LaCie LaCinema Black Max review

£360
Price when reviewed
The LaCie LaCinema Black Max tries harder than any media player we’ve seen to be all things to all men. At its core, this little black box is a media streamer, with both draft-n wireless and wired Ethernet (10/100) connections.

But it also has 500GB of hard-disk storage – you can connect it to your PC exactly as you would a standard external hard disk. There’s a single DVB-T digital tuner inside, complete with support for future terrestrial HD transmissions, and high-definition output up to 1080p, with upscaling of standard definition video to 1080i.

Connections are impressively broad, with component and composite inputs and outputs joined by HDMI and optical S/PDIF out, and a total of four USB ports (one host, three standard) for connecting external storage devices or a computer. And the range of supported video formats is as long as you could wish for.

The Black Max even looks good, with its Neil Poulton-designed sharp corners, a deep obsidian finish and a blue light that pools from its underside. And when you turn it on, the slick presentation continues with a clean black and white design and simple menu structure.

This is where things start to go wrong. We powered up the LaCie for the first time only to discover it sounds like a hairdryer. In a quiet living room, it’s just too intrusive. Then there’s the remote control: it’s tiny, cramped and has buttons so mushy that you don’t know whether you’ve pressed them or not, and when you do it responds sluggishly.

And despite the fact that some aspects work well – 1080p files streamed smoothly over the wired and wireless connections, upscaling of SD content was impressive, and general picture quality outstanding – others weren’t so good. The TV reception wasn’t solid, and the box continually chose the wrong audio stream, which had to be corrected manually with the remote control every time we switched channels.

It all adds up to a crushingly disappointing product. The LaCie LaCinema Black Max promises so much, but fails to deliver where it matters. The £300-plus price just compounds its forlorn performance.

Display

Display type None
Screen size N/A
Resolution N/A

Software and OS support

Operating system Windows 7 supported? yes
Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

Physical

Dimensions width 234
Dimensions depth 225
Dimensions height 46
Dimensions 234 x 225 x 46mm (WDH)

Audio format support

MP3 support yes
WMA support yes
AAC support yes
OGG support yes
FLAC support no
ATRAC support no
WAV support yes
ASF support yes

Video format support

DivX support yes
XviD support yes
H.264 support yes
WMV-HD support yes
WMV support yes
AVI support yes
MP4 support yes

Ports and communications

Remote control? yes
UPnP media server? yes
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Ethernet interface yes
Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
RCA (phono) outputs 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0

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