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Wireless Range

All of my testing up to this point had been on a wireless connection and I hadn't noticed any issues that would indicate bandwidth problems. My access point is in a generally bad location, being located in the basement furnace room where the Internet cable comes into the house. But it's fine for where I was using it, since my entertainment center is directly above the furnace room, only 6-7 feet away (through the floor).

But having the access point in a metal-enclosed furnace room means the signal doesn't go as far as it might. When I moved the LinkTheater to the far corners of my house where the signal is weaker, it began to act up. My second test location is around 30 feet away from the access point and it's blocked by a couple of sheetrock walls, a floor and ductwork from my furnace. In this location, I saw typical audio / video stuttering, stalling and breakup. For placement issues, it would have been nice to know the optimal location with respect to signal strength, but nowhere on the LinkTheater is there an indication of signal quality or strength.

Switching to a wired connection was just a matter of plugging in an Ethernet cable and rebooting. A check of the status screen showed the unit had connected and automatically acquired an address via DHCP correctly. In general, you'd be better off using a wired connection with a unit like this, but if you need to use wireless, pick your location carefully.

UPnP Support

Since the Link Theater supports stand-alone UPnP servers, you can fetch content through any number of Linux, Macintosh, Windows, or Network Storage devices that can have UPnP support. In addition, Buffalo's own NAS device, the LinkStation, has a built-in server for the LinkTheater (PCast) that reportedly performs more-or-less like the server that runs on your PC.

I don't have a Link Station, but I did test out the LinkTheater with UPnP servers on several of my network machines. As I noted earlier, If you have a UPnP server on your network, it will appear on the Login page when the LinkTheater is powered on.

Bland UPnP display

Figure 9: Bland UPnP display

The first thing I noticed when selecting a UPnP server was the rather bland user interface. I didn't get any of the fancy graphics, menu selections or options that I had with the LinkStation server. But other than the bland appearance, the UI worked fine for file navigation. I could view pictures (but without the fade effect or music), I could listen to music (including Internet radio stations) and I could view video. I have to applaud Buffalo for allowing the LinkTheater to work so well (although without eye candy) with UPnP-based servers other than its own.

So the "extra" features presented when using the included LinkTheater server indicated to me that it was more than just a UPnP server. More on that in the next section.

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