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‘Multimedia' has gone from being no more than a buzz-word with the mainstream introduction of optical media in the 90s, to being an integral part of most people's ‘digital lifestyle'. Most devices these days are either dedicated to entertainment, or have some form entertainment functionality built-in. You can play video from almost anything, be it your mobile phone, MP3-player, notebook or netbook.
But there are still devices on the market that do not have the ability to play video or music content built-in, like LCD monitors and most televisions. This is where units like the imaginatively-named Traxdata MultiMedia Drive we're looking at today come in. What these multimedia drives enable you to do is play various forms of multimedia on your TV or monitor without needing a computer. However, they are in an arguably awkward position in the market, as I'll explain below.
While Multimedia drives offer more video connectivity than most notebooks, they are far less flexible in the formats they support. Basically, the ones the drive comes with when you purchase it are the ones you'll be stuck with for its lifespan - unless the manufacturer has made the unit firmware upgradeable. The scenario in which this is most problematic is if a new format or container comes onto the market and rapidly gains widespread support, like the relatively recent rise of MKV (which to my knowledge no current multimedia drive supports).
Also, you will already need to own a PC (or know a kind person who does) in order to transfer digital media onto the Traxdata drive. Now the argument might crop up that you're then better off just hooking your PC up to your television in the first place. To counter this, the Traxdata (unlike many cheap laptops) offers digital connectivity, uses less electricity and almost definitely gives you more storage. But considering all the limitations, this is the crux of the issue, really: for most buyers, a device like this should not be significantly more expensive than an external hard-drive without these features, but it is.
For now though, let's get to the product at hand. Taking the MultiMediaDrive out of its packaging reveals its reassuring weight, which is due to the use of metal in large parts of its chassis (only the front, back, a small strip at the top and the vertical stand are constructed of plastic). This contributes to both a stronger case, and one that remains nicely cool after long periods of use.
You can also forget about placing this unit horizontally, as the stand is permanently attached, and removing it will void your warranty. The idea that this drive is meant to be placed upright is enforced by the unit bulging out towards the bottom - a bit like a pear.