So far, then, we’ve established that the DMA 2100 is a pretty solid device. Fine, it isn’t the prettiest beast, but it is small and it’s packed with all the features you need to stream HD video content wirelessly, or over a wired network. It’s predominantly simple to setup and use, with simple guides to deal with all the details. Yet, as you might sense by my tone, there’s a giant ‘But’ lurking behind the sofa, occasionally flicking my ear and generally behaving like an utter git.
Enter, Microsoft! Try not to look too surprised but the main problem with the DMA 2100 is not anything to do with Linksys, but to do with the imperfect nature of the PC and Media Center. That Media Center for Vista has many great features is without doubt, but despite its largely excellent menu system it’s also a frustratingly inflexible program that would sooner impose what it wants than allow users to bend it to their needs.
Thus, every now and then you’ll find a file that you’d like to play, but Media Center won’t play ball. You either won’t be able to see it, or it simply won’t be able to decode it. And, though there’s often a way around any problem through a variety of registry hacks and tricks, these aren’t user friendly solutions.
It is this that really gets to the crux of the problem of the whole Media Center Extender concept. In theory it has endless potential, but it’s held back by Microsoft’s wish to control every aspect of it. So, if you’re knowledgeable and patient and understand the ins and outs of what’s required to get what you want, then you may find the DMA 2100 a device that gives you almost everything you desire. However, those who might even consider themselves well informed will often be left feeling frustrated, confused and even cheated.
Linksys has a done a very good job of translating the Media Center Extender concept into a well featured and powerful device, even if its lack of consumer electronics experience is evident in some of the design. But, for all its qualities the weakness of the DMA 2100 and its cousin, the DMA 2200, still lies within Media Center and the PC itself. If you’re patient and keen you can get a lot out of it, but despite much progress it’s still not a system that’s ready for the average consumer.
Score in detail