ViewSonic's first foray into the network media space is a one-two punch. The WMA100 wirelessly streams audio, video, and image files from your PC's hard drive to your home stereo and TV. In addition, the unit is capable of streaming media files directly from its companion products, the WMG120 and the WMG80 wireless media routers, which feature built-in 120GB and 80GB hard drives, respectively. Although the $299 ViewSonic WMA100 has some impressive attributes, particularly its HD-enabled DVI video output, shortcomings such as weak music features limit its appeal. Still, the network-attached storage options (it's available separately or as a bundled set with the WMG120 or the WMG80) will appeal to those who want to stream media without the need for a PC.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.Measuring approximately 2 by 7 by 6 inches (HWD), the ViewSonic WMA100 is a small, silver plastic box with rounded edges. To save space, you can attach the included plastic stand and position the WMA100 vertically rather than horizontally. The sparse front panel features a translucent black plastic strip behind which a few status LEDs reside. Because the WMA100 lacks a text display and doesn't have any controls besides a power button, you must switch on the TV and grab the remote to navigate the device's menus. The WMA100 employs built-in 802.11g wireless networking rather than relying on a removable card.
The midsize remote control gets the job done. It has the requisite four-way keypad, as well as Home, Videos, Music, Pictures, and iRadio buttons as shortcuts to the main media navigation screens. Page-up and page-down buttons facilitate navigating long media lists fairly quickly, although new screens usually take a few seconds to load. A search function allows finding files by entering text with the alphanumeric keypad.
The rear panel has an impressive assortment of jacks. In addition to the standard composite and S-Video outs, the WMA100 sports component and DVI connectors, which are capable of supporting HDTV resolutions of 720p and 1080i. An included adapter converts the DVI jack to VGA should you wish to connect a computer monitor or a projector, and the DVI will interface with an HDMI port with an affordable cable. Audio jacks include a stereo RCA output and a coaxial digital output. The rear panel also hosts an adjustable, black plastic wireless antenna plus an Ethernet port for wired networks.Although the ViewSonic WMA100 plays numerous file formats, its music features are comparatively weak. The WMA100 streams MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, and XVID video files (but not WMV video files); JPEG, GIF, and PNG image files; and MP3, WAV, unprotected AAC, and unprotected WMA audio files. It also has Dolby Digital 5.1-channel pass-through for AC-3 audio files. Because audio playlists aren't supported, you have to organize your music files into the same folder if you want to play them together. Unlike D-Link's MediaLounge series, the WMA100 can't play protected WMA audio files such as those purchased from the Napster or services. Also not supported on the WMA100: , a high-quality, on-demand streaming music service, and . The WMA100 does play Internet radio, but there's an unfortunate catch: you can't add selections to the device's preprogrammed list of approximately 85 channels, some of which have bit rates as low as a paltry 16Kbps.
In addition to streaming files from WMG120 and WMG80 wireless media routers, the WMA100 can stream files from the hard drive of any networked PC that's running the included--but unfriendly--MyView Media Manager software. Unlike some competing digital media receiver software, MyView Media Manager lacks a scanning utility to automatically find files scattered around your PC's hard drive. In fact, the software can be configured only to look for files in one video folder and its subfolders, one music folder and its subfolders, and one pictures folder and its subfolders. As a result, you may have to move some of your files into centralized locations.