Pinnacle ShowCenter 200

Pinnacle ShowCenter 200

PinnacleShowcenter.jpgPinnacle’s ShowCenter 200 receives not only audio streams over a wired or wireless network, but digital video (including HD), digital photos, and Internet radio, too. Ultimately, however, we found the device to be hobbled by design shortcomings and DRM-related constraints.

The device sports a bounty of audio-video outputs, but HDTV owners will be disappointed by the absence of a DVI or HDMI port. You can plug digital cameras and storage devices into the handy front-mounted USB 2.0 port.

We connected the ShowCenter 200 to an 802.11g network for our tests. The server software consumed minimal CPU and memory resources on the host PC, and a Sigma Designs RealImage EM 8620 processor handled the decoding duties at the receiving end. We rarely saw more than 3 percent CPU utilization while streaming formats the player supports natively. Video and audio quality were uniformly excellent.

Pinnacle’s MediaManager software makes it a snap to organize the video and photos stored on your hard drive, but Real Networks’ Rhapsody is the only music subscription service it recognizes. Importing iTunes playlists is a clumsy process requiring third-party freeware, and then you’re restricted to importing MP3s because there’s no support for AAC files (the ShowCenter doesn’t support FLAC or OGG files, either). And despite the fact that Yahoo’s music subscription service uses encrypted WMA files, just like Rhapsody, MediaManager won’t import songs from Yahoo’s service at all.

The news about video formats is decidedly better, because the ShowCenter supports both Divx 6 and VOB files ripped from a DVD, as well as DV AVI, WMV, and most other flavors of MPEG.

The interface used to browse content in your living room could be improved. The UI is not entirely intuitive, and it responds sluggishly to commands sent from the remote. The ShowCenter 200 is a big step in the right direction, but we’re still a long way from having perfect video streaming in the living room.
--Michael Brown

Month Reviewed: January 2006

Verdict: 7





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