Music and Pictures
Once I was up and running, the music playback feature worked well. It allows choosing either a pre-defined grouping such as artist, genre, album, etc. and playing through the list, or defining a custom grouping on the server for more precise control. To really test it out, though, I needed to go back to the server and clean out all of the Windows sound files that it had picked up before. I did this and changed the import preferences to only look in my media directories.
Going through this process reminded me once again of how important it is to have proper groupings. The All list showed more than a thousand songs and scrolling through them nine at a time wouldn't be fun. The bulk of the music I was testing originated as MP3s from iTunes. These played fine, but the device - like all others not manufactured by Apple - can't directly play music purchased from the iTunes store.
Figure 5: Album cover display
During playback, I usually got an unexciting screen showing the song title and progress, but occasionally, an image of the album cover (Figure 5), associated with the song was displayed. While this is a nice feature, it isn't clear when and how the images and songs become associated. (It didn't appear to use the album art embedded in my iTunes files.) But after a few minutes, a screen saver of a slowly bouncing NETGEAR logo would appear, so the mystery of the album covers is somewhat moot. By the way, supported formats are MP3, WAV, and WMA.
Next I tried out the Pictures feature, which also worked well. Note that the grouping feature for pictures is based on the underlying directory structure on the server machine. So if you've been diligent about keeping your photos in well-defined directories, and if you have meaningful names, you'll be fine. If not, you'll end up with a long list that you'll have to scroll through nine at a time looking for the right one.
In my case, I used a directory tree of photos that I normally managed from within iPhoto. As you can see in Figure 6, I was relying on iPhoto's organization tools and not using meaningful filenames or directories, so finding the right photo was doubly hard. Unlike the Viewsonic WMA100 I tested a while back, there were no options for creating transitions between photos or for adding music to the photo playback. There's only a single option to control how long a picture stays on the screen and a selection on the remote to let you display a list in random order instead of sequentially. NETGEAR says the MP115 supports JPG, GIF, BMP and TIFF file types, but I found the PNG files would also be displayed.
Figure 6: What happens when your photo filenames aren't descriptive