Review: Play@TV Network Media Adapter

playattvLeadman Electronics, the sole-distributor of the iCube Play@TV in the U.S., invited us to a review their soon-to-be released Play@TV network media adapter–available Dec. 15th. We’ve commented on such devices in the past, but we’ve got to say this device is one of the top contenders for “Media Adapter of the Year.” In fact, Play@TV received the 2003 Intel Innovation PC Award at the Intel Developers Forum in San Jose. What makes the Play@TV so special is that its combines an impressive high-end, fully functional software media management program and an attractive, small form-factor media streaming device into one dynamic package.

Setting up the Play@TV was a breeze. It took no more than 10 minutes to install the Media Organizer and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Server on the PC. We tested the Premium Package Play@TV NMP-4000 LAN/Wireless 802.11b PCMCIA card bundle (MSRP $199)–it also comes in a LAN only version (MSRP $179). At first we were skeptical of streaming video over a wireless 801.11b connection; however, the device’s ability to buffer 5 seconds of digital media (32MB SDRAM onboard memory) before outputting MPEG-1/MPEG-2/MPEG-4/DivX/XVid/WMV/ASF streaming movies to a TV is pure brilliance. In our test, MPEG-4 and DivX movies streamed to the TV without a hiccup–we recommend an Ethernet connection for MPEG-1/2. Moreover, Play@TV’s Composite, Components, and S-Video connection choices offered flexibility and significant image performance. As for MP3, WMA, and WAV music file playback, the Analog Stereo (RCAx2) and S/PDIF Optical 5.1 stereo surround sound outputs produced extraordinary sound quality.

playattv organizer

It’s nice to find a media adapter that can handle a variety of media formats, but it’s even better to find one that makes managing your media content as painless as possible. As previously mentioned, the Play@TV Media Organizer program allows users to scan their hard drive for compatible media content. At that point, it sorts the results into its corresponding categories. But what really blows us away is what you can do after the content gets sorted. The software can check ID3/CDDB music tags to retrieve artist, album, track, lyric, and cover art information. It also lets users create music albums, playlists, and edit existing information. Moreover, you can add/edit similar information to videos and movies files: title, producer, place, date, description, poster (image capture/cover art). But here’s the fun part, it lets users preview and play all their media files within the program with its built-in media player.

playattv viewer

What’s more, the Play@TV Media Viewer is exceptional. The engineers who designed and developed the TV user-interface (UI) did a remarkable job of making it intuitive, easy-to-navigate by remote control, pleasing to the eye, and informative. Content can be displayed in thumbnail or list views. Once a selection is chosen, users can take advantage of the built-in media player functionality: fast-forward, rewind, next, volume, etc. Moreover, Play@TV can handle large format JPG/BMP digital image files. It can automatically resize images to fit the TV screen and can also zoom into a cropped area of your choice. In fact, it can zoom in extremely tight with super high-resolution photographs.

Overall we give the Play@TV a 5 out of 5 star rating. The device works as advertised. And users will be impressed and surprised by all the functionality they will be getting for such a reasonably priced network media adapter.

* Buy direct from Leadman

Filed in: Streaming Media Devices