Linksys Extender Review Part 3: Wrap-up

I’ve
previously stated that v2 Extenders are too expensive
to really make a
splash and I think that still stands. 
While the Linksys DMA2100 and DMA2200 both are available online for less
than their MSRP, when you consider that multiple purchases are needed in
several occasions to make full advantage of the whole home Media Center
experience it is a very pricey way to go when you add up all the issues.

File format support, while greatly improved over previous
Extender offers still isn’t where it needs to be.  The simple fact is that the majority of
customers looking at Extenders are specific format demands, if this device
can’t meet those it’s not going to go over well.  For the rest of the market, they just want to
play the content they have.  Changing
FourCC codes of their files and/or re-encoding is not a step they should have
to take.

I’d give the Linksys
DMA2200 a 6/10
.  It still needs a lot
of work, and I really feel at this point with it being a second generation
product that these issues shouldn’t exist. 
For simply extending the “core” Media Center experience (minus videos),
the DMA2200 is fantastic.  However, it
still lacks in providing format support to bring the device to the level it
should be.

If you’re in the market for a small form factor Extender for
the bedroom or alike where 5.1 audio is not the main issue (for AVI/WMV files), the Linksys DMA2100
or DMA2200 are perfect for you.  If you are
looking to get your loud/hot Media Center PC or Xbox 360 out of your living
room the DMA2100/DMA2200 may not be your best option at this point if you are a power user.

I’d really like to see Extenders
integrated into future Blu-ray Disc Players
.  I believe this could generate additional
revenue streams for manufactures by offering the Extender software download for
a small price.  The hardware that many
players are built off of already supports everything it needs, so I believe
this is truly the next step.

Other than that, Linksys needs to offer a firmware update to
fix the video format capability issues ASAP. 
These v2 Extenders were delayed and delayed leaving the Xbox 360 as the
only choice, now v2 Extenders are starting to become available with so many
issues that the wait was hardly worth it.

Thanks to Microsoft, Linksys and everyone at Edelman!

Pros and Cons of the
Linksys DMA2200 (6/10)

Pros

  • Solid design in small package
  • Completely slient
  • Integrated Upconverting DVD player
    a plus
  • Supports HD streaming
  • Easy setup and installation

Cons

  • No HDMI cable included
  • Lackluster file format support
  • Doesn’t output AC3 within AVI
    files
  • Doesn’t output WMV9 Pro as AC3
  • Transitions/animations clunky
  • Horrible included remote
  • Upconverting DVD only so-so
    quality

Related:

Linksys
Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

Linksys
Extender Review Part 2: Extender Experience

17 thoughts on “Linksys Extender Review Part 3: Wrap-up

  1. I received my DMA2200 yesterday and I agree with most of your comments, Chris. The major “pro” missing from your list above is that the unit is completely silent – making it a viable option for the bedroom TV.

    A shame that the menu transitions are so slow – could a firmware fix sort this one out? Surely the processing power required to do this job isn’t that huge? Perhaps I’m wrong…

  2. Chris
    Great review. I just completed building a new HTPC with visa home and have been enjoying MC for about a month now. I am struggling deciding on an extender for my second tv. My choices are use another computer and share media, get an xbox or get DMA2200. After your review DMA2200 is out of picture.

    Since i have a second PC which is also powerful(currently running xp), but i can load vista and share the media contents between the two vista PC’s – is that a better option compared to xbox. I am not a gamer and not interested in playing games that much.

    What is your suggestion?

    Thanks.

  3. Matthias: I just added silent as a pro, your right that clearly got left off the list. 🙂

    As for the transitions, it is unlikely they can do much. I believe the processor in these units are 200Mhz, clearly got as fast as they need to be for transitions.

    Suresh: Is the second TV connected to 5.1 speakers or are you just outputting to internal speakers? If 5.1 audio isn’t a huge deal and you can live without transition animation, then I’d actually suggest the Linksys. Other than that, I’d got with an Xbox 360 but understand video codec support is worse on the Xbox Extender and it’s got a fan.

  4. Chris

    Yes the second Tv is part of a HT system with a yamaha receiver and 5.1 speakers. I watch lot of indian movies from my vista pc (most in avi and VOb formats). I want the same functionality that I have in my basement Vista Pc, upstairs also. That is why I am kind of thinking twice on investing $350 on an xbox…does sharing media between two vistaPc’s have any pitfalls?

    Here is my current setup.Basement – vista home premium – optical audio to pioneer receiver(5.1), video from pc using DVI to panny projector(1080i). Pc has hard wired ethernet to my router upstairs. Vista Pc has E6550/3gb RAM/EVGA 8600 512MG video card.

    Upstairs – 32inch tv,yamaha 5.1 setup,can run ethernet cable from router to this area. Missing is a media PC/extender.

    Second Pc I have sitting idle has AMD 64 X2 4000/2Gb RAM with onboard nvidia quadro video with DVI output.

  5. Thanks for your detailed review, particuarly the detailed chart on compatible formats. Saved me a lot of hassle as you covered exactly my plan–get the noisy 360 out of the living room and replace it with a quieter media extender.

    One thing I didn’t see (maybe I missed it)…

    Did you test if the Linksys Extender can actually read videos from other sources (without Media Center), such as a Windows Home Server, Windows shared folder, or a Windows Media Player shared library?

  6. Chris –

    I have been following your observations regarding the Linksys boxes…

    Can’t say I argue with any points, and your concept for a Blu-Ray/extender combo is nothing short of brilliant.

    I currently run 2 X360s and would love to shut off the jet engines. I am an airline pilot and sometimes I think I left the plane running.

  7. Chris: Great review! Thanks so much. I have been looking at the linksys extenders for the bedroom but for the price I think I am going to get an Xbox 360 Arcade. The form factor and the fan are not enough of to overcome the fact that the linksys is more money for a little less functionality (I am a gamer).

    Suresh: I would recommend the Xbox 360. You can start it directly as a media center extender and bypass the games. All of my VOB’s I have converted to DVR-MS files using VideoRedo software (takes about 4-5 min per movie) and they work GREAT on my Xbox 360. For the AVI files I use Transcode360 which is the next best alternative until the extender gets the codec support that the 360 actually already has.

  8. I hope that your thank you to Microsoft and Linksys was simply for the unit they provided for your review; and not the delivery of yet another media center product that underdelivers on its promises, and leaves all of us MCE fans realizing that we will never get what we want out of this platform.

  9. I concur with your assessment. My expectation would be that I was buying the xbox 360 without the gaming capability (i.e., the MC extender portion of it). I was rather surprised to see how clumsy the screen navigation has suddenly gotten. Also, every time I navigate to a specific folder of videos, it reboots on me. Not good.

    But, it does get the basics right – we can now successfully stream HD tv shows without the boeing jet (i.e. xbox 360) idling under the TV.

  10. Guys

    Sorry to ask this again…may be this is not as complicated as I think it is. But can i share the media contents(mainly movies) that I have on one vista PC….with another Vista Pc in my home…both connected by wired ethernet through my router. Or the only solution is spending $300-$350 on one of these extenders.

  11. I reciently purchased a DMA-2100 for the bedroom and have it hardwired to my front room Vista HTPC. I use it for watching TV and the usual MC stuff, and we love it. It is quick, plays very well and sounds great. We have the full menu animations and its quick. We have a 5.1 sound system and it works quite well all around. The biggest issue we had with it is the blue LED light being too bright for the bedroom. But, a little piece of electrical tape, which matches the box, solved that problem.

    I am not sure about all the testing that was mentioned in this article, but for general MC stuff, this box is great. I am planning on getting more of them…

  12. Thanks for the review Chris, certainly warned me off of buying one. This device certainly sounds like a bust so far.

    Maybe after a few updates of thie firmware, it will become more usable.

  13. I ordered the 2100 from Amazon and just installed it today. Based on the online reviews, I was really hoping for a bit better experience given the price. For just streaming tv, it seems to be sufficient. Even with the transitions turned off, it is a bit more sluggish than the 360. If I hadn’t been using my 360 as an extender, I would probably think more highly of it. Now that I’ve used the Linksys for some time, I would have preferred to spend the extra money on another 360 to solely use as an extender. The biggest problem for me is that I also write code. I have an IP Camera viewer MCE plugin in progress. It currently works fine on the 360 where I get 1 frame update every second. However, with the Linksys, it updates every 5 seconds. Apparently decoding JPEGS is taxing the system. Looks like I’ll have to convert the JPEGS to a WMV stream and hopefully that’ll work.

  14. Suresh: You can share videos (or any kind of media) between PCs without an needing an Extender. If you have two Vista PCs both with Media Center, then all you need to do is share the folder on one PC and then go into the Library setup on the other PC within Media Center.

  15. I have now used both the 2100 and the 2200 extenders and will not buy or recommend another one for a primary HDTV. The colors are too soft, navigating the UI is just painful and the DMA2200 DVD player is a joke. They are grossly overpriced for they actually do. There is something just wrong about spending $350.00 a DMA2200 when it can’t compete with a $50.00 Walmart special DVD player. If you are set on one of these, do yourself a favor and either re-encode your movies so you can stream them to a 2100, buy a separate DVD player or use IR repeaters and run long video cables to a hidden closet where the 360’s can scream as loud as they want.

    The only thing all these extenders do is leave me dreaming of the day there is actually a softsled solution. Everything about a extender is a nothing more than a huge compromise. I don’t care about cost, nor do the people I work with. We want the overall functionality of the mediacenter vision and it’s just not there yet for the average consumer. So close but so far away!

  16. Again, a reiteration on the clumsiness of the v2 extender. The 360, while like a mini hurricane, is much better at all things extender and through the Xbox plays about every mp4/divx/xvid you can through at it flawlessly. Then there’s the video rentals and that small little think called gaming on it as well.

    I’ve had issues with the 2200 since it got here. Remote is junk, animations need to be turned off to get a speedy response time. DVD player quality seems to be pretty crappy if you ask me as well.

    Lastly, my recently instructed wife has aquired quite the torrent habit for Screeners…All I can say is Divx support isn’t great and my balls thank the FourCC Changer programmer for his utility. It works very well.

    …anxiously awaiting my RROD Xbox’s return.

  17. HI Chris,

    How do you rate between the Xbox 360 extender capability and PS3? PS3 has the advantage of having the BD player as well plus it also supports as MCE.

    Also, the DMA 2200 runs Wireless-N, the rest only B/G. Worst still i heard X-box doesnt come with Wireless!

    Am confused on what to do now. I wanna stream wireless and i want 5.1 sound as i’m connecting to the Onkyo Amp.

    Any suggestions? Can Xbox360 play all files formats which DMA can play? Also, whats the plan for Xbox to support Wireless-N?

    Goks

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