If you want to be able to use your TV to view the photos and videos stored on your PC's hard drive then you need a media streamer. This one from ZyXEL costs just £130 and handles a broad range of video and picture file formats, which it can output in high-definition resolutions up to 1080i over HDMI. It also play back music files in common formats such as MP3 and WMA.
The DMA-1000 doesn't support Wi-Fi, and while this may initially seem crazy, it's not complete madness on a device that supports high-definition video. You see, most wireless networks don't have the bandwidth to steam HD content, so people end up using a wired network or HomePlug anyway.
The lack of wireless also means that the streamer is very easy to set up. All you have to do is plug a cable from your router into the back of the unit and then load the server software on your PC. The device will then automatically find your PC on the network. We were up and running in a matter of minutes.
ZyXEL has done a good job on the interface. It's not in the same league as, but it's still very straightforward to use and has big, bright icons that give you quick access to your music, videos and photos. Album art is shown when you playback music and you can set a song playing in the background while you watch a slideshow of your photos.
Video playback of both high-definition and standard-definition material -- in WMV9, AVI, MPEG-4 and Xvid formats -- either across a network or from a drive attached to the USB port at the rear was very smooth. The player is also responsive to fast-forward and rewind controls, something that can't be said of all media streamers. Audio quality (in MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC and LPCM codecs) was impressive too. Music sounded beefy via the stereo analogue outputs, while surround-sound effects in movies were suitably explosive.