Online in an Instant
The latest round of large-screen TVs that have built-in WiFi and online interactivity are a great way to get the classroom to connect without needing a separate computer, but they are still expensive and limited in the scope of what they can connect to. The Nixeus Fusion HD is a better way to connect a TV, monitor or projector to incorporate the world into a lesson plan.
At $200, the Fusion is an inexpensive and reliable way to connect with the world of the Web. No bigger than a textbook, it has a Sigma SMP 8655 processor, 512MB of memory and storage and a good variety of Linux software.
The unit sits horizontally, and is small enough to stash behind a monitor, but lacks the hardware to screw it into the back of a display. Fusion can connect to a WiFi or wired network and can use either DHCP automatic IP addressing or a static address.
It took a few minutes to set it up, connect to my network and start working the Web. Fusion can play on any display that has a composite or HDMI connection; it worked without a problem with a TV, monitor and projector.
While it has a place inside to put a SATA drive to store media locally, Fusion doesn’t include one. It took an extra 5 minutes to install and format a 120GB drive that I lifted from a broken PC for holding all sorts of material; the device can accommodate up to a 2GB drive and has a USB slot for a memory key or external drive and an E-SATA connection for an external drive.
Once it’s online, the home page shows how it’s connected, its IP address and the resolution of the display it’s connected with. I was able to get a range of 97 feet on an 802.11g WiFi network and Fusion’s stub antenna can be aimed for the best reception. Fusion provides access to the school’s network for playing local video, images or audio content.
There’s also a wide variety of preset online content, including Google, Twitter, YouTube, Live365 and even a Bit Torrent client, although I’m doubtful it has a place in schools. Best of the bunch is Nixeus’s Fusion channel, which presents lots of news, weather, entertainment and educational choices in English and a variety of foreign languages. In fact, a middle school French student was mesmerized as he watched the evening news from Paris.
Its rudimentary browser is fine for getting around the Web. You need to type in the address with the remote control’s clunky alphanumeric keypad and move the cursor with the navigation ring, which can be rough going, particularly when you’re in a hurry. Alternatively, you can use the on-screen keyboard and it works fine with a plug-in keyboard. After using it for a month, I think it could really use an integrated wireless mini-keyboard.
Capable of full 1080p high definition video, its quality is surprisingly good considering its size. There are the expected stutters and momentary stoppages that are inherent in using the Web. The video looks best when using the HDMI connection and there’s no need for additional audio cables.
It’s able to handle just about any of the major media formats from MPEG to AVI (for video), .jpg to .tif (for images) and .mp3 to .wma (for audio). In fact, the device has excellent sound with DTS, Dolby Digital audio and an SPDIF optical digital audio output. On the downside, Fusion can’t display Acrobat files or play Flash videos or interactive content.
At any time, you can easily record whatever Fusion is displaying. This can turn a single classroom lesson into one that can be used all day or shared among other classes. Just press the Record button on the remote control and it’s saved on the hard drive.
All told, Fusion is a shortcut to the interactive classroom where lessons and additional material are just a click away. Too bad using the remote control’s awkward keypad is the only way to get there.
+ Inexpensive way to connect TV or monitor to the Web
+ Easy set up
+ WiFi or wired LAN
+ High definition video
+Able to record
- Need to supply own hard drive
- Can’t Play Flash material
- Awkward remote control keypad data entry