Moving at last to the rather key matter of what sort of performance levels the MM200 has to support its prodigious functionality, it’s a relief to kick off in fine style with some seriously assured DVD playback. Or rather, ripped DVD playback.
For while playing discs back through the unit’s disc tray certainly yields sharp, crisp, colourful, contrasty results, motion occasionally seems to suffer ever-so-slightly with judder. Whereas if you first rip a DVD to the hard drive and then play the ripped HDD version, that seems to deliver just the same high levels of detail, impressive freedom from noise and rich colour palette as the DVD deck but without the accompanying judder issues.
It’s worth adding here, too, that the MM200’s upscaling processing seems unusually effective with a relatively high-grade source like Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD, definitely making the picture look sharper without introducing significant amounts of nasty new video noise.
While we’re on the subject of DVD playback, the MM200’s built-in DTS and Dolby Digital audio decoders deserve kudos, too, for serving up their multi-channel audio platter with no serious timing or distortion issues.
The MM200 is even a respectable CD player, something I really hadn’t expected given that it’s basically a PC with (admittedly hefty) home entertainment knobs on. I’m not talking about truly hi-fi levels of clarity here, but there definitely isn’t as much sibilance, jitter and off timing than I usually experience with PC CD playback.
As a TV tuner/PVR, the MM200 is also a real success. Its recordings, as we’d hoped, look practically indistinguishable from the original broadcasts, which is really all you need to know about them. And as a tuner it delivers digital broadcasts that look less noisy and artificial but more sharp than they do on many standalone digital TVs.
If you’re a true multimedia fiend and/or you see your future firmly allied to DVD rather than Blu-ray, the MM200 is a great, versatile and startlingly affordable solution to your disc and multimedia storage problems. The only thing that we suspect might put our readers off is the MM200’s lack of Blu-ray and HD pass-through support. Needless to say, once the Blu-ray capable MM300 model is available we’ll be all over it like a rash as soon as humanly possible.