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LaCinema Mini HD looks small but plays big

LaCie unveils its latest minidigital content player that has built-in storage and support for wireless networking.

The LaCinema Mini HD is compact and can work as an external hard drive also. Dong Ngo/CNET

LAS VEGAS--LaCie has been part of the market of digital media players for a while now, with a series of LaCinema products offering more choices than any other vendor. At CES 2010, it managed to offer another choice.

The company announced Wednesday its latest edition of the LaCinema Digital AV player, the LaCinema Mini HD. This is a product similar to the WD TV Live from Western Digital or the FreeAgent Theater+ from Seagate, but with a few significant enhancements.

First of all, other than the wired-network port, the LaCinema Mini HD comes with built-in support for wireless-N. This means it can access the Internet wirelessly out of the box (both the FreeAgent Threater+ and the WD TV Live require an additional adapter to do this).

Secondly the device has 500GB of internal storage. This means you can copy digital contents and store them within the unit. It's actually very easy to do this, as the devices come with a female MiniUSB port that turns it into a USB bus-powered external hard drive, allowing you to drag and drop photos, pictures, music, and so on into its internal storage conveniently. Best of all, the built-in storage means that you can carry your digital content around without having to handle extra USB hard drives.

Lastly, the unit looks good and very compact. Like most of LaCie's products, the LaCinema Mini HD was designed by a well-known designer--Neil Poulton in this case--making it stylish and unique looking.

Other than that, the new player also comes with two USB ports to host extra storage from two external hard drives. It has an HDMI connection and is DLNA-compliant, meaning it can stream media from other network storage devices, such as a computer or a NAS server. It supports high-definition content resolutions up to 1080p.

According to LaCie, the player supports an extensive list of video and audio codecs, such as MKV, AVC, DivX and many more, complete with subtitles and digital sound. Unfortunately, the only Internet content it will be able to play, for now, is Flickr. However, this might change with firmware updates.

The LaCinema is slated to be available later this year. It won't be cheap, though, costing around $300.