There's no denying it: media streamers are definitely cool devices to have. Playing digital media on a PC is all well and good, but it's palpably better to do so via a TV or projector. Iomega, known to us for its NAS devices (see: the StorCentre ix4-200d, has already churned out a couple of media playing devices, upon which the ScreenPlay Director purports to improve.
The ScreenPlay Director isn't just able to stream media from your network. It also has a built-in hard drive for storing files on it. This comes NTFS formatted, which is good because there's no 4GB file size limit (as found with FAT32), but bad because it means Macs can't read the disk natively. A formatting tool is provided, if needed.
The built-in hard drive also accounts for the ScreenPlay Director's fairly large dimensions of 145mm x 76mm x 185mm. Not that size is a particular problem with a device that will sit beside your TV - portability is hardly a necessity here.
Both 1TB and 2TB models are available, and as the drive isn't (intentionally) user-upgradeable you'll want to pick the right capacity from the off. Pricing isn't too bad though, with the 2TB model costing about £50 more than the £160-odd 1TB device. A USB-B connector on the device facilitates transfer of files to the ScreenPlay Director from a PC.
The additional cost of the ScreenPlay Director's built-in hard drive over a pure media streaming device probably isn't one you'll want to swallow if you were just streaming. However, if you don't want to keep your PC on constantly and don't have a NAS device to store your media, it makes good sense. Plus it makes transporting your media to a friend's house simpler - you don't have to remember to copy files to an external storage device; they're already on your player.
As you'd probably expect, the ScreenPlay Director will output 1080p/24Hz video, if provided with it, at the native frame rate. 1080i, 720p, 576i/p and 480i/p output is also supported, unsurprisingly. Of course resolution is only half the story - it’s no good being able to output to 1080p if you're only playing DVD rips.
Fortunately, the ScreenPlay Director can handle just about every media format going, and certainly all the ones we'd want it to. The full menu is pretty long, but it includes important video formats such as MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, AVCHD and VC-1, and common containers such as .avi, .m4a, and .mkv - subtitles will display, if provided. There's even YouTube access, if you really want to inflict that on yourself.