The problem with devices allow-ing you to stream music from your PC to a receiver somewhere in your home is that they're often expensive or too hard to use. This makes Netgear's 10/100 Ethernet and wireless (802.11b)-equipped MP101 seem like a breath of fresh air.
It's incredibly simple to install - under five minutes if there's no wireless encryption, 10 minutes max if there is - but it costs a mere $279. It even looks good, finished in silver with a high-contrast white-on-black LCD display at the front.
All you need do to get the MP101 going is install the media server software on your PC, let it scan the drive for music, plug in the box, switch it on and let it do the rest. The MP101 will find the wireless network and connect automatically if there's no encryption turned on (if there is, you can enter the settings manually). Then the MP101 will request an IP address and find the server. From there on, you can sit back and select MP3 or WMA (Windows Media Audio) tunes with the remote control.
Your music has to be tagged correctly to make it easy to browse. There didn't seem to be an obvious way just to look through files and folders, but apart from that you needn't touch the instruction manual.
The MP101 can also stream music directly from the Internet via a 60-day trial of the vTuner (www.vtuner.com) Internet radio service. You simply register at vTuner's special Netgear site (www.radio1234.com) and within Netgear's server software go to the vTuner section and set up your preferences online - browsing through stations by genre, country, etc. Initially, 50 pre-programmed stations are fed to the MP101 but stations can easily be added or deleted. This works a treat, but the biggest drawback may be that the PC running the server software has to be online whenever you want to listen to any music from the service.
The MP101 is simple to use, truly affordable and delivers on all its promises. It doesn't offer video streaming functionality like Pinnacle's excellent (and more expensive) ShowCenter (reviewed page 26, June 2004 issue) but if you're interested in liberating digital music from your PC, this could be the ticket.
In brief:Netgear MP101Easy to set up and use and ideal for streaming music around your home.
Price: $279 (1 year warranty)
Phone: 1800 502 061