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Linksys Media Center Extender DMA2200 review: Linksys Media Center Extender DMA2200

The Linksys Media Center Extender DMA220 is probably the best media streamer we've seen so far. It keeps your living room quiet and PC-free and it's a breeze to set up. It can handle a wide range of codecs, its DVD player will upscale to 1080p and it works wirelessly

Rory Reid
4 min read

Media Center PCs are a great idea. They let you enjoy the videos, music and photos on your hard drive in the comfort of your living room. Since not everyone wants a noisy, unattractive PC in the centre of the home, that's where Media Center Extenders come into play. These devices act as a bridge between your PC and your television. Your PC can live out of sight while the extender, which is far less intrusive, brings all your multimedia files to your TV.


Linksys Media Center Extender DMA2200

The Good

Wireless-N connectivity; easy to install; works as promised.

The Bad

Lacks support for all audio/video formats.

The Bottom Line

The MCE DMA2200 is probably the best media streaming device we've ever tested. It's a shame you can only use it with Windows Vista, but for those who want to send media from their PC to their TV, it's the ideal solution

One of the first extenders to hit market is the £230 Linksys Media Center Extender DMA2200, which promises to deliver where ordinary media streaming devices have failed.

Aesthetically, the DMA2200 has much in common with an ordinary DVD player. While this is no cause for fanfare, it means the device won't look too out of place in your living room. The only clue as to the DMA2200's cleverness is the three aerials protruding from the rear.

At the front, the DMA2200 has a tray-loading DVD drive with a thin LED indicator strip that displays status messages or animations when the system is in standby mode. The drive allows you to watch DVD movies upscaled as high as 1080p -- the same resolution Blu-ray or HD DVD movies.

The DMA2200 works as an upscaling DVD player if your TV supports 720p, 1080i or 1080p resolutions

Round the back, the DMA2200 is festooned with input-output ports. The most important of these include an HDCP-enabled HDMI port, composite and component video, plus Scart and S-Video outputs. If your telly doesn't have one of these sockets going spare, then you've probably been ripped off.

Other connections include a digital coaxial SPDIF port for Dolby surround sound shenanigans, and a USB port. Unfortunately, this is for service purposes only -- you can't use it to access files on a USB key.

The DMA2200 has a lot in common with the Xbox 360. Both serve as Media Center extenders, both play DVDs and both cost around £230. Unlike the Xbox 360, however, the DMA2200 is silent in operation and can operate over wireless Ethernet. Anyone who's still not enamoured by the price might want to consider the DMA2100, which ships without the DVD playback capability.

The Media Center Extender DMA2200's biggest selling point is its ease of use. Setting it up is extremely simple. Just connect it to your router over wired or wireless Ethernet, then to your TV via Scart or HDMI, and install the accompanying software on your PC.

The only difficulties we encountered arrived when our McAfee Firewall software prevented the extender from communicating with the PC. This was quickly remedied, despite Windows Vista throwing a hissy fit and not properly communicating what the actual problem was.

Once up and running, the DMA2200 displays a launcher menu on your TV that gives you the choice of playing a DVD or entering the Media Center interface. The former is self-explanatory and the latter looks exactly like the Windows Media Center interface you find in the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Vista.

Everything is logically arranged so it's easy to find whatever type of media it is you're looking for. Music, for example, can be arranged by artist, genre or you can browse by album art. Our only complaint here is that the menu is sluggish.

The device supports a variety of formats including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, WMV9, XviD and H.264 video codecs. It has audio support for PCM, MP3, Dolby Digital AC-3, WMA and WMA Pro. Picture support includes JPEG, PNG, BMP and GIF. This lot should make most people happy, but there are will certainly be one or two of you annoyed with the exclusion of certain formats.

One of the biggest advantages the DMA2200 has over its rivals is its ability to stream live or recorded TV from your PC to your television. Streaming a TV signal to your TV might sound nonsensical, but it does have its uses -- especially if your TV tuner has access to a different selection of channels, or if you want to play back recorded content. Let's also not forget that most TV tuners let you pause and rewind live TV, which you can't do with ordinary TVs.

The DMA2200 can connect to your PC via wired or wireless Ethernet. Over a wired connection, the system is capable of streaming high-definition video without dropping frames and keeps the audio and video synchronised during long movies -- a common problem in cheaper, less advanced systems.

The wired Ethernet port serves as the most robust way of connecting the DMA2200 to your PC. The USB port on the right is for service purposes only

Wireless is a more attractive proposition for obvious reasons. The DMA2200 supports Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g -- all of which is hit and miss when it comes to streaming high-definition video. Thankfully, it also supports the draft 802.11n standard, which supports wire-like transmission rates.

The maximum data rate is 248Mbit/sec over a range of about 70 metres, but a more realistic figure is somewhere around the 70Mbit/sec mark. You'll need a draft-N router and a PC with a draft-N adaptor to make use this feature, and even then your own mileage will vary depending on the thickness of your walls and interference from other devices on the 2.4GHz spectrum.

We'd recommend using a powerline adaptor instead of wired or wireless connections. These give you convenience of a wire-free networking system with reliability and throughput equivalent to wired methods. In our experience this was by far the most reliable, convenient and inexpensive method of getting the DMA2200 to talk to our test PC.

The DMA2200 is a fantastic piece of kit. Some might say it makes more sense to buy an Xbox 360 but the DMA2200 works wirelessly and is silent. It may not support every AV format known to mankind, but for most of us it's perfectly adequate.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday