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Welland MediaBank (ME-747AP-SI)
- Build quality, compact size, easy installation
- Slow startup, interface overly basic, remote control could be better
If you're after an affordable way to store your photos and videos, and would also like to view them on a TV without any fuss, the Welland MediaBank ME-747AP-SI represents good value for money. However, a few niggling flaws have rendered it less than perfect.
Price$ 105.00 (AUD)
Welland's MediaBank ME-747AP-SI is an external IDE/SATA hard drive enclosure that has been specifically designed with the multimedia lover in mind. If your PC is in danger of exploding from an abundance of music and video files, or you just want an easy way to store and transport your DVDs, the MediaBank offers a fairly affordable solution.
It is important to note however, that the ME-747AP-SI does not come equipped with its own hard drive – this will need to be purchased and installed separately. Otherwise, the sales package includes everything you need to connect an external HDD to your PC or television (apart from the requisite screwdriver – it's time to dust off your toolbox we're afraid). In addition to the MediaBank enclosure, the sales package contains a USB cable, power adapter, video and audio cables, a CD ROM with firmware upgrades, and a remote control with batteries included.
We had no qualms about the build quality of the ME-747AP-SI, which we found to be both attractive and sturdy. The heavy aluminium casing is very well crafted for a device in this price range; sporting a matte black finish complemented with tasteful silver buttons (a reversed colour scheme, with silver body and black buttons, is also available). At 210x125x38mm, the MediaBank is reasonably compact; handy if you're planning a movie-marathon at a mate's house. The built-in fan is a little on the weedy side, but combined with the aluminium casing, it should get the job done. For connectivity, the ME-747AP-SI comes equipped with USB 2.0, VGA, S-Video, and audio and video ports.
For testing, we fitted the ME-747AP-SI with an 80GB Seagate Barracuda (7200rpm) HDD. Once the hard drive had been inserted, the tray slotted snugly back into the enclosure, with a pair of miniature screws to keep it in place. A word of warning: despite feeling quite secure, the tray has an alarming tendency to slide completely out of the enclosure if the screws aren't attached. (We very nearly sent our MediaBank's innards clattering to the floor while carrying it from one room to another.) All up, the procedure should be relatively straightforward, even if you're unaccustomed to PC tinkering.
Once everything has been assembled, the MediaBank ME-747AP-SI can be connected directly to your PC (the drive is recognised as a USB mass storage device; thus negating the need to install any software). A blue LED light indicates that the drive has been recognised, at which point you're free to copy and paste your files from one drive to the other.
In addition to being a storage device, the ME-747AP-SI can be used to preview files on a TV (composite and S-Video cables are both supported). After connecting the unit to your television and following a few prompts, the Quick Media Play menu appears. From here, you can choose to view Photo, Music, Video and File libraries. The device will playback most MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 file formats straight out of the box, though it fails to recognise certain MPEG-2 AVI files, as well as RMVBs (the format developed by Real Network). Meanwhile, music and photo support is relegated to MP3s and JPEGs.
While it remains perfectly functional, we found the navigation software to be a little on the basic side (there is no option to display track/chapter duration, for example). Meanwhile, the mediocre remote control only made matters worse. Its limited range severely hampers its responsiveness; forcing you to aim the remote with an inordinate amount of precision. This can quickly prove frustrating and drags down the overall quality of the device. (To be fair, we did notice a gradual improvement after plenty of hands-on practice, but it remains an annoyance all the same.) On another note, we also experienced some long and unnecessary delays when powering up the device and changing directories – not cool, Welland.
All up, the Welland MediaBank ME-747AP-SI is a semi-decent option for those who want to keep their multimedia files in one place. Despite a few limitations, it remains affordable enough for us to recommend.
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