Mediagate MG-350 HD
- Easy to use, wide range of formats, runs at up to 1080p
- Hard drive not included, HDMI not included, green coloured interface
A powerful and easy to use high definition media streamer.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
The world of media streamers is ever-evolving, and Mediagate's MG-350 HD is one of the latest models to take advantage of high definition formats. This diminutive little device is primarily designed to get media from your PC to the television, but if you feel like getting your hands dirty installing a hard drive, it can even act as a standalone media server.
The MG-350HD is equipped with a multitude of connection options to stream your media. Easiest of all to use the onboard USB port, rather inconveniently placed on the rear of the unit. From here you can connect USB drives, which can then be browsed on-screen. Alternatively, you can use either a wired or wireless network connection. This is enabled using Windows file sharing, and is fairly simple to set up on a PC. We had no problems getting the connection up and running using a wired router, but when we unplugged the wires and switched to wireless, things were a bit more awkward. The MG-350HD insisted on only connecting via an ad-hoc connection, instead of our preferred infrastructure mode. The unit supports the 802.11g wireless protocol.
It's also possible to install a hard drive in the MG-350 HD (this doesn't come standard) which enables the user to copy files across from a PC using the USB port. This is perhaps the best option of all, as there's no problem with connectivity issues, though you'll obviously need to know your way around hard drives and be confident enough to undertake a little engineering. All the connection options can be accessed from the simplistic, and garish, interface. The Mediagate displays all the available files and folders in a similar manner to Windows Explorer.
In terms of audio visual connectivity there are a good range of options on the MG-350 HD. For video there's DVI, S-Video, Component and Composite. There's no HDMI - the DVI port is the next best thing. Video resolutions are supported all the way up to 1080p with DVI, and 1080i with Component. We had no problems with the pictures output from the unit, and were suitably impressed with the quality of video playback. Audio connections are supported with the usual stereo RCA plugs, coaxial and optical.
The unit's build and design isn't the best we have seen from a media streamer, but serves its purpose well enough. The front of the unit contains a five way directional toggle and a trio of buttons, but nothing more. An LCD screen would have been useful. Mediagate has done a good job otherwise with the unit though, as it is sturdy and reasonably aesthetically pleasing. The same cannot be said for the remote, which is flimsy and generic. The on-screen interface is also a bit of an eyesore, as it is constructed in various shades of green. One area that could really do with better design is the user manual, which apart from being photocopied and stapled together, is lacking in detail.
One vital aspect of any media streamer is the range of supported formats. Mediagate has done a good job at providing a multitude of options across video and audio, and we could find no fault with the playback of any of them. Video is provided for across WMV, ASF, MP4, TS, AVI and MPG. We tried both standard and high definition footage and it all came out perfectly. Like many media streamers, there's no support for H.264 yet. Audio is supported by MP3, OGG, WAV and WMA. There's no support for AAC, however, which will disappoint iPod fans. Pictures can also be browsed on screen, with the MG-350 HD supporting JPG, PNG and BMP.
Overall, Mediagate has done a commendable with the MG-350. It's simple to use and supports a wide range of formats in high quality. It also manages to avoid the many bugs and glitches we commonly associate with high definition streamers. We only wish the hard drive came as standard and the colour of the interface could be changed.
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