Besides adding value through new functions, makers are enhancing audio quality and external design of HDD media players.
Features integration is defining the R&D landscape in China's HDD media player industry. Encouraged by the emergence of high-quality ICs and rising demand for converged devices, many local manufacturers are fortifying their products with value-added functions. Recent releases pack online video support, Internet and digital TV, and content download.
The X9 model from Shenzhen DiyoMate Electronics Technology Co. Ltd delivers 720p and 1080p playback and reads MP3, WMA and MPEG-4. In addition, it has DTS, HDMI
1.3, optical, coaxial, USB 2.0 and LAN ports, games, music video collection and karaoke, Wi-Fi, Internet TV, and wireless keyboard and mouse.
Other manufacturers are enabling social networking in their releases. The K330i model from Shenzhen Kaiboer Technology Co. Ltd, for example, allows access to Youtube, Youku, Picasa, Flickr, RSS feeds and weather updates. Its K750li model is equipped with Blu-ray ROM and a USB port. Makers are also enhancing the audio quality with the adoption of DTS, DTS-HD, Dolby and Dolby TrueHD. Some units support Blu-ray navigation and A/V playback.
To complement feature enhancements, enterprises are improving the external designs as well. Several are using new materials and adopting new production processes. The H5 model from Eaget Innovation and Technology Co. Ltd uses aluminum alloy with a brushed surface. Most manufacturers are optimistic about the industry. A rising number of enterprises are targeting the midrange and high-end sectors to counter the anticipated decrease in demand for entry-level types. The strategy aims to penetrate segments that can boost margins.
Midrange, upscale HDD players prevail
China suppliers provide entry-level, midrange and high-end models, with the materials used and device configurations as differentiators. The second accounts for 40 percent of the total output, and the rest equally divided between entry-level and upscale types. Makers, however, are more inclined to pursue intermediate and advanced units to spur sales. Mainstream products measure 2.5in for portable types and 3.5in for home use. In general, these have 200GB to 3TB capacity and support 480i/p, 576i/p, 720p, 1080i and full HD playback. They enable PVR, DVR and TV recording, and incorporate games and A/V, eSATA and USB 2.0/3.0 ports. The devices adopt VFD, LED or LCD screens and come in ABS or metal housing. Entry-level products from China integrate e-book capability and work with popular audio and video formats such as MP3, WAV, WMA and DivX. They deliver 480i/p, 576i/p, 720p and 1080i playback. Midrange and high-end versions integrate fi ber-optic and coaxial audio and LAN ports, and OS support. Blu-ray navigation, digital TV receiver, Wi-Fi, BitTorrent download, Internet radio, UPnP, network TV, online video, Web browsing, and wireless keyboard and mouse are the other value-added features. Eaget's M9 model and Noon Technology Co. Ltd's V8 model belong to these categories. The latter is a 3.5in device with an LCD, USB 3.0 and HDMI 1.3 ports. It delivers 1080p, Dolby HD and DTS, and Gigabit Ethernet. The main components are sourced from both local and overseas partners. ICs from Silan and ESS are typically used for entry-level releases, and those from Skyviia, Amlogic and Sigma Designs go into midrange and high-end lines. Seagate, WD and Toshiba are the main suppliers of HDDs. Shenzhen Mele Digital Technology Ltd and Shenzhen Egreat Technology Co. Ltd employ Realtek 1185 ICs.
Export growth foreseen
Most China makers project a stable increase in sales in the next six to 12 months, with the upturn coming specifi cally from the midrange and high-end markets. Driven by strong exports, manufacturers predict overseas revenue will rise by 5 to 20 percent. The majority of products are shipped to Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. With the first two as their main markets, RSH-Tech Co. Ltd anticipates stable sales, while Shenzhen DiyoMate predicts 20 percent growth in six to 12 months. Noon expects continued export upturn in Western Europe, which accounts for 60 percent of total shipments. HDD media players sent to Europe and North America are mainly midrange and high-end models incorporating premium ICs, housing materials and UI designs. South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are emerging destinations some makers explore. Shenzhen Kaiboer, Shenzhen Mele and Eaget predict sales in these regions will climb. This is despite the political turmoil in the Middle East, which companies said have little impact on orders. At present, most products that go to the areas are entry-level to midrange with simple UI. Despite the optimism, manufacturers see increasing competition from Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, smart TVs and network media players that are also following the 3C convergence trend.
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