Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
- Poor manual, demands a tech-savvy user
The Mediagate MG-35 is a combination portable hard disk and network media player. It works well; however, a relatively poor manual and tricky setup demands a tech-minded user to make the most of it.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
While most media devices on the market either include a hard disk for storing content locally, or are able to play files stored on a networked PC, the Mediagate MG-35 has a bet each way. It's both a network media player and a portable storage device rolled into one. It's designed to pipe video and audio content across a network and play it back on a TV or home stereo system, but can also be used as a portable hard disk to move files around or play media stored on its internal drive.
The Mediagate doesn't ship with a hard disk, so you'll have to factor the cost of storage into the buying price. The unit takes a regular 3.5" IDE drive. Installing the drive should be no problem for anyone comfortable with opening up their PC case; however, those less experienced with technology may need some help from a more knowledgeable friend or relative. Plugging in the drive takes a couple of minutes, and then you're free to connect up the MG-35 to a PC via USB to format the disk and start transferring media across. The device handles many video formats, including MPEG-1, -2 and -4, DivX and XviD. It can play MP3, OGG, WMA and WAV audio files and display JPEG images. There's no support for progressive scan playback, however.
Though the USB connection is handy, the MG-35 also sports an Ethernet port and includes support for DHCP. The Mediagate doesn't ship with any software other than a USB driver for Windows 98, and instead relies on the user being able to tweak Windows settings to set up IP addresses and shared folders. The advantage of using this method is that the Mediagate doesn't specifically require Windows and will work with Linux and Mac OS.
The manual provides step-by-step instructions to help the user through the process. It's poorly written and the instructions can get confusing.
The rear panel serves up a reasonable range of connectors, including coaxial, composite and S-Video outputs, and S/PDIF and RCA audio plugs. The white front face has power, play, stop and navigation buttons, while a small silver and black remote control provides primary access to the machine's functions.
One of the major advantages of the MG 35 is its small footprint; the base measures 9 x 14cm, and the unit stands just 20cm tall. It sits neatly beside a TV in even the most cramped lounge room, and is a solid offering for anyone comfortable with adding a drive to the box and then coercing it to talk with other PCs on a home network. Anyone less comfortable with technology should steer clear, though.
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