Friday, December 17, 2010

Sigma vs Realtek

This is an update on the current scenario since my previous post in March. The HD media player world is still dominated by chipsets from Sigma and Realtek. Sigma came out with the first HD media player chipset in 2008 while the cheaper Realtek chipset came out a year later and majority of the HD media players are now using chipsets from these two manufacturers.

Here's a partial list of popular media player brands using the two chipsets to give potential buyers some idea. Realtek has more manufacturers but mostly in the medium to low end market while Sigma has more players in the high end market apart from the popular WDTV Live. High end players will have more functionalities and may even have a blu-ray player built-in.

Sigma - WDTV Live, Popcorn Hour, Egreat, Dune Smart, HDX BD1

Realtek - ACRyan PlayOn!, Asus O!Play, Xtreamer, Patriot Box Office, Seagate Freeagent, Egreat, Yangxi HDPro+, Noontek, Eaget, Hornettek Phantom, DVico

Below are some items for comparison.

Video format support
Realtek - all common file formats.
Sigma - same as Realtek except it cannot support RMVB.

RMVB (RealMedia Variable Bitrate) files are very popular in the distribution of Asian contents such as Japanese Anime and Chinese TV series and movies so if you are going to use this type of files, then you must pick a media player that uses the Realtek and not the Sigma chip. Thus the popular WDTV Live is out in this case as it uses the Sigma chip.

Audio format support
Sigma - all common audio format including HD audio such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA.
Realtek - same as Sigma. Earlier versions of the Realtek chipset could not passthrough these HD audio but newer versions now have overcome this problem.

PQ or picture quality
Sigma has the better specs on paper but many prefer what they see from Realtek. There are supporters in both camps so it is very much a personal preference.

The Sigma chipsets generally have higher clockspeed than Realtek chipsets but probably not significant in real world applications.

Please note that the firmware used can also affect the performance of the player. New brands and models are coming out fast and furious and some may even change camps (Egreat seems to have models in both camps) so best to check the specs of a particular model to see what they can offer. The best is to bring along some test videos and physically check that your video can be played if this is possible, before parting with your cash. The
iboum website is a good place to learn more and check the specs of most commonly available HD media player.

Ronald Kwok


  1. Out of the players, which one has the smoothest GUI?

  2. It depends on how the GUI is designed by the manufacturer. I cannot comment since I have not seen all the GUIs but they are basically very similar. You should check out the ones you are interested in to see if you are happy with the GUI. For the models that I have, I prefer the one on the HDPro R1055 over that on the HDPro so it could be just personal preference.

  3. Hi Ronald,

    You have done a great job here. Learnt a lots from your blog (especially the HDMI cable ^^). But FYI, Zen 12 (12 in 1 Multimedia PC) has the ability to playback 3D movies even streaming it(checked). But with high speed internet connection of course.

    Hope that you can do more blogging regarding 3D technologies.


  4. Hi Roland

    I'm interested if I can use the latest apple TV to play my videos from HD2000. Does anyone know or tried it?


  5. Hi Ronald, I've heard that sigma media player can view blu ray interactive menu eg to choose the audio channel, list of chapters exactly like blu ray disk player whereas realtek player doesn't have this function and go to the movie straight by choosing the file name, how different are egreat s100 compared with eaget m9 player?

    1. Hi.
      If this is Sigma vs Realtech comparison, it should be mentioned in the headings, that the main difference is, that when it comes to ISO files, Realtech does not play BlueRay menues, while Sigma does. (Both play DVD-ISO menues). It is not a matter of processor speed or abilities, it is a matter of licensing.

  6. Sorry, I have no experience playing BD files from any media player since I only watch BD movies from a BD player so I cannot comment on your statement. For the difference between the egreat and the eaget, you may check their specs or post in the Low Yat Forum. Regards.

  7. You missed some common players (given that there are so many that is no surprise).

    Zinwell (Rebranded as Astone) ,"Mede8er MD800X3D", and "himedia" are also Realtek. Given the low price I expect that LASER ones (which often die in a year) are probably Realtek too