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Mediagate MG-350HD review: Mediagate MG350HD

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The Good Supports multiple file formats. Simple interface. Can stream media wirelessly. Can read direct from USB. Variety of video connections.

The Bad No HDMI. Slow boot cycle. Fiddly wireless setup. Can't copy directly from USB drives. Ordinary remote.

The Bottom Line The Mediagate MG-350HD is an excellent all-in-one home media solution -- as long as you're not timid about installing a hard drive.

9.0 Overall

Review Sections

Design
The Mediagate 350HD is a small form factor media centre -- although it's not running Microsoft's Windows Media Center OS -- that comes in the form of a very small PC case -- think Mac Mini turned on its side and you'd be close. If you're familiar with Mediagate's product lines, the MG-350HD is encased in essentially the same casing as the MG-35, although that unit omits the wireless network capability of the MG-350HD. The sides of the case bear an embossed Mediagate logo on one side and the vent for the unit's hard drive (more on this later) on the other side. The front of the case has a five-way navigation selector above buttons for power and simple playback, which themselves sit above the power, network and hard disc activity lights. It's an unobtrusively small unit (57mm by 150mm by 185mm) that could be tucked into just about any corner, although it also comes with a PS2-style stand if you want to proudly show off your funky tech toy.

The rear of the MG-350HD houses USB host/slave connectors, DVI, S-Video, composite and component video sockets as well as optical and standard stereo output sockets. There's also a single 10/100 Ethernet port and an antennae mount for wireless networking. A wireless antenna is provided with the MG-350HD, but the standard socket means you could install a different antenna if it was needed.

While the MG-350HD offers plenty of visual oomph in its main casing, the same can't be said for the unit's remote control, which is of an ordinary visual design at best. There's no backlighting, and the dual nature of some of the buttons can be more than a tad confusing at first.

Features
The MG-350HD is primarily intended to be an entertainment hub for your video, music and picture files. The first challenge here is getting the files onto the unit; this can be done either via Ethernet or streamed via 802.11b wireless. The MG-350HD can also read media files directly off USB flash drives; our only caveat here is that the placement of the USB connector is quite near both the wireless antenna and DVI port, so some drives might find it a bit of a squeeze fitting in.

Once you've got your data over to the MG-350HD, there's the question of file type support. The MG-350HD natively supports MPG, MPEG, AVI, M2V, DAT, WM9 and VOB files -- so you could potentially dump entire unencoded DVDs onto the unit and they'd play back natively. There's also support inbuilt for a number of high-definition video formats, including HD MP2, MP4 and WMV9. Xvid is also supported, although GMC-encoded Xvid files won't play back. On the music side, MP3, WMA and Ogg Vorbis are supported, while the MG-350's picture capabilities encompass JPG, BMP, GIF and PNG files.

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