ve already watched part of, and you’ll see a nice dialog box appear. Choose “Confirm” to resume or “Cancel” to just let it play. While it would seem obvious to have this feature implemented into the video preview window, it isn’t there. So you can only resume playback if you watched the video in full screen mode.
This is what I call the “Now Playing” screen. When you pick a song to play from the normal folder layout, a new screen appears that is geared more towards music. The top portion of the screen has a list of songs, while the bottom has album art, ID3 information, playback time and some icons. The icons on the bottom are not accessible, meaning, they are just pictures that reflect what you press on the remote, you can’t actually ‘click’ on them. The current Now Playing screen that’s captured above is from a network share. Everything might look perfect at first glance, but if you stop for a second and look at the album art, you’ll notice that it is incorrect. The album art is Twisted Sister, but the song is by Kevin MacLeod. I’m unsure where the PBO even obtained the Twisted Sister album art from. I don’t have any Twisted Sister songs and the MP3 file itself contained no album art. Definitely a weird bug, but the music played back fine, which 99% of the requirement.
If you have to type in login information for network shares, you’ll be prompted with the PBO’s onscreen keyboard. When I first saw the onscreen keyboard I thought, “I don’t want to enter my long password with the remote, so I’ll grab a USB keyboard”. I plugged in the USB keyboard only to find that nothing I pressed appeared on the screen, nothing! That’s right, there isn’t any support for USB keyboards on the PBO. The lack of USB keyboard support might seem super frustrating, but Patriot does allow you to save login information once you’ve taken the five minutes to type it in.
The PBO does have a nice interface for accessing online content. It comes pre-loaded with a bunch of video news and podcast feeds. Some of the pre-loaded video feeds have content from ABC, CNN, MSNBC, and G4. If you want more video feeds, you can add an RSS feed by typing in the URL. Some URLs can be pretty long, so it’d be nice if you could use a USB keyboard… oh wait 🙂
*Note: IMS will not work over a wired connection. I do not know why. All LAN communication is fine with wired and wireless connections. But once you try to access anything under the IMS menu with a wired connection, you’ll receive an error saying the resource can’t be found.
You can get weather information right on the PBO. Most major cities have been pre-added to the PBO, but if your city isn’t in the list, there is an option to type your zip code. Once your weather data is displayed on the screen, you’ll get all of the current conditions plus a forecast for the next day. One thing that is confusing about this screen is it says, “Press info to save this city as a favorite”. You might be asking, “how is that confusing?”. Well, there isn’t an “info” key on the remote. I pressed every button on the remote to finally find the “Option” button is what they call “info”. This is just a simple bug that can probably be fixed in a future firmware update.