We like the fact that TV recordings can be copied from the device onto a memory stick with very little hassle. This makes watching shows on a laptop or portable media player very simple. You can also copy files from a USB stick to the device's hard drive. That can improve performance if you're dealing with a large file.
Another one of the many things that made us want to sling the LaCinema out of the nearest window was a problem it had with the audio on broadcast TV channels. Whenever we turned to one of the 11 Freeview channels that the LaCinema did manage to tune in, it switched itself over to a supplementary audio track. This meant the audio was mute, and we had to poke and prod the idiotic remote to get into a menu to switch to the other audio channel.
Seriously, you'd have to be a bona fide saint not to want to smash this machine into pieces upon discovering that. We're sure this could be easily corrected by a firmware update, but that's really not the point. This machine costs a fair amount of cash -- it should be able to select the correct audio track.
Louder than Heathrow
If you've ever been to a major international airport, you'll probably be aware that they're noisy places. The hustle and bustle of people, the sound of aircraft taking off -- it all makes for plenty of background noise.
Sadly, it doesn't make for as much background noise as the LaCinema's fan. During all modes of operation, it spins what sounds like the world's most powerful jet engine to keep itself cool.
Video streaming and playback
Using the supplied TwonkyMedia software, we were easily able to share all of the media on our PC with the LaCinema. Playing all kinds of video files was a simple matter of searching through a list to find the one we wanted to play.
Standard-definition Xvid video played well, as did high-definition video up to 720p. But, when we tried to play a 1080p video, we didn't have any luck, even when it was stored on the machine's internal hard drive. This particular clip -- a THX ident -- plays perfectly on theand the Wyplay Wyplayer, so we're somewhat at a loss as to why the LaCinema has such a problem handling it.
The LaCie LaCinema Black Record is a really great example of how it's possible to louse a piece of kit up with just a few bad decisions. The remote control on this device is unforgivably awful in every way. The hardware behind this system is very capable, and quite powerful, but the interface, though attractive, is a hindrance.
The Freeview reception problems are inexplicable, because no other hardware has a problem with the same antenna we used here. We don't know why the device wouldn't find many of the available channels, but its inability to do so ruined one of its best selling points. Without Freeview recording, this is just a more expensive and less likeable version of the Popcorn Hour A-110.
Edited by Charles Kloet