by Sergey Samarin
07/05/2005 | 01:51 PM
Leaving for a vacation, a modern man often takes a digital camera or camcorder along. The compact storage medium in the digital device is, however, easily filled up to the full, and there is nothing to save the information to. The evident solutions of this problem are:
Not so long ago EPSON suggested a new solution: P-2000 Multimedia Storage Viewer. This new multimedia device for storing and viewing files came to market at the end of 2004 as a replacement of the digital photo album EPSON Photo PC P-1000.
Let’s take a closer look at the technical characteristics of the new model now.
The EPSON P-2000 Multimedia Storage Viewer is a device for storing multimedia content from CompactFlash and Secure Digital cards and viewing it on a large high-quality VGA screen (640x480). Equipped with a 40GB hard disk drive, the P-2000 is a serious and voluminous data container. Besides reproducing JPEG pictures and MPEG-4 videos, this device can play MP3 and ACC audio-files through the integrated monophonic mini-speaker or through stereo headphones. You can also view thumbnails of pictures in RAW format without scaling. The USB Direct Print feature allows sending images right to a photo-printer without a computer’s assistance. The high-capacity accumulator can supply the device with power for three hours.
The colors of the package are EPSON’s corporate colors
Inside the box you will find the following items:
It’s rather too long to call the device by its full name EPSON Multimedia Storage Viewer P-2000, so I’ll be referring to it as just “viewer” or “P-2000” throughout this article.
So, this curious gadget is a kind of etalon of designing thought to me. Such etalons used to draw the attention of the public at specialized exhibitions earlier, but today you can get it in many computer shops. I could rant for hours on end about the pretty looks of the P-2000, its smooth outline and the superb overall aesthetics, but let’s better talk about its functionality.
The LCD screen and the control panel
A high-contrast color LCD screen with a diagonal of 3.8 inches takes up the biggest part of the viewer’s front panel. The screen displays static and dynamic images in 640x480 resolution with a density of 212ppi. The few available controls are located to the right of the screen. The navigation buttons form a metal circle with an Ok button in the center. Cancel, Display, Home, Menu and Print buttons are placed nearby. The two LED indicators show you the accumulator’s charge level and if the hard drive is being accessed. Static images can be zoomed in or out by pressing the Ok (+) and Cancel (-) buttons. The Print button invokes the direct print feature.
The onscreen start menu
As you turn the device on, you see its start menu consisting of five sections: Saved Data, Album, Memory Card, Latest Data and Settings. The names are self-explanatory, I guess. Let’s just take a look at the Settings submenu to see what parameters of the device the user can control.
The Settings screen
The Settings menu is divided into ten tabs. The user can set up almost all of the device’s functions.
The View Mode screen
If you’re viewing photographs, you can set them up to rotate automatically into the “correct” position. The information necessary for the rotation can be found in the image’s EXIF heading, if it was shot by a digital camera.
Choose your language here
The P-2000 is localized for eight languages. It is sad EPSON didn’t implement the option of firmware updates for such a complex device (at least, I found no mention of this option in the user’s manual or on the company’s tech support site). Firmware updates might be very useful not only to add more menu languages but also to support more graphics file formats since the P-2000 does not understand some popular ones.
Well, it is a bit of understatement to regard the P-2000’s operating system as mere firmware. The fact is the device uses a hard disk drive for 40 gigabytes, and 3.5 gigabytes of that capacity are reserved for system purposes. I suppose hardware enthusiasts will get to those hidden files and will not only localize this viewer into other languages but also transform it into something more universal. For example, if the P-2000 could display text files, more people would be interested in it, don’t you think?
Choose the type of content to be viewed
The Turn On/Off slider is located on the right side of the device; there’s also the hole of the hidden Reset button here.
The left panel carries the following connectors: A/V Out, headphones output, DC power input, and a USB connector which is under the plastic cover on the snapshot.
The slots for memory cards of CompactFlash and Secure Digital formats are visible on the “top view” photo.
At the back you can find the acoustic output of the integrated speaker and the labels to all of the side connectors.
The battery cell for a Li-Ion accumulator is located at the bottom panel
The P-2000 uses a 2300mAh Li-Ion accumulator. According to the declared characteristics, the charge of this accumulator is enough for the viewer to work for 3.5 hours in the slide-show mode. I additionally measured the time the device would last autonomously while playing video. In this case the viewer was working for about 1 hour and 40 minutes. That’s not little, considering that you can use the external power source in your room, which will also recharge the accumulator. When the device is fully charged, there appears an appropriate symbol on the screen and then the device turns off automatically.
The P-2000 is accompanied with a stand to place the viewer at a convenient angle. The next snapshot shows you the device positioned on the stand:
A special case with a wrist strap
is enclosed with the device, for easier transportation.
The P-2000 was surprisingly good at displaying static images – the pictures were always sharp, with bright, vivid colors. You can also zoom into the picture to get a better view of some fragment. As for negative aspects, I should note the lack of support of the JPEG Progressive format and a not comprehensive support of RAW files (particularly, the viewer doesn’t support RAW files from my Olympus). These facts limit the functionality of the viewer quite tangibly.
The video playback also is not completely impeccable. The 30fps promised by the manufacturer vanish somewhere if you press the Seek button during playback and then press Play again. In this case the video starts to advance at a sluggish pace, about 2-3 frames per second (I checked this out on the sample pre-recorded by the manufacturer). Another strange thing is that there was a hissing sound in the speaker as I was viewing a video file recorded by a Canon S1-IS digital camera at a faster speed. Speaking about the sound, I didn’t like that I had to set the sound volume to the maximum to hear at least something. The speaker is very, very quiet, so headphones would be a nice accessory to the viewer.
For our performance tests of the P-2000 we used SanDisk Ultra II CompactFlash and IBM Microdrive storage media with 1GB storage capacity. We saved the data (digital photo album) onto each of these media. After that we measured the time it takes to copy the entire album from the card onto the hard drive of the P-2000 viewer and back. Here is the diagram composed according to the obtained results:
Let me explain a few things about the diagram. The total size of the copied data is 438MB (which is almost 50% of the storage capacity of our media). The red color stands for the results during data copying from the storage card onto the P-200 drive. The orange color stands for the copying from the P-2000 viewer back onto the removable media.
This diagram gives us very clear idea of the EPSON P-2000 Multimedia Storage Viewer performance characteristics. You are the ones to decide if it is fast enough for your needs. Unfortunately, you cannot access the flash cards installed into the corresponding slots of this device from the PC, otherwise I would have tested the viewer card reader copy speed.
After that we tested the performance of the internal hard disk drive of the P-2000 with the help of the FC-test program. We have already discussed its major working principles and evaluation criteria many times in our previous HDD reviews, so I won’t repeat anything here. The next diagram shows the results obtained for 1, 10 and 100MB file blocks:
As for additional playback features, some control functions are lacking. For example, you cannot play a video clip in a loop or use play-lists. There are some other things missing a modern portable player can’t do without.
We were very pleased with the user’s manual, which seems to describe in detail nearly all possible issues with corresponding solutions. Yet anyway, the overall impression from the device is positive rather than negative.
Summarizing my impressions I must acknowledge that despite some defects which aren’t really serious, the EPSON P-2000 Multimedia Storage Viewer is a revolutionary product that can solve many problems of a modern man. I hope other manufacturers will release similar devices soon, making the competition tougher, the price lower, and the functionality of the viewer wider. I think the P-2000 may be interesting for professional and amateur photographers as well as for people who like extravagant things. I would certainly buy one for myself if the P-2000 could display RAW files from my Olympus.