Bridge into the living room: Network player delivers music, films
Feb 17, 2008, 6:17 GMT
Hanover, Germany - For many people the computer hard drive has become the permanent home for their film and music collections.
However, burning those files onto a DVD or CD so that they can then be played on a television in the living room is time consuming and, in the long run, expensive.
One option is using a network player to transmit the contents of the computer hard drive to a TV or stereo system. It thereby serves to some extent as a bridge between the PC and entertainment electronics setup.
The players, also known as streaming clients or Digital Media Adapters (DMA), are connected either wirelessly or through a cable to the computer to provide them with access to the home network. The connection to the entertainment electronics is handled using classical cinch or video cables.
If the system is to be used to transmit films, then keep in mind that the current 802.11g WLAN standard quickly reaches its limits when working with high-definition films.
The maximum transfer rate of 54 megabits per second (Mbit/s) offered by a 802.11g network can in some cases quickly deteriorate into a situation where video transfer isn't fun at all, warns the Hanover-based computer magazine c't.
The newer generation of 802.11n devices is better equipped to handle the task. That newer WLAN standard enables data transfer rates of up to 300 MBit/s.
Few network players to date have worked with the wireless n- standard to date. Linksys will soon be offering its DMA2100 for a suggested retail price of 250 dollars. Among other features it will be able to connect to the TV using HDMI.
Apple's Apple TV also represents a network player with HDMI port and WLAN 802.11n. The device, similar in looks to Apple's Airport Extreme WLAN router, is in many other ways more of an oversized iPod, capable of playing iTunes and iPhoto content on a HD TV using a wireless network, Munich-based Macwelt magazine said.
There remain many more devices on the market using the 801.11g WLAN standard than those using the n-standard. Netgear, for example, is marketing its EVA8000 Digital Entertainer for roughly 280 dollars, including HD capability. It possesses HDMI, component, Scart and S- video ports. The ZyXEL DMA-1000W Wireless Digital Media Adapter possesses only slightly fewer bells and whistles but is available for 150 dollars.
Consumers considering the purchase of network players will also need media server software for their computers. The programs make the content of the PC hard drive available on the network. Windows PC users can use the integrated Media Player software. Apple TV functions only using iTunes.
The disadvantage of using traditional network players: The PC must be turned on. If that is too much of a nuisance, another option is an external, network-ready NAS (Network Attached Storage) hard drives. They are connected directly to the network router. The prices for NAS hard drives run between 135 dollars for 250 gigabytes to 300 dollars for 750 gigabytes of storage - moving it out the range of cheap and easy thrills.