Switching between USB sources was not an issue either. There's no "undocking" process that must take place, you can simply yank out a drive when you'd like to swap it for another. We should note that we recommend you stop playing any media before actually pulling the plug.
Once a valid USB source is attached to the TV Link box, filenames and folders on the drive will display on the main screen of the user interface. From there, you're able to navigate through different directories with the remote control and then select the media you want to play.
The ScreenPlay TV Link supports a wide array of audio file types including MP3, AC3 (for Dolby Digital encoded audio), WAV, WMA, and OGG files. The audio playback screen gives you a standard time code display, with a progress bar and ID3 tag information if applicable.
For video file types, you'll have support for MPEG-1-, MPEG-2-, AVI-, VOB- (DVD), MPEG-4-, DivX-, and XviD-encoded movie files. VOB support is so thorough that a ripped (homemade) DVD was able to play--menus and all--as well. (However, we had no luck with ISO versions of DVD rips.) Support for JPEG photo files is also included, as well as the ability to play any audio file during a slide show.
During our testing, we were impressed with the quality of the video upscaled to 720p. The various video game trailers and movies looked bright and sharp and we had no compatibility conflicts during any of our playback. There was definitely a noticeable difference in picture quality between 480i and 720p. However when compared with 480p to 720p, the jump in sharpness was not as discernible.
It's worth noting that Iomega also makes ScreenPlay products with built-in hard drives, such as the 500GB ScreenPlay HD. That competes with other "multimedia drives" such as the LaCie LaCinema Premier. The all-in-one nature of those products certainly has its appeal, but--like the drives that plug into the ScreenPlay TV Link--they still need to be transported to and from the PC to load up with new files. Also, while you won't find the overall polish that the LaCie LaCimena Premier's graphical interface is able to offer, the ScreenPlay TV Link offers essentially the same functionality minus the on-board storage and a few connectivity options such as optical audio and S-Video.
Another important caveat: anyone with an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 may want to look more closely at the media capabilities of those consoles before investing in a TV Link. Both models do a very good job of playing back many of the same files, both from attached USB devices and over a network. But you won't find the same degree of flexibility in terms of drive or file compatibility.
That said, the "bring-your-own" expansion the TV Link is able to offer will probably be attractive to some consumers who don't want to feel locked down by a set amount of storage. While we wish the TV Link would offer even more expansion such as an SD slot, or perhaps eSATA or FireWire connections. (Flash media fans should check out the SanDisk V-Mate, for instance.) Given its compact size and strong compatibility with so many USB drives, however, there's little to complain about. Widely available for less than $100, the ScreenPlay TV Link should satisfy your desire for on-demand multimedia content without the need to connect your TV to a computer.