Testing new media adapters, Part One

Prismiq’s MediaPlayer Entertainment Gateway delivers PC content to your TV.

Prismiq’s MediaPlayer Entertainment Gateway delivers PC content to your TV

In February I said 2003 would see the creation of a new category of networked entertainment bridges called media adapters — devices that let you connect your stereo and TV to your networked PCs, so you can surf the Web, play MP3s, and view photos and video where you’re most comfortable: on the couch.

Now that products have begun to ship from Linksys, Sony, SMC and Prismiq, it’s time to start testing them. Recently, I tried out the Prismiq MediaPlayer Entertainment Gateway. The company, pronounced “prismeek,” was first to release a fully functioning product back in November 2002.

For all reviews, I take special note of the products ease of installation, which is crucial as the home network expands into the living room. As products like media adapters reach the masses, they must be easy enough for anyone to install without needing to crack a networking how-to manual.

Following the instruction steps, first I connected the MediaPlayer to my network. The device, about half the size of a laptop, is meant to sit next to your entertainment system or in your entertainment rack. Since I already had Ethernet cabling strung to my living room for online gaming, I went the wired route, plugging the cable into the RJ45 jack on the back of the box. The MediaPlayer also comes with a PC Card slot for a Wi-Fi card for connecting to your wireless network.

I then connected the box to my surround-sound system (which connects to both my TV and stereo) using the provided standard audiovisual cables (red, white and yellow) and plugged in the power cord. Easy enough; this took about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a surround-sound receiver, you connect the MediaPlayer to you TV or stereo using the same inputs.

Next, I installed the MediaManager software on my home office PC, which lets it act as a server so it can send content to the MediaPlayer over the network. Here, I ran into problems. The software installation ran smoothly until near the end, when my PC locked up and I got the “blue screen of death.” However, my Windows XP system, which I’ve found very stable, rebooted normally after performing a self-assessment test. My second installation attempt went fine, but it left me wondering whether the software would cause future problems. 

The MediaManager software next scanned my PC’s hard disk for content to share with the MediaPlayer. The scan was quick and the program cataloged all the photos, MP3s and video files. I then went back to the living room, and turned on the TV with the MediaPlayer remote control. There, listed on my TV was a catalog of the content on my hard disk, organized into neat, predefined categories. I found the Prismiq user interface extremely easy to navigate.

I played music files and programmed Internet radio stations for some tunes. As the music played, I hit the images button and flipped through hundreds of our family’s digital photos. At first I was skeptical that photo viewing would be all that compelling, but I stand corrected. When my wife’s eyes lit up at full screen pictures of our son on the TV, I knew photo viewing would be one of the media adapters’ most popular applications.

Last, I attempted to access a DIVX video file I had downloaded from www.divx.com. DIVX files are highly compressed video files, and the MediaPlayer can view them. At first, the file didn’t display when I hit view. But I resolved the problem by shutting down my PC’s desktop firewall. The video then played smoothly with no choppiness. Oddly, the firewall didn’t interfere with audio or picture viewing, only video streaming. Unfortunately, there is no reference to the firewall issue in the manual, an oversight that might result in a fair number of tech support calls.

Overall, I was impressed with the MediaPlayer. Besides the two software glitches, the device worked well and required no network configuration. The MediaPlayer costs $250 and is sold directly from the company at www.prismiq.com .

Next time, I’ll test Linksys’ Wireless Media Adapter.

Learn more about this topic

Prismiq MediaPlayer FAQ

Make way for media adapters

Devices make sharing PC and entertainment content easy.

Network World, 02/03/03

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