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This was an interesting, but essentially already outdated, little box. The price is certainly right, at under $100, and the fact that it is certified to work with other vendors is a plus. But the pluses pretty much end there.

The first negative is that it failed to play the majority of my MP3s due to their album art, which is a definite downside that Buffalo can hopefully correct. But even if this is corrected, the limited number of supported video formats means the mini is less useful than it could be, and the absence of any high-quality video output capabilities limits it as well.

The next disappointment is that the mini isn't really a $100 media adapter because it comes with a hidden cost. Unless you can live with playing content from the very limited list of supported formats, you'll need a networked PC running Windows XP Home, Pro or 2000 Pro SP4, to run the mini's transcoding software. This PC-based server is key to the mini's low cost since it lets a PC do the heavy processing that would otherwise need to be performed by a beefier, more expensive internal processor.

The subtlest gotcha, however is that the mini isn't really as vendor-neutral as its DLNA certification might imply. The mini needs either the PC-based server software or a Buffalo LinkStation Home Theater NAS to load its firmware image from when it is powered up. This is unusual for a consumer multimedia product and it seems like an unnecessary complication. Buffalo confirmed that this requirement is indeed the case, but offered no explanation as to why the mini uses this unusual boot process.

So if all you want is a way to play only a few digital formats, DLNA compliance is on your shopping check list and you're happy with a standard definition composite connection to your AV setup, then maybe this little box will suit your needs. But while the mini's price is attractive, it falls too far short of where the digital multimedia market is quickly heading.

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