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I'm lucky enough to have Ethernet available in my entertainment center, but I suspect that most people don't. For this reason, the 2200 also has draft 802.11n wireless capability. With average throughput of over 40 Mbps, as shown in our Wireless Charts, draft 802.11n should provide more than enough bandwidth to stream HD content.

Figure 15 shows the setup screen for wireless networking where the 2200 has done a site survey and is asking me to select an access point.

Wireless Setup

Figure 15: Wireless Setup

In my case, I first set the 2200 up to connect to my existing 802.11g network. This worked, but if you plan on watching a lot of HD content, I would recommend that you use a wired network, or go with an 802.11n wireless connection.

When I tried out the 2200 with the WRT600N [reviewed] draft 802.11n router that Linksys provided, I successfully viewed several HD streams including a 1080p movie and my stress-test mpeg2 video. But even on the 802.11n network, I saw a couple of slight "stutters" in the video when connected over a distance of about 30 feet and one floor between the 2200 and WRT600N. So if you can, go with a wired network for the best HD streaming experience.

By the way, a contact at Linksys told me that they recommend at least 50 Mbps of bandwidth on your network in order to handle HD streams along with all of the normal network traffic. This seems about twice what I would expect, but that's the word from Linksys.

As far as range, a few quick tests around my house showed no issue with low-bandwidth videos on my regular 802.11g network, even though my Linksys WRT54G router is in a pretty poor location, i.e. in the basement around a lot of duct-work. With high-definition videos, as expected, it was a different story, with lots of breakup using the 802.11g connection.

Under the Covers

Figure 16 shows the main board of the 2200.

Main Board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 16: Main Board

From this picture you can see that the video processing is provided by a Sigma Designs 8622L Media Processor. The dual-band draft 11n wireless support is on a Marvell-based mini-PCI card, using an 88W8363 MAC/Baseband chip and probably an 88W8060 2.4 / 5 GHz RF Tranceiver under the RF shield. The 10/100 Ethernet port comes courtesy of a RealTek 8100c.

Most, if not all, version 1 extenders run Windows CE and my guess is that's what the 2200 runs. Note that the 2200 manual listed several open-source libraries for image support, audio support and encryption, but made no mention of an operating system.

A network port-scan of the box was unable to fingerprint ID the OS, and it turned up only a couple of open ports. Once of the ports had a RomPager web server running on it but in the time I had, I was unable to get it to serve up anything interesting.

A review of this Media Center architecture powerpoint presentation found on the Microsoft site, turned up a few interesting tidbits about the MCX (Media Center Extender) architecture:

  • The user interface is actually rendered by Microsoft's Media Center software on the computer and delivered to the MCX device (the 2200, in this case) via a Microsoft Extender Session Protocol (XSP) that runs over Transport Layer Security (TLS).
  • TV, FM radio, Windows Media, VC-1 (for Windows Media Video 9) and MPE formats are streamed via RTP, with RTSP used for command and control. Everything else uses HTTP, including MPEG 1 and 2, WAV and "OEM-added" formats. This is intended to allow additional media formats to be supported without requiring software to be installed on the Vista PC.
  • MCX devices use Windows Media DRM for playback of DRM-protected content.
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