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Linksys DMA 2100 Media Center Extender - Linksys DMA 2100 Media Center Extender
Having finally got everything working and ready to use it was time to delve deeper into the capabilities of the DMA 2100. All navigation is through the provided remote, which will be fairly familiar to anyone who has used a Media Center remote before. It's a little disappointing, though, that compared to Microsoft's own remotes, Linksys' offering feels a little cheap. Its black plastic casing hardly reflects the £180 you'll have to spend to own a DMA 2100, though its layout and size can't really be faulted.
It does have some neat features, though. On first use you'll probably find that some of the buttons don't work, but these can be programmed to duplicate the functionality of another remote. Thus, to program it turn your TV on and off you simply put it into learning mode, point your TV remote at the infrared sensor in the extender remote, choose which buttons you want to program and you're done. It may take a little time to program all the buttons you want, but once completed it works flawlessly.
Setting up recordings of TV programs is simplicity itself, with the supplied guide being one of the best you'll find on any device. It's still slightly annoying that Media Center can't fetch listings without connecting to the Internet, but once configured it'll download new listings as and when required. Other elements of the Media Center navigation are also strong, though of all things the Music Library is probably least intuitive. It provides you with plenty of options for filtering and navigating your collection, but it's presented in a way that's too reliant on album art and feels a little crowded. Still, in the great scheme of things it's not that bad, just not up to the standards set elsewhere.
However, alongside TV and music playback, the most important feature of the DMA 2100 is its ability to playback video content and this is what's likely to attract most users, especially AV enthusiasts. In this respect, Linksys' decision to expand codec support to such formats as DivX/Xvid and h.264 is obviously a welcome one and adds a lot of value to the unit.
In general the playback experience is pretty strong, too. At times there's a short pause between opening a video and it beginning to play, but it's not that big a deal. Another small thing is that you can't fast-forward and rewind Xvid videos in the same way as other formats; though this is an issue with the codec itself so isn't a source of real criticism.
Perhaps the best thing, though, is that unlike an Xbox 360 or a PC, the DMA 2100 is blissfully silent. It is this that really makes the £180 actually worthwhile, since you'll be waiting a long time to find a PC that's as small and silent and capable of doing all the things you need. It's only a shame that the blue LED on the front of the unit is ridiculously bright and annoying; another sign that Linksys isn't so sympathetic to the requirements of a consumer electronics product.