The Bravo D

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-08-06 Print this article Print

V is now shipping the Bravo D1, which the company dubs a "media player", due to its ability to play MP3 files, DiVX-encoded video files, VCDs and standard music CDs. Of course, its main raison detre is movie playback, and if it cant do that well, then all the other bells and whistles are pointless. The Bravo D1 comes in a slim package, with a clean front marred only by the plethora of license logos that decorate the lower left side. Although the Bravo can play back a wide range of audio and video formats, its not capable of playing back DVD-Audio or SACD content.
The key selling feature here is the DVI interface. The D1 is capable of de-interlacing and scaling the standard 480i DVD image up to 1080i. The deinterlacing and scaling chores are handled by a Sigma Designs EM8500 DVD decoder. Interestingly, the decoder is capable of playing back WMA files, but Bravo doesnt seem to support this feature.
Also present on the Bravo D1 circuit board is a pair of ESMT 64mbit (512Kx32x4) memory chips (143MHz SDRAM), for a total of 16MB of RAM used for the frame buffer. The EM8500 decoder chip has an embedded, 32-bit RISC processor, IDE interface (for the DVD drive), plus the expected video and audio decoder chips. You can also see the Silicon Image DVI encoder chip in the lower part of the picture. The EM8500 DVD Decoder is also interesting because its one of the growing number of such chips with built-in content protection. The EM8500 limits output of copy-protected DVDs to 480p, unless a DVI connection with HDCP content protection is available. The chip also natively supports video files encoded with the DivX encoder (versions 3.11 through 5.x).

Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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