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In Use

Reviewing a device like this is a bit difficult, because a good deal of the functionality is provided by Windows Media Center, not the device itself. But for the purposes of this review, I'll just treat the two as a package since that is what a consumer would see after setting up a 2200.

Figure 4 shows the main user interface displayed on the TV after powering the device up and entering the top-level menu.

Main Menu

Figure 4: Main Menu

In general, the user interface is fairly attractive and if you've used Media Center on a Vista PC, it looks nearly the same. But you won't find the same level of responsiveness and the same fluid menu animations on the Extender that you'd find on the PC. As you scroll around, things lag and jump just a little bit more.

You'll see in the menu in Figure 4 that there's a lot of dead space. I would have preferred to see the screen real estate better utilized. Also note the use of small fonts as represented by the clock in the upper right. Again, there is a ton of open space, but the clock is tiny.

I suppose I'd eventually get used to it, but I found the top-level menu a bit frustrating to use. Basically, you scroll up and down to find the major categories such as Music, Sports, etc. and then you scroll left and right to narrow your selections down.

Figure 5 shows the main menu overlaid on live video. The menu shows vertical categories of TV + Movies, Sports and Online Media, while my current selection is highlighting on now.

Content Selection

Figure 5: Content Selection

I can't tell you how many times I'd hit the up arrow again in this situation to go to Sports, since it is above my current selection. But in reality, I'm already in Sports so my button press would instead take me to TV + Movies. I'll note at this point that I found the non-backlit remote supplied with the 2200 (Figure 6) a bit lacking.

dma220 Remote

Figure 6: dma220 Remote

The remote has a lot of buttons that perhaps could have been consolidated. For example, the one button I found myself using a lot was the Back button, which is the tiny little button just below the volume control. This back button has different functionality than the large "back arrow" button just below it. It would have been nice to consolidate these buttons.

In comparison, while it has fewer features than the 2200, the Apple TV media player gets by with a total of six buttons while the 2200 has 50! On the other hand, the 2200 remote also has learning capabilities, so that it can control power and volume on your TV. Figure 7 shows the learning setup screen.

Learning Remote

Figure 7: Learning Remote Setup

It's hard to see, but the instructions say to press the "?" key on the remote after the learning session is complete. See any "?" button on the remote in Figure 6? Me neither. These instructions appeared to be completely off the mark. The actual instructions in the manual were much more involved.

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