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ADS Tech Media-Link review: ADS Tech Media-Link

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The Media-Link can stream files from the hard drive of any networked PC that's running the Media-Link server application. The Media-Link server doesn't have a scanning utility to automatically track down files that aren't in obvious locations. Although you can manually configure the server software to look in multiple locations for music and video files, there's no such option for image files.

Using the Media-Link PC software, you can preconfigure musical accompaniment for photo slide shows, but you can't do it with the remote control. What's more, you can't add more Internet radio stations to the approximately 100 that are preprogrammed by ADS Tech. Compounding any confusion you might have about the Media-Link's capabilities, the user guide covers only setup and installation. ADS Tech says a quick-start guide covering usage will be available soon.

Usability flaws abound. For instance, if you fire up a music track, then browse to another screen, playback stops. This annoying limitation prevents you from, say, playing music while browsing your photo collection. The remote's Home button conveniently shortcuts to the device's main menu, but it's inconveniently disabled whenever playback is active. Unlike competing devices, the remote doesn't have buttons that go directly to the main music, video, and photo library screens. And forget about using the remote's four-way keypad to freely and intuitively navigate the device's menu levels. It just doesn't work that way.

During testing, the Media-Link did a respectable job of streaming audio, video, and image files. Music tracks such as the Commodores' "Brick House" sounded clear and powerful even through the analog outputs. DivX and MPEG-2 video files streamed smoothly for the most part and looked good with the unit connected to our HDTV. Web browsing worked OK for light usage; the unit automatically imported our Internet Explorer bookmarks, which was a godsend, because navigating the Web with a remote control isn't easy. (ADS Tech doesn't offer an optional keyboard.)

In the final analysis, the Media-Link is a relatively stable product that's hobbled by a poorly implemented and comparatively incomplete feature set. The Media-Link appears to be loosely based on the same engine as Actiontec's Wireless Digital Media Player and FIA's On3, neither of which fared well in testing. Hopefully, extensive firmware upgrades will improve this product in the future.

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