• United States
Senior U.S. Correspondent

No shortage of ways to store, play media at home

Jan 04, 20064 mins
Cisco SystemsHDTVsSAN

Amid the dazzling array of new audio and video products being introduced at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week, networking vendors are rolling out more advanced gear for distributing entertainment content around a home via Wi-Fi.

D-Link and Cisco’s Linksys division each introduced media server platforms with integrated 802.11g Wi-Fi access points on Wednesday, taking two different approaches. Linksys also unveiled a “virtual sound card” for sending PC-based music to an audio system and Marvell Technology Group announced a family of chips for use in consumer networked storage devices.

While D-Link integrated a hard drive and card reader into its D-Link Wireless HD Media Server, Linksys designed its Wireless-G Media Storage Link Router with Speed Booster to accept external devices via USB (Universal Serial Bus). Cisco’s home and small-business networking unit wanted to concentrate on what it does best and also keep the price low, according to company spokeswoman Karen Sohl. The Linksys product, available now, has an estimated street price of $129.99, while the D-Link platform will cost $299.99 when it ships in the first quarter.

The D-Link Wireless HD Media Server is designed to hold multimedia content and serve it to devices throughout a home that in turn are hooked up to consumer electronics products such as TVs and audio systems. It’s intended to fit right in with a rack of consumer audiovisual gear, standing 1.5 inches high with a 17-inch-wide black aluminum frame and a translucent “smoked glass” front panel. Users control it via a remote control, using a display that pops up on an attached TV, said D-Link spokesman Michael Scott.

The device has its own 100G-byte hard drive for storage and can also serve content that resides on a PC and is sent via USB or a wired or wireless LAN. External hard drives can also be connected via USB, and there is a 5-in-1 media card reader included in the unit.

Content served by the device can be sent to networked media adapters in D-Link’s MediaLounge line and any others that support the UPnP AV (Universal Plug and Play Audiovisual) standard. In addition to audio and standard-definition video, the platform can serve high-definition video streams at resolutions up to 1080i, the 1,080-line interlaced format used in HDTV (high-definition television). The server works with the Windows Media Video 9 format as well as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video at resolutions up to 1080i, according to D-Link. It can also serve audio content from services including Rhapsody,, Napster and However, it doesn’t work with Apple iTunes because of licensing costs for Apple’s DRM (digital rights management) format, Scott said. In addition, it supports other media formats including XviD and Ogg Vorbis.

The Linksys media server doesn’t include a hard drive or media card reader but has a USB port for attaching an external drive or card reader, Sohl said. The integrated access point supports Linksys’s SpeedBooster technology, which can deliver more than 40Mbps of real throughput, higher than typical 802.11g networks, when used with other SpeedBooster gear, she said. It can serve media to a PC or any adapter device that supports the UPnP standard.

Linksys also introduced the Wireless-G Music Bridge, a Wi-Fi client device that can receive music from a PC via 802.11g and send it to a home audio system on traditional audio cables or an optical digital connector. Unlike some other digital audio adapters, the Music Bridge can receive and play any audio, in any format, that could be played through the PC’s own speakers, according to Linksys. It’s like an external sound card, Sohl said. Linksys software supplied with the Music Bridge allows users to choose what audio from the PC is sent to the device and played over the audio system — for example, music can be sent while instant-message alert tones aren’t. It supports home-theater 5.1-channel audio, she said.

Marvell introduced a family of processors designed to sit at the heart of home networked storage devices. Those platforms will be able to give everyone in a home instant access to multimedia content on a centralized storage platform with guaranteed quality of service, according to the fabless semiconductor vendor.

The Orion product line consists of chips and software that both can be modified to meet a system vendor’s needs, said spokeswoman Diane Vanasse. They can be used in stand-alone home storage appliances, storage devices integrated into platforms such as Wi-Fi access points, and service-provider broadband devices, according to Marvell.

Several partner companies are showing off reference designs based on Orion at CES, and consumer products at a variety of prices should hit the market this year, Vanasse said.