It's all very well using your PC to download album after album, stream music videos and film trailers or log on to BBC3, but it's not quite as nice as putting your feet up in the front room.

Enter the ShowCenter 200, which forms a physical connection with your TV and/or stereo so you can play music you've downloaded from an online store or are streaming over a broadband connection.

There's the further option of adding the ShowCenter to an existing Wi-Fi network, and Pinnacle provides a screw-in antenna to effect this. Unfortunately, going wireless gives you fewer options when positioning the box, and you might not be able to tuck it away somewhere inconspicuous.

Whether you opt for an Ethernet or Wi-Fi partnering, setting up the ShowCenter isn't totally straightforward, but it's not especially tricky, either. First, you must install the software and ensure your network is set up for printer and filesharing - the software explains how to go about this. Then it's a simple matter of attaching the cables.

The ShowCenter software is the critical bit. It provides easy access to your content via its Media Manager, plus plenty of control over how music and video files are handled - and a remote control for the full couch potato effect. You can specify MP3 imports of qualities ranging from 96Kb to 320Kb with the default being 192Kb.

If you've got a TV tuner card, it'll play the resulting files and, looking to the future, it offers support for HDTV (high-definition TV).

ShowCenter 200: Specs

  • Mpeg2 hardware decoder
  • USB 2.0 port
  • WLAN antenna
  • Scart cable
  • remote control
  • Ethernet cable
  • Mpeg2 hardware decoder
  • USB 2.0 port
  • WLAN antenna
  • Scart cable
  • remote control
  • Ethernet cable

OUR VERDICT

The ShowCenter has no hard disk and doesn't store any content; it's merely a central connection point. Depending on the physical layout of your home it could prove a useful go-between for the music, photos and video stored on your PC that you'd rather enjoy from the comfort of your sofa on a nice large TV screen and with proper speakers.

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