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Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link review: Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link

Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
5 min read

There's little doubt that TV is moving more toward an on-demand model powered by content that's pulled from the Internet rather than traditional broadcast sources. But products that pull in video from networked PCs and various online sources--everything from the Roku Netflix Player and Apple TV to the Xbox 360--still require some degree of networking expertise to get up and running. For those that prefer more of a plug-and-play experience, there's the Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link. The little box allows the video files on most USB storage devices (hard drives, flash drives) to be played on your TV.


Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link

The Good

Audiovisual dongle allows for the playback of multimedia files from any USB drive (FAT32 or NTFS) source; compatible with most popular audio, video, and image formats; easy setup; included remote control; tiny size; included composite and component breakout cables

The Bad

Various connections cause clutter in rear of device; front-mounted USB port would've been more convenient; eSATA, FireWire, or flash media reader options would've been nice as well.

The Bottom Line

The Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link offers an easy way to watch digital video files without the need to hook up a computer to your TV.

The TV Link is a tiny black enclosure, about the size of a Post-it pad, that hooks up to any open composite, component, or HDMI input on your TV. If you don't have an HDMI cable handy, you can use the included composite or component breakout cables. Iomega also includes a SCART adapter for use overseas, along with the appropriate power adapters as well.

The ScreenPlay TV Link is a breeze to set up. Simply use one of the breakout cables to connect the device to your TV and switch to the appropriate input. ScreenPlay TV Link's built-in interface will let you change your resolution settings and audio options. If you're connecting via component or HDMI, you'll have the option to upscale all of your video content to 720p or 1080i.

When connected, the TV Link box can become a bit cluttered with its various wires protruding from the rear. Since you'll need access to the rear USB port on the box, the device must be placed somewhat out in the open. Also, you'll need to establish line-of-sight with the front of the TV Link to use the included IR remote control. Perhaps USB access would have been more practical had it been relocated to the front of the unit--possibly next to the IR port.

With all of these ports so close together, it's easy to develop a tangled mess.

The included remote controls every aspect of the device. It's quite slim, but laid out practically. It fit comfortably in our hand and is extremely responsive. As a bonus, we were able to successfully program our Logitech Harmony One with the device.

The ScreenPlay TV Link supports almost any USB hard drive or flash drive you can throw at it granted that the device is formatted in either FAT32 or NTFS file systems. We had absolutely no problem using several thumbdrives in addition to our hefty 320GB Seagate FreeAgent Go drive. The TV Link's USB port also seemed to provide power for most of the bus-powered drives we tried, eliminating the need for another power supply.

Switching between USB sources was not an issue either. There's no "undocking" process that must take place, you can simply yank out a drive when you'd like to swap it for another. We should note that we recommend you stop playing any media before actually pulling the plug.

Once a valid USB source is attached to the TV Link box, filenames and folders on the drive will display on the main screen of the user interface. From there, you're able to navigate through different directories with the remote control and then select the media you want to play.

The ScreenPlay TV Link supports a wide array of audio file types including MP3, AC3 (for Dolby Digital encoded audio), WAV, WMA, and OGG files. The audio playback screen gives you a standard time code display, with a progress bar and ID3 tag information if applicable.

For video file types, you'll have support for MPEG-1-, MPEG-2-, AVI-, VOB- (DVD), MPEG-4-, DivX-, and XviD-encoded movie files. VOB support is so thorough that a ripped (homemade) DVD was able to play--menus and all--as well. (However, we had no luck with ISO versions of DVD rips.) Support for JPEG photo files is also included, as well as the ability to play any audio file during a slide show.

During our testing, we were impressed with the quality of the video upscaled to 720p. The various video game trailers and movies looked bright and sharp and we had no compatibility conflicts during any of our playback. There was definitely a noticeable difference in picture quality between 480i and 720p. However when compared with 480p to 720p, the jump in sharpness was not as discernible.

It's worth noting that Iomega also makes ScreenPlay products with built-in hard drives, such as the 500GB ScreenPlay HD. That competes with other "multimedia drives" such as the LaCie LaCinema Premier. The all-in-one nature of those products certainly has its appeal, but--like the drives that plug into the ScreenPlay TV Link--they still need to be transported to and from the PC to load up with new files. Also, while you won't find the overall polish that the LaCie LaCimena Premier's graphical interface is able to offer, the ScreenPlay TV Link offers essentially the same functionality minus the on-board storage and a few connectivity options such as optical audio and S-Video.

Another important caveat: anyone with an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 may want to look more closely at the media capabilities of those consoles before investing in a TV Link. Both models do a very good job of playing back many of the same files, both from attached USB devices and over a network. But you won't find the same degree of flexibility in terms of drive or file compatibility.

That said, the "bring-your-own" expansion the TV Link is able to offer will probably be attractive to some consumers who don't want to feel locked down by a set amount of storage. While we wish the TV Link would offer even more expansion such as an SD slot, or perhaps eSATA or FireWire connections. (Flash media fans should check out the SanDisk V-Mate, for instance.) Given its compact size and strong compatibility with so many USB drives, however, there's little to complain about. Widely available for less than $100, the ScreenPlay TV Link should satisfy your desire for on-demand multimedia content without the need to connect your TV to a computer.


Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7