REVIEWS / Media Centre Reviews

Régis Jehl
Using a media centre is supposed to be easy: fill it with music, movies and photos, plug it into your TV, sit back, relax and enjoy the show. But with so many models available now, it's hard to know which will suit you best. Do you <em>really</em> need HD? And what about connecting to your home network? Find the right product for you with our media centre reviews!

We use two separate tests: the DigitalVersus test and the DivX test. Each method involves a battery of videos, photos and music encoded in a variety of formats. We make sure that HD videos play as well as high-res photos. We also use DVDs and Blu-rays (RIP and ISO).

We also check the interface, the options available and the remote control, as well as extra features like network connectivity, Wi-Fi and the screen to make sure they're all useful and well managed.

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With only a few rare exceptions, all media centres decode high-speed HD video with ease. The same's true for HD audio formats, with the best examples in mid-range and high-end products.
 
That said, no two media centres are alike. Still today too many are lagging behind when it comes to reading HD movies via home networks and too few brands are making the effort to polish their interfaces. Because, now that file format compatibility has grown to suit most people's needs, it's time for brands to get cracking at their interfaces.
 
We're impressed with the progress jukebox systems have made in the past year. It's now quick and easy to find info about movies and the visual styles are often tasteful and fun with movie posters, summaries, cast info, and so on. And if you know your way around your media centre you can even get information about your music to display alongside your favourite albums and tracks.
 
A few Android media centres have even sprouted up, but the concept still needs time to mature. These hasty, quick-get-it-out releases have often done little more than ride the wave of popularity that Google's operating system has witnessed; they've rarely hit their mark and some have even prompted big-name brands to bail out of the sector altogether. We're hoping to see some more developed models hit the market in coming months—ones that are better thought-out with a version of Android that's better optimised for use on a TV.
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