CeBIT 2007: Media centres under attack from streamers

Just as Media Center PCs had started to gain momentum, a series of new media streaming devices launched at CeBIT are threatening to elbow the PC back out of the living room.

CeBIT 2007: Media centres under attack from streamers

We previously brought you details of a new Linksys media streaming device. Now, it’s the turn of networking rival, Netgear, which has given PC Pro a demonstration of its new Digital Entertainer HD.

In a similar vein to the Linksys device, the Digital Entertainer streams video, music and photos from any PC or networked storage device within range, to a standard or high-definition television.

The device automatically scours your home network for digital media files, and then organises them in an exceptionally well-designed library. It not only breaks down films by title, but also by format and resolution, so you can instantly find all the 1080i material on your network, for example.

Other stand-out features include playback of YouTube videos on your television (although picture quality will inevitably suffer) and the ability to plug an iPod into the Entertainer’s USB port and playback protected music and video files. This requires a software download and, curiously, is only compatible with PCs running iTunes. A company spokesman said that Mac owners would likely opt for the rival Apple TV player.

Disappointingly, high-definition video streams stuttered in our show floor demonstration, casting doubt on Netgear’s decision to use the older 802.11g standard for the wireless connection. However, it has to be noted that the network is log-jammed with traffic on the show floor, and when it did work smoothly the picture quality was absolutely immense, with videos bathed in detail and rich colours.

A potential media centre killer is the Digital Entertainer’s PVR capabilities. When connected to a PC with a TV tuner installed, the on-screen menu can be used to schedule recordings, and pause and rewind live shows. And given that the Digital Entertainer will retail for £399 when it goes on sale next month, it’s considerably cheaper than a full Media Center or Vista PC.

Keep an eye out for full reviews of both of these products in forthcoming issues of PC Pro.

Visit to view our full coverage of CeBIT 2007.

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