An audio-only digital media receiver, the Omnifi DMS1W streams music from your PC's hard drive and the Internet to your home entertainment system. Available for less than $200, the Omnifi is distinguished by its superior integration of streaming media services such as Rhapsody and Virgin Radio and its ability to play copy-protected songs purchased from Microsoft's online music partners.
Cosmetically, the 2.16-by-11-by-6.77-inch (HWD) DMS1W might be mistaken for a downsized A/V receiver. The black unit has both a front-panel display and a TV-based user interface, either of which can be used for music navigation. The Omnifi's well-designed remote control makes it exceptionally easy to navigate long track lists, with Page Up, Page Down, and Jump buttons that skip several pages at once. The Omnifi also has a full assortment of front-panel buttons, which are a godsend when the remote is missing in action.
The Omnifi's networking options are purely external. Depending upon your network configuration (wireless or wired), you connect either the D-Link 802.11b wireless adapter or the Ethernet adapter--both of which are bundled with the DMS1W--to the unit's rear-panel USB port. (The otherwise identical sister model, the, doesn't include the wireless adapter.) The DMS1W doesn't have a digital audio output like the ones you'll find on Slim Devices' , so the standard RCA analog stereo output will have to suffice. The unit's video output (for displaying its menus on a TV screen) is enabled via composite and S-Video jacks. (Those looking for more options--including 802.11g support, video streaming, and local storage options--may wish to wait for the DMS2, due out in early 2005.)
Setting up the Omnifi was straightforward, but as with most digital media receivers, it was far short of plug and play. Two main applications, SimpleCenter 2.0 server and Rhapsody, must be installed on the PC's hard drive, and the software and Omnifi's firmware required downloadable upgrades for optimal performance. Finally, we configured the Omnifi for connection to our wireless network and connected it to our A/V receiver.
The Omnifi has almost all the mainstream bases covered when it comes to file support: PLS, M3U, and ASX playlists are compatible, as are home-ripped MP3 and WMA files. It's also compatible with files purchased from any Microsoft-affiliated online music store bearing the PlaysForSure logo: MSN Music, to name just a few. Unlike Apple's , however, it can't stream AAC files purchased from the ., , and