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Introduction

Linksys DMA2200

At a Glance
Product Linksys Media Center Extender with DVD (DMA2200)
Summary "Version II" Windows Vista Media Extender with HD support
Pros • HDMI Port
• 1080p HD Support
• Dual-band draft 802.11n wireless
• Upscaling DVD player
Cons • Limited audio and video format support
• Windows Vista only
• Fonts too small for across room viewing
• Buggy

Every time I review a network multimedia player, I get feedback suggesting that I check out what the Microsoft Media Center can do. I've always been a bit hesitant, because I've never been a fan of using a noisy, power-hungry computer just to play back my videos, music and photographs on my TV.

But in this review, I'm going to check out one of the "Version II" Vista-only class of Windows Media Center Extenders that are designed to alleviate my concerns. These set-top type devices still require a Windows PC for their content, but you can leave the PC down in the basement or home office, and let the extender grab its content across your home network for display in the entertainment center.

One of the first companies to release a Version II extender is Linksys. Linksys markets two versions of their extender, one with a built-in 1080i upscaling DVD player, the DMA 2200, and one without - the DMA 2100. In the review, I'll run the 2200 through its paces.

Visually, if you ignore the three 802.11n antennas, the 2200 doesn't look much different then a compact DVD player. It is designed to fit right into your entertainment center. The back panel of the device (Figure 1) shows the various connections that the device supports.

Back Panel
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: Back Panel

Along with standard-definition support, you can see an HDMI connector, digital audio and component video ports. The 2200 supports output at up to 1080p giving true high-definition video. For network connectivity, you can see a 10/100 Ethernet jack and the antennas for dual-band draft 802.11n support.

802.11n is designed to give you the bandwidth you need for streaming high-definition video, and dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz bands) operation should help reduce interference with other wireless devices you may have around the house. Note that the 2200 is 802.11n Draft 2.0 Wi-Fi Certified.

One curious connector is a USB 2.0 port that is documented as being "for service only", but was likely originally intended for external storage. You'll also note the absence of a fan vent. In use, the device is fanless and silent. While running it draws around 12 W, and none when off. It completely shuts down.

Setup

Setting the 2200 up was fairly straightforward. Figure 2 shows the initial setup screen on my TV after I plugged everything in and powered it up. (Please excuse the quality of the user interface screen shots. I had to do a standard-definition capture and the fonts are pretty small.)

Initial Setup

Figure 2: Initial Setup

Since I have Ethernet support in my entertainment center, I first set the 2200 up using a wired connection. Figure 3 shows the setup screen where a network type selection can be made.

Network Setup

Figure 3: Network Setup

A few screens later, I was given a unique "Setup Key" that I used to pair the extender with Windows Media Center, running on a Vista laptop (Core 2 Duo, 1.73 Ghz, 1Gig RAM, Home Premium Version) that Linksys was kind enough to supply me with. Once I paired the two up, I was ready to explore. The whole setup took around 10 minutes, start to finish.

I'll note here, however, that one morning when I turned the 2200 on, it acted as if it had never been set up. I had to go through the whole initialization and "pairing" process again. Measuring the time it took from power-on until it synched with the PC and I could use the 2200 showed it was just under a minute, which is a bit long as these devices go.

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