|At a Glance|
|Product||Buffalo LinkTheater Wireless A&G Network Media Player (PC-P4LWAG)|
|Summary||Network Multimedia player with Wireless 802.11a & g support|
• UPnP Compatible
• Viiv Compatible
|Cons||• Limited video codec support
• No HDMI port
• Dull user interface
When I reviewed the Buffalo LinkTheater mini last year (which has since been discontinued), it was the first network multimedia device I'd seen in the sub $100 range. But even though the mini was cheap, I judged it missed the mark by making too many concessions to get the price down. In this review, I'll check out a new entry in the LinkTheater line. The Buffalo A&G Network Media Player can be found for around $210 and has the same form-factor as the mini, but it adds support for wireless networking, additional video codecs, 720p HD capabilities and optical audio.
Figure 1 shows the back panel of the LinkTheater. From left to right, you can see a 10/100 Ethernet port, TOSLINK (optical) digital audio port, right and left analog RCA audio connectors, a composite video port, an S-Video port, and a D4 connector for component HD video (cable included). Also present are two 802.11a/g antennas. But nowhere to be found is an HDMI port, which seems to be a continuing theme for Buffalo media players.
Figure 1: LinkTheater A&G back panel
Supporting 802.11a is an interesting choice by Buffalo, since it's not often used these days. But perhaps Buffalo chose 802.11a to give users the option of a utilizing a less-crowded wireless spectrum, since the range used by 802.11g is getting pretty crowded.
Although wireless use is a major feature of this unit, for my initial checkout I hooked it up with Ethernet. When you can use it, Ethernet is always preferred for moving large video files around. In this mode, the device booted up and automatically acquired an address via DHCP.
I wanted to check out the HD capabilities of the device, but the initial setup has to be accomplished via the analog standard-def output. Once the device is booted up, the configuration screen can be used to change the default output to the HD port (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Changing the output resolution
When running, the product drew about 7 watts of power, and when idle it drew about 6, so it is an efficient little unit. The LinkTheater can get media in several ways. If you have a Buffalo Network Attached Storage (NAS) device such as the LinkStation or a TeraStation on your LAN, the LinkTheater can acquire the data using a Buffalo-unique protocol. The device can also acquire its data using any DLNA server on your LAN.
If you want to bypass the LAN altogether, it can get data from a FAT32 USB drive plugged into a front USB port. Finally, if you have an Intel Viiv certified PC, the LinkTheater can get its data that way. For my initial test, I turned to the included Windows-only CD for software installation. Figure 3 shows the first menu from the installation.