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Media Playback

Typically, when I review these types of devices, the first thing I do is see how much of my existing media library they can handle. I've yet to try a networked media player that could do it all. With the 2200, I first had to get it access to my library. Figure 8 shows the menu where you can configure the 2200 to load media from network drives.

Network Share Setup

Figure 8: Network Share Setup

The problem I had at this point was mounting network shares. All my media is available on the network, but I typically have username/login protection on the shares. This menu gave me no way to specify the login credentials, so I could only access my shares that had wide-open guest accounts.

Note also that when I mounted my shares on the Vista notebook using the proper login credentials, the 2200 still couldn't see them. To get around this problem, I eventually just copied a sample of my files over to the Vista notebook to check them out there.

So how well did the 2200 do with my files? As usual with these products, it was a mixed bag. Figure 9 shows the picture selection menu where all of the photos are displayed as thumbnails.

Photo Selection

Figure 9: Photo Selection

Linksys documents support for JPG, PNG, BMP, and GIF files and the 2200 had no problem with any of my image files. From this menu, the 2200 could also do a basic "slide-show" of photos. Although there were no options for setting a slide-show transition style between pictures, there was an option at the global level for specifying the time a photo would display on-screen.

As far as music, Linksys supports MP3, WMA, WMA-Pro, AC-3 and AAC-LC Stereo. I couldn't find any documentation regarding "PlaysForSure" or "Certified for Windows Vista" (or whatever they're calling it these days) restricted music and I was lucky enough not to be stuck with any of those files to check it out with.

The 2200 had no problem with my MP3 files, but understandably couldn't play my DRM restricted music that had been purchased from the iTunes music store. Figure 10 shows the Music selection screen where each album is represented by a thumbnail of its album cover.

Music Selection

Figure 10: Music Selection

Music can be listed by artist, genre, album, etc. Once a playlist has been started, you can navigate into the Pictures menu and start a slide-show to play back while the music is playing.

Video Playback

General support for video playback is always hard for these devices, since there are so many different video formats in use. Linksys claims support for MPEG-1 MPEG-2, WMV9 (Standard and High Definition), and VC-1 Advanced Profile 4.0. I first tried out some of the sample WMA videos that were included on my system, which included a couple of 1080p videos that were stunning. Even though I was running on a wired network, however, I still had a couple of times where the video paused and/or stuttered.

For my own stress test, I have a high-definition 1080i Mpeg2 movie with a bit rate of 16 Mbps that I like to use to push media players to their limit. The 2200 handled it without a hitch, which is pretty unusual for these products. But as I tested the rest of my library, it was a bit of a hit-and-miss.

I first downloaded a number of codecs so that the Vista notebook could play most everything. But as I went through the same set on the 2200, I found a lot of unplayable videos. Mpeg1 and 2 files played pretty well and ome of my XviD and DivX videos played, while others didn't.

For example, I had a collection of movie trailers that I downloaded from Divx.com, and although the 2200 was able to generate a thumbnail for the menu (Figure 11) none would play.

Video Selection

Figure 11: Video Selection

I also have a large collection of H.264 mpeg4 videos created through Handbrake, but most wouldn't play. But once again, the 2200 was able to generate a thumbnail. But I also had other H.264 files that played fine.

Some unplayable videos would throw an error indicating that a codec was missing (there is no way to add a codec to the 2200), while others would start and then just immediately finish without complaint as if the movie was done. I also noticed that support for fast-forward and fast-reverse depended on the video type in use. Sometimes they would work, other times not.

Support for high-definition was nice, but as far as support for various formats, I'd say the 2200 did less well than a lot of other network media players I've tried. Since a PC is required to use the 2200, I would have hoped that the box would let the PC do a lot of the hard-work and transcode videos that it couldn't support in hardware, but this doesn't appear to be the case.

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