Nixeus Fusion HD 1080p Media Player Review 
Home Theater Media Servers Home Theater/Media Center PCs
Written by Dick Ward   
Tuesday, 31 August 2010

It's just about impossible to find a digital media player that does everything, but if you look hard enough you'll find one that does everything you need.  The Fusion HD from Nixeus won't satisfy those looking for a Boxee Box like device – it's not built around streaming.  If you're looking for something that will handle your digital media collection with ease though, you'll find it in the Fusion HD.

You may be surprised at the size of the Fusion HD when you pull it out of the box.  It's eight inches long, four and a half inches deep and two inches high, making it compact but surprisingly tall for a device of its kind.  That extra inch of height is there for a good reason though.  It gives you a much needed space to add an internal hard drive, rather than relying on external storage like most players.

Looking at the back of the device, you'll find an HDMI output for video and both optical and coaxial outputs for audio.  There's also an A/V jack that can be used with the included component output if you feel the need.  The Nixeus Fusion HD has a single USB port on the back that's designed to be used with an included wireless antenna.  On the front you'll find one standard and one mini USB port alongside a hookup for eSATA devices.  Another two USB ports in the front would have been a nice touch.  After attaching the wireless antenna to the back and a keyboard to the front, I was all out of room for the USB drive I wanted to attach.

Back of the Fusion HD

Setting up the Fusion HD can be as simple as setting up a new Blu-ray player.  Plug it in, turn it on and go.  It gets a little more complex if you're using the more advanced features like wireless internet or installing the internal hard drive, but even then it doesn't take more than a few minutes.  Since I didn't have an extra SATA drive lying around, I popped the HDD out of my computer to try with the Fusion HD.  After removing the four external screws, I was able to pop the top of the unit right off and hook my hard drive up.

Nixeus provides four screws for securing your hard drive in place, and everything goes together very smoothly.  There's a small fan on the inside that keeps things cool, and plenty of room for you to move around in.  Unlike some other media players, I wasn't required to format the drive before using it.  The fan can't be much more than an inch high, and makes almost no noise.  The unit gets a little louder when there's a hard drive installed, but just how much louder depends on your drive.  All in all, the Fusion HD is as close to silent running as you could expect and kept nice and cool during the review process. 

Fusion Menu

One thing that might throw you off initially is how long the Nixeus Fusion HD takes to turn on.  When you power the unit on, the indicator light will turn from red to orange and will stay orange for around 15 seconds until the Fusion HD starts up. Once it's on, you can change your video and audio settings to best suit your setup, including PAL formats if need be.  It's all pretty standard stuff.  There are some options for configuring the picture as well.  I initially tried out the Fusion HD with a wired internet connection, which required absolutely no configuration.  I plugged it in, turned the device on, and it was all set to play files from my network.  I then gave it a go with the included USB dongle and found it to be quite friendly.  All I had to do was go into the setup menu, enter my WPA2 code and it was ready to go.

One of the biggest problems with the Fusion HD is the menu system.  Navigating is a bit of a chore.  It's nowhere near as responsive as I'd like it to be, and it's not nice to look at either.  It would be great to have nice, fast, good looking menus to go along with this powerful player.


It's not the menu experience that counts though.  When dealing with a media player, the thing that really matters is, well, playing the media.  This is the Fusion HD's bread and butter.  If you've got a file, chances are the Fusion HD will play it.  AVI and DivX are both supported, as are MPG, MP4, MKV, WMV, ASF and MOV.  I tried just about all of these over the last two weeks and didn't come across a single file the Fusion HD wouldn't play.  Every file, from standard definition television rips to 1080p video files performed without issue and, in the case of the HD files, looked amazing.

In addition to video only files, the Fusion HD handles ISO and IFO files from fully ripped DVDs.  I just happened to have a rip of Hayao Miyazaki's latest film 'Ponyo' lying around, and it worked flawlessly.   Menus were navigable and I was able to change up the audio and subtitle settings with no trouble.  Some Blu-ray ISOs have been reported to play nice with the Fusion HD, but I wasn't able to try one.

Music Playback

I gave the player a good workout when it came to audio too.  I've got a nice collection of high bitrate MP3s and FLAC files, which all played without an issue.  Whether playing from a USB storage device or streaming wirelessly from my netbook, everything worked wonderfully and sounded great.  It should be noted that the Fusion HD doesn't support APE files, so if your lossless connection isn't in a more traditional format, this won't work out for you.

One fantastic feature of the Fusion HD is the ability to use audio files as background music.  I was able to listen to music while setting up torrents, viewing pictures and browsing for something to watch.  It's a little thing, but it's great to have.  Locally stored music and video work beautifully with the Fusion HD, but it loses a lot of that great functionality when it comes to web based content.  There's not much of it, and what's there doesn't always work well.

Browsing the web is an absolute pain, but that's no surprise.  If you don't have a wireless keyboard and mouse attached, there's no point in even trying.  When all is said and done, you'd be a lot better off with a netbook or iPad handy for all your IMDB and Facebook needs.  The included web browser also lacks Flash support, which would be really nice to have for streaming sites like Hulu and for general web functionality.  Flash functionality is apparently in the works, but it's not there yet.

Torrent DownloadsI used the YouTube function of the Fusion HD to check out a StarCraft 2 replays from recent tournaments and found the implementation to be lacking.  Videos needed to buffer far more than they should have, and since I was unable to pause the videos to allow them to fully buffer, I was forced to watch a minute at a time.  After around a minute of playback, the buffering icon would come up, then the video would resume.

Once the video ended, a menu came up to allow me to select related videos, but nothing came up.  It's not a function I use a lot on YouTube, but for multi-part videos it can be a real time saver.  Trying to search for the second part of a video is a pain.  I also spent some time with the Shoutcast functionality, which worked incredibly well.  I checked out a few channels, including a fantastic Cameroonian online radio station playing a great mix of traditional African folk music.  The stream kept going without stuttering or buffering.  Streaming is a bit limited on the Fusion HD, and it would have been great to get Netflix, Blockbuster and Amazon on the device.  Even a few more free services like Blip.tv would be a nice boost to a lackluster streaming suite.

Contrarily, the Fusion HD shines when it comes to downloads.  With my hard drive installed, I was able to start nabbing files through the included BitTorrent client.  There's no search functionality, so I had to download the tracker files on my computer first, and then select them from the Fusion HD.  There's plenty of functionality in the torrent client, though it's not as robust as those you'll see on PC.  You can set individual downloads to high, medium and low importance, limit your upload and download speed and even the amount of files going each way.  It's not as smooth as running a program like uTorrent on your PC, but it has the added advantage of not eating up any valuable processing power.  The Fusion HD is also a much more energy efficient device than most if not all PCs.

I should add that while I didn't personally need to call Nixeus technical support during my time with the Fusion HD, I've read nothing but great things about their response time.  All support staff is based in the US, and customer service is quick to call back if you leave a message after business hours.  

You can pick up the Fusion HD for an MSRP of $219, with a little bit of variation if you shop around.  It's a bit more expensive than other digital media players like the $149 WD TV Live HD, but it's a very different type of device.  The biggest selling points for the Fusion HD, as far as I see it, are the playback of ISO files, BitTorrent functionality and the ability to install a two terabyte hard drive right into the unit.  On these points it performs admirably.

It's not a device that does everything.  The Fusion HD does a few things, and it does them very well.  For playback of downloaded and backed-up movies and music, you're not going to find much better than the Fusion HD.





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