I continue my quest to find a PDA based remote solution that lets me control my music without having to pick up the stylus on the PDA. I have talked about other solutions here and now I have played around with a promising package from Germany.
Meet HighPad – another PDA-remote solution. Here is my first impression.
The approach is quite ambitious. The HighPad Media Control solution promises to do the following:
1. Give you remote control of your media libraries
2. Give you remote streaming of your media to your device
3. Give you a possibility to sync media to your PDA
4. Function as a plain remote control for MCE
5. Give you a possibility to program the PVR in MCE
The HighPad Media Control will be able to control a full Media Center Edition System or a plain Windows XP computer running Windows Media Player. The system consist of a server application running on your media box and a client application running on your PDA.
And if you are like me, you want the conclusion right away:
This is an impressive package that is very powerful already (it is in version 1.02). It packs huge amounts of features but not all of them works perfectly well. Because of the fact that the most important features works well, and the other ones have great potential this is an addition to your home media center that is very interesting. Still, you should spend some minutes on testing the Niveus Remote (for ease of use) and NetRemote (for flexibility). You can read more on those here.
The installer is one file. During installation you choose if you want to install the client, the server or both.
At this point I ran into a little trouble.
I installed HighPad on my MCE Box and my HP Jornada PDA. Later I also wanted to install on my Toshiba PDA. When running the installer again on the same computer only one option was available: “uninstall HighPad”. I actually had to uninstall and reinstall with the Toshiba connected to get the client on to both PDAs.
After the software is installed you simply run the server on your media box and start the client on your PDA. You have to add the IP adress or computer name of your server in a list of connections on your PDA and enable it.
My main interest is the ability to control my music collection without having to turn on my TV. That is what is called Remote Media in HighPad.
It is very difficult not to start thinking of a very famous MP3 player from a company with a fruit in it’s logo when you start playing around with HighPad. The scroll wheel on the screen takes some minutes to get used to, but it actually works very well. You have the possibility to browse all your media. When choosing music you are presented with a standard screen letting you browse by artist, album, genre etc…
What I immediately miss is an implementation of some kind of alphabet. When you choose “Browse by album” you are presented with a list of all your albums. When this list is more than around 30 or 40 it starts getting boring to scroll down through all of them if you want to listen to ZZTop. If you ask me, there should be some kind of automation presenting you with an alphabet if your album or artist list is longer than a certain amount. For me, this kind of list is useless when presented directly without the possibility to first jump to a character and then start browsing from albums starting with that character. I have hundreds of albums and hundreds of artists in my collection.
Because of this I end up using the “search” function quite often. I have a clip on keyboard for my Jornada PDA, and the combination of the HighPad scroll wheel, the keyboard and the search function lets me browse my quite large collection with ease. Still, a simple alphabet in the HighPad would make it possible to browse large collections without a keyboard.
Despite the fact that browsing a large library is not completely perfect I must say that this solution is very promising. The interface is fast and updates very well on my quite limited and old PDA. When you have started a track or a playlist you are presented with a “Playing Now” screen with the cover art and information on the playing track.
While in the “Playing now” screen the scroll wheel changes into a volume control.
As mentioned, the ability to control my music collection is for me the most important functionallity. But, as the geek I am I had to try the other functions as well.
The remote streaming function lets you stream your media to the PDA. You need a PDA with Windows Mobile 2003 to enable this. You also have to install the free Windows Media Encoder to enable this. I tested it briefly. Streaming of music worked OK, but the quality selected by the encoder was very low. I do not know how I can select a better quality for audio streaming.
Streaming of pictures sounds strange. Basically it lets you choose pictures on your server and show them on your PDA. Again, the pictures was dowsampled to a very low quality. In fact, far too low. My 480×640 Toshiba PDA is able to show pictures with a very high quality.
In my brief test, streaming of video did not work.
I actually don’t know why I would want the streaming functionallity at all. It would have to be because I wanted everything in one application on my PDA. Right now the streaming functionallity in HighPad is not even close to what I get through ORB. Still, if they could get this working as good as ORB, it would be interesting. One clean interface for both control and streaming would be nice.
The Remote PVR function is to give you a possibility to program the PVR in MediaCenter. It is very basic. It lets you enter a channel and a time for recording. This is not any interesting before you have the full EPG on the PDA.
Remote Exchange is a system that lets you sync the content on your PDA with content on your Media Center. Similar to what Windows Media Player 10 offers. I was curious about this one, because my Toshiba e805 does not run WMP10, so it would be nice with an alternative method of syncing. But, the system did not transcode my WMA Lossless music. The WMA Lossless files are not supported by Windows Mobile 2003. And, the files are far too large.
The company making HigPad is German. The remote exchange screens also includes the mandatory “the german company forgot to translate all the menus”-line… As a Norwegian I find this familiar! 🙂
The Remote MCE function is a complete remote control for MCE. Works fine, but I never liked remotes with touch screens. If I can’t feel the buttons with my hand I have to look down at the remote far too often. For me this will be used only when someone have hidden the original MCE Remote.
Running two clients towards the same server caused some trouble. Also, the HighPad remote scaled fine on my 480×640 Toshiba, but the graphics are not made for this resolution. They are pixel doubled so the system does not utilize the high resolution on my Toshiba.
In general I must say that the HighPad impressed me. It is currently in version 1.02. And this is one is a very promising version 1 software!
Remote control your music collection in MCE
How to remote control your music collection from your PDA, laptop, meedio etcâ€¦