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Pinnacle ShowCenter for £100

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by BOFH_UK, Oct 18, 2004.

  1. BOFH_UK

    BOFH_UK
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    Hi all, just thought I'd pop this up in case anyone's interested.

    Went into PC World on Friday and found they were doing the current (and soon to be replaced) version of Pinnacle's Showcentre, complete with wireless PCMCIA card, for £100. Being a sucker for a gadget I took the plunge and have been very impressed.

    I should, perhaps, point out that I'm not running this wireless as I've got an existing 10/100 RJ45 network hub in the living room so i can't comment on wireless performance but so far it's been stable, the software for the PC doesn't seem to cause problems and it does a fine job at streaming media and music (including with the latest release internet radio stations) to the TV.

    Any questions, feel free to post and I'll get back to you ASAP. Oh, this was the PC World on Staples Corner in London, I think it's part of the Autumn sale but I'm not sure how long this will be available for (or if it's still available for that matter) or if it's a nationwide offer or just that particular store.
     
  2. stlic

    stlic
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    Hey thats actually a really good price...

    Did the £100 include the wireless card, b/g? How exactly does the player work, does it natively decode divx etc and then display or is your PC doing the decoding (using processor) and then sending a generic, downgraded, picture to the box?

    Whats the quality of the picture like and do you get a nice menu frontend to navigate your files etc. What about widescreen support? Ogg?

    Hey you said your willing to answer questions..:p
     
  3. BOFH_UK

    BOFH_UK
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    Okay... let's have a stab at this, I take no responsibility for the accuracy of any answer contained herein ;)

    Included in the £100 - Showcenter hardware, 802.11b wireless PCMCIA card (LG branded), 5 meter RJ45 network cable (cross-wired), 10 meter RJ45 cable (straight-wired), SCART cable, manual, driver disk (with the latest driver! Gasp, shock, horror etc), power cable, remote, 2xAA batteries.

    Decoding - now I'm into guestimate territory, but as I type this I've got task manager running on this machine (server) and an Invader Zim episode playing on the Showcenter box and... processor usage is, basically, zero for the Pinnacle apps. So I'd guess it's done native on the Showcenter box itself.

    How it works - install software on PC. This comes in two parts, a server app to stream info to the Showcenter box and a playlist/jukebox app to add new media for streaming. It'll try and import your Windows Media Player database if you want to, and importing files is as simple as pointing it at a directory and hitting Start. Once it's done you can create playlists, remove individual files, all the usual stuff you'd do with that sort of application. Fire up the Showcenter box and it'll try to find a DHCP server on your network to get an IP address. If there isn't one, or as in my case you don't want it to use a dynamic address, you can set everything up manually. It then scans your network for any media servers (you can have as many as you like) and gives you a list of all those it found. Pick one with the remote and you're away.

    Picture quality is, naturally, dependent on the source material and how it was encoded in the first place. But the Invader Zim episode I've got playing now is a 90Mb file for about 11 minutes of play time, so not that great, but it looks and sounds fine on the television. Not quite Sky Digital quality but not that far off. It's also surprisingly good with low quality movies, still look poor of course but it IS watchable. Just. It should be pointed out that this box is amazingly well specified in terms of connectors, outputs are Scart, S-video, Composite video and even Component Video connections with two sets of stereo analogue audio connections and both optical and coax digital ports. So the end result will depend on exactly how you connect it up.

    Menu is better than some, and thankfully NOT a windows knockoff, but it's not perfect. It's actually a web page, so you can change the look if you want to and there's a selection of skins included, though I'm not sure how much it lets you change (colours yes, layout ?). Basically a menu on the left for New Media, Music, Movies, Pictures and Settings. Pick one with the remote and you get a menu on the right that lets you choose how you find your media, by Name, Playlist, Genre or Artist as well as any other options (Internet Radio in the Music menu for example). It's pretty quick, though there are the occasional moments when it lags behind slightly it's not horribly bad.

    Widescreen support yep, though again it'll depend on the media you're playing (there's various options to play full screen, original size etc). Ogg I don't believe is supported, for the exact list of what is and isn't, as well as the rest of the product blurb, have a look here: http://www.pinnaclesys.com/ProductPage_n.asp?Product_ID=1481&Langue_ID=7


    One thing I would say, if you're thinking of buying one of these, and I don't just mean a Showcenter but any of these streaming media gimcracks, treat it as a toy first and foremost. I wouldn't have got it at the list price (£200), but at that price point it was a realtively cheap way to stream MP3's to my living room setup and saved me having to go buy a dedicated CD player (my DVD deck is okay but....). I had some serious doubts, and it's never going to replace sticking a DVD in the drive and playing the native file, but for things like Invader Zim, the Simpsons, Futurama etc it's nice to be able to just store every episode there ever was on a hard drive somewhere away from the living room and play them whenever you want. So buy it as a diversion you might not use after the first couple of days and you might just be surprised ;)
     
  4. HMHB

    HMHB
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    Sounds interesting, what is it being replaced with as a matter of interest ?
    Edit:- Just looked on the Pinnacle site and would guess that it's being replaced with the wireless G version. It looks like it could be what I'm looking for - I'd be interested to see how much they sell he wireless G for.
     
  5. BOFH_UK

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    Yeah, that's the major change as far as I know. There's supposed to be some other tweaks as well but I suspect, as most of them will be software based, they'll come to the current model as well.

    One thing if you're looking for a 802.11g setup, remember you can always buy a wireless bridge and plug the RJ45 cable into that. Instant wireless g device. Depending on how much the wireless version goes for it might actually work out cheaper that way.
     
  6. stlic

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