Iomega ScreenPlay DX review

17 May 2011

All the features you could ask for, but it’s severely let down by a half-baked interface

The ScreenPlay DX comes with a Qwerty remote control that makes it easy to surf the web from the comfort of your sofa
Price when reviewed: 
160inc VAT
3

On paper, Iomega’s new media streamer ticks every box. Hook it up to your home network, via either Gigabit Ethernet or the bundled wireless adapter, and it will pick up and play audio and video files in every popular format, including MKV and VOB.

With up to 2TB of internal storage – and three USB sockets to add more – it can store a huge local library of its own, and can even stream local files to other devices on your network (the cheaper TV Link DX model doesn’t support local storage, but is otherwise the same).

There’s a built-in web browser with support for not only YouTube, but also BBC iPlayer – something most such devices lack – and a compact Qwerty remote control, making it easy to search and browse the web from the comfort of your sofa. HDMI, composite and component outputs, alongside optical S/PDIF, enable the DX to connect to any home-entertainment setup (although the analogue outputs support only 2.0 audio). If you don’t need live TV and PVR features, it could be a viable alternative to a Windows Media Center PC, for a fraction of the price.

Unfortunately, it’s let down by the user interface. The most basic menu operation – browsing available media – involves pedantically stepping through a list of filenames one by one. There’s no search function, no page-skip, no option to sort by anything other than alphabetical order and no support for datestamps, making it a pain to locate your latest downloads.

Most irritatingly, if you rest your cursor on a file for more than a second, a preview automatically starts playing at full volume. You can’t disable this feature, but you can escape it by switching to the grid view. Here, though, the ScreenPlay DX failed to extract thumbnails from any of our movie files, leaving us staring at a screen full of blank rectangles.

The frustrations continued when we tried out BBC iPlayer. It’s presented in the regular web-based interface, but steering a mouse pointer around with the remote’s four-way rocker is a horrible way to navigate links and access iPlayer’s playback controls. You can alleviate the pain by plugging in a real USB mouse, but this erodes the convenience of the all-in-one remote. Worse, we found iPlayer video streams would occasionally freeze, and nothing we tried would bring them back to life – an unacceptable failing for an entertainment device.

With better software, the ScreenPlay DX could be a winner – and it is still under development. Our review sample picked up a firmware update as soon as it was powered on, and even now the web browser is described as a beta. But there’s no guarantee that the DX will ever achieve its potential, especially since Iomega already has a new flagship media appliance in the pipeline: the Iomega TV with Boxee, expected to launch in the next few months.

So, if you’re considering investing in the ScreenPlay DX, you’d be well advised to make your decision on the strength of how it performs right now. And sadly, in its current state it’s nowhere near slick enough to earn a place in your living room.

Details

Price ex VAT £133
Price inc VAT £160
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 3

Display

Display type None
Screen size N/A
Resolution N/A

Physical

Dimensions width 200
Dimensions depth 156
Dimensions height 44
Dimensions 200 x 156 x 44mm (WDH)

Audio format support

MP3 support yes
WMA support yes
AAC support yes
OGG support yes
FLAC support no
ATRAC support no
WAV support yes
ASF support yes
AIFF support no
Other audio codec support DTS, M4A, PCM

Video format support

DivX support yes
XviD support yes
H.264 support yes
WMV-HD support yes
WMV support yes
AVI support yes
MP4 support yes
Other video codec support RMVB(SD)

Ports and communications

Remote control? yes
UPnP media server? yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Ethernet interface yes
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
RCA (phono) outputs 2
3.5mm audio jacks 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0