The fact that the MM200 is also a fully functioning PC is, of course, vastly significant, too. For if you close down the gloriously simple and slick Vista front end – which is designed to make managing and accessing your AV sources as easy as possible – you get to a normal PC desktop from where you can do most things you would on a normal PC, including accessing the Internet and sending emails. In other words, the MM200 finally turns your TV into the true multimedia gateway that the more geeky of you (where geeky is intended as a compliment!) have always wanted it to be.
The only rider here would be that the MM200 isn’t really powerful enough as a PC to handle today’s demanding PC games. For that you’re advised to hold off for the Blu-ray packing MM300 model due next year.
Obviously if you’ve got a PC in the MM200, you need a way to access that PC functionality. And so it is that as well as a reasonably standard remote control most people will use for day to day use of the Vista front end, you get a wireless keypad for when you’re playing around with the PC desktop ‘back end’.
This keypad is not, truth be told, as well built or attractive as the MM200 probably deserves it to be, but it does the job well enough. In fact, if I have any issue regarding the MM200’s interface, it’s with the remote control. For this uses three separate circles of buttons, one directly above the other, and in doing so makes it too easy to use the buttons in once circle when you meant to use the buttons in another. For instance, I lost count of how many times I meant to choose the ‘OK’ button from the centre of the middle circle of buttons but instead accidentally chose the ‘back to the main Windows screen’ button at the centre of the lowest circle of buttons.
While I’m on the subject of operating foibles, I also have to say I wasn’t too chuffed to find the power button on the MM200’s remote control also turning on and off my Xbox 360! And finally, I found the system’s approach to aspect ratios a bit weird, having to fiddle around with the aspect ratio buttons on both the MM200 and the screens I tried the system with before I got a satisfactory result. And even then little black bars were visible down the side of widescreen presentations on our reference Pioneer TV.
These tiny black bars, I should stress, aren’t actually anything like as annoying as you might think; in fact I didn’t even notice them at all initially. But anyway, they don’t seem much of a price to pay for the addition of full PC functionality to your AV experience. Converting a PC desktop environment into an AV signal format such as 1080p is never as easy as you’d think it would be.