Pinnacle ShowCenter

Pinnacle's ShowCenter is a network media player that allows you to stream your digital audio, video, and photos from your PC's hard drive to your TV or stereo system via your home network. It retails for $299 but is available for less online.

Upside: While plenty of network media adapters allow you to play your PC's media files in the more comfortable confines of your living room, the ShowCenter ups the ante with support for high-definition video resolution via its component-video outputs; to date, high-def support in this category has been limited to the Roku HD1000. And the ShowCenter's software is designed to transcode many unsupported media formats (such as WMA, WMV, and DV AVI) into formats it can understand. The ShowCenter can also perform some DVR capabilities, such as pausing live TV and skipping past commercials, when paired with a Pinnacle PCTV tuner card.

Downside: In addition to the TV tuner card needed to make use of the DVR functions, a separate wireless card will be required to get the ShowCenter onto a Wi-Fi network. And the ShowCenter supports only 802.11b cards, not faster 802.11g cards, so high-bandwidth video files will likely suffer from dropouts and stuttering.

Outlook: If you have a lot of ShowCenter-compatible media files on your PC that you're itching to pipe over your home entertainment center, the ShowCenter could be a good option. But we're hoping a future version will include support for 802.11g.