The Good Plays back raw ISO files ripped from DVD, complete with Dolby Digital soundtrack and menus; plays most DivX and Xvid files; large capacity; solid connectivity with component-video and both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs; compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The Bad Clunky folder-based file system makes large collections a hassle to navigate; some stutter and incompatibility playing back VOB video files; soft video quality compared to original DVDs, photos; file sizes limited to 4GB or less for Mac users; no HDMI output; needs to be constantly shuttled between your PC and your TV.
The Bottom Line Although a cumbersome interface hampers the LaCie LaCinema Premier's usability as a music and photo server, its ability to play back files ripped from DVDs is pretty appealing.
LaCie LaCinema Premier
The LaCie LaCinema Premier is essentially a big hard drive with audio and video outputs and a remote control. It's designed to sit in your entertainment center and play back audio, video, and photo files on your TV and sound system without having any contact with your computer or the Internet. Numerous other devices can do the same thing, but the LaCie's claim to fame is the ability to directly play back ISO, IFO, and VOB files from DVDs. Of course, you're only legally allowed to rip DVDs that aren't copy-protected, which pretty much eliminates any Hollywood release, but for those willing to skirt the Feds with their DVD ripping, this is a great feature. Unfortunately, we ran into a few playback issues during testing, and the device's video quality could be sharper, especially for something billed as a high-def upconverter. Still, if you're willing to put up with a few hiccups, you don't care about music or photo functionality, and you don't already get your video fill from a networked PC, game console, or AppleTV-style device, then the LaCinema Premier may deserve a look.
Externally, the LaCinema Premier isn't much beyond a small (6.6 inches tall by 2.8 inches wide by 4.6 inches deep) black box, A couple of LEDs indicate power, playback, and HDD access, and there are front-panel controls for menu navigation as well as Stop and Play. The included clicker is packed with mostly unused buttons, and the crowded arrangement doesn't do you any ergonomic favors.