Nearly two years ago, GoVideo launched the , which was among the first home DVD players capable of streaming music, video, and images over a home network to a TV and a stereo system. Although that model had a PCMCIA slot to accommodate an aftermarket wireless-networking card, support was limited to the 802.11b standard, which isn't ideal for streaming video. In comparison to its predecessor, the GoVideo D2740 features several advancements, such as onboard, higher-bandwidth 802.11g wireless networking and support for subscription-based, on-demand streaming music service. Unfortunately, the unit can't play protected WMA files purchased from online music stores, nor can it play protected AAC files downloaded from iTunes. As a DVD player and a digital media receiver rolled into one, the D2740 ($199) looks like a bargain on paper, but in person, numerous performance kinks limit its appeal. Aside from the two adjustable, wireless network antennas mounted on its rear panel, the GoVideo D2740 looks like a standard home DVD player. Its size (2.2 inches high by 17 inches wide by 11.6 inches deep) and looks place it squarely in the "average" category. One interesting design twist: the D2740 has two headphone outputs along with a dedicated volume control for each. In addition to transport controls (play, stop, next track, previous track, and so forth), the front panel has a four-way keypad for menu navigation. The circumference of the keypad glows with the same blue light that illuminates the small text display.
The midsize remote control has a logical layout and features a full assortment of DVD player and digital media receiver buttons, including Music, Movies, and Pictures shortcuts. The remote control performs terribly; even when operated from less than six feet away, buttons often needed to be pressed repeatedly until they registered.
The onscreen user interface is a key component of any device that's accessing potentially thousands of digital files on a remote PC. When the D2740 is powered on, the unit autoplays any compatible disc present in its drive. If no disc is present, the unit searches for and connects to your network, detects compatible file-server applications (for instance, Rhapsody or the GoVideo Media Server) running on locally networked PCs, and then displays a list of those sources on the connected TV. The straightforward, silver-and-blue, TV-based interface is divided into two main navigation panes: the left pane shows navigable media file categories, while the right pane displays a list of media files contained in the selected category. Content can be navigated by albums, tracks, playlists, and genres. The remote's four-way keypad and Enter button make it easy to maneuver through your media library and fire up playback. The only notable limitation is that you can't navigate music files by the directories in which they're stored on your PC. Around back, the GoVideo D2740 has a good assortment of jacks. In addition to standard optical and coaxial digital ports and stereo RCA analog outputs, the D2740 sports discrete 5.1-channel analog outputs, though the lack of DVD-Audio or SACD support makes them superfluous. The player also boasts the standard DVD video outputs (composite video, S-Video, and progressive-scan component video), but it lacks a digital video output and a corresponding video-upscaling feature. The aforementioned 802.11g antennas handle wireless network access, but the inclusion of an Ethernet port makes the D2740 compatible with any hardwired home network as well.
The D2740 supports most of the familiar file formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and DivX video files proved compatible, and the unit even played a few DivX HD files, albeit downconverted to standard-def resolution. JPEG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, and GIF image files streamed well, but the unit had problems with our PSD (Photoshop's native format) test files. On the audio front, the unit played home-ripped MP3 and nonprotected WMA audio files as well as M3U and PLS playlists. Music files protected with digital rights management are another matter, however: the D2740 cannot stream protected (PlaysForSure-compatible) WMA files, such as those purchased from Yahoo, Napster, Rhapsody, and Musicmatch. And, of course, the D2740 won't be able to play songs purchased from Apple's iTunes Music Store. Curiously, nonprotected WAV files aren't supported, either.
While you can't stream the one-off songs downloaded to your PC's hard drive from the aforementioned music services, the D2740 can play real-time audio via the premium service. The catch? Rhapsody is your only source for live Internet audio streams. In contrast, numerous other digital-media receivers can be configured to tune in user-selected Internet radio stations from a variety of sources, some of which are free. On the flip side, one nice thing about the D2740 is that you can browse track lists and menus without first stopping playback; as a result, you can fire up some music, navigate to the photo slide-show screen, then launch a photo slide show to accompany the music. By contrast, with Buffalo Technology's more expensive DVD player/digital media receiver, you have to use its PC server software to preconfigure a photo slide show's musical accompaniment. After installing the included GoVideo Media Server without a hitch (the software is Windows only), the application offered to scour our PC's hard drives to build its database of playable media files. Unfortunately, the software crashed during its first attempt to scan our hard drive. On the second and third attempts, the scan utility ran for several minutes and then stopped without importing any files. The fourth time around, after opting to manually select only the folders where our media files were located, the server software ran for 14 minutes and successfully imported 1,852 audio files, 58 video files, and 52 image files. Not exactly smooth sailing, but the job ultimately was completed. It's worth noting that the GoVideo Media Server software can also automatically index your Musicmatch Jukebox and Windows Media Player libraries. After connecting the D2740 to our TV and A/V receiver, we were good to go.
Although every digital media receiver occasionally loses its wireless connection and hits playback potholes here and there, the GoVideo D2740 ran into more than its share of problems. Despite successfully connecting to our wireless network and receiving an IP address, the unit was often unable to find either the Rhapsody or GoVideo Media Server applications running on a network-connected PC, even though the computer wasn't protected by a firewall. To ensure a strong wireless link, we moved the router to within three feet of the D2740. Although we repeatedly tried rebooting both the PC and the D2740 and used the device with two different wireless routers, there wasn't a silver bullet to remedy the issue. The connectivity problems didn't totally go away, even when we ran an Ethernet cable between the D2740 and the router.
When the device did successfully connect to Rhapsody or the GoVideo Media Server, wireless streaming performance was pretty good. We listened to Rhapsody for hours without encountering significant playback dropouts, although there were a few sputters here and there. Through the analog audio outputs, sound quality was on a par with other digital media receivers. The 802.11g connection provided adequate bandwidth for videos, including MPEG-2 and a few DivX HD files to stream smoothly--though unlike the , the D2740 doesn't output HD resolutions.
For the most part, the progressive-scan DVD player output commercial DVDs without noticeable artifacts. Playback was typically smooth, but the unit frequently hiccupped while playing a Jurassic Park DVD that hadn't caused problems with other players.
As avid Rhapsody fans, we had high hopes for the GoVideo D2740, but its stability kinks left us cold. Perhaps GoVideo can work out these issues with a future firmware update. In the meantime, the Buffalo LinkTheater ($299) is more stable but has its own share of flaws.