Like all of Pinnacle's ShowCenter products, the Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD enables rich multimedia content stored on your PC or network to be enjoyed on your living room TV without the need for messy wires, keyboards or mice.

The ShowCenter 250HD adds HD TV capabilities, allowing compatible content to be displayed on your HD TV set in resolutions of up to 1080i.

The Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD itself is blank save for a solitary power button – it's operated entirely from the supplied remote control. There's no internal storage space. Instead, content is streamed to the device over your home network either from a UPnP media server or from your PC.

Alternatively you can attach storage devices to the Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD directly via the USB port.

If you're running Windows Vista or an up-to-date version of Windows Media Player, then there's no software to install on your PC as long as it is set up to share local media. The Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD will automatically detect your media library and allow you to browse through it.

SCART, composite and s-video ports allow standard definition equipment to be used, while high-definition content is delivered via analogue component video. Unfortunately, no HDMI connection is provided with the Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD. Wired and wireless 802.11g network adaptors are built-in - a wired or HomePlug network connection is recommended for reliable HD streaming.

For all its attempts at simplicity, the Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD isn't quite as easy to use as it could be. Products like this should 'just work' and too often, in the face of a problem, the ShowCenter just doesn't.

If the Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD is configured for a video mode not supported on your TV, you won't be able to get a picture, regardless of how many times you cycle through the output options. Neither is it as easy as it should be to connect to a wireless network. With a device like the Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD, such procedures really should be as painless as possible.

NEXT PAGE: format support, playback quality and our expert verdict > >

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The Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD can cope with DRM-protected downloads as well as HD content in MPEG 4 AVI or WMV formats. MPEG 4 AVI files are limited to 720p and other formats, such as the popular Matroska mkv format, aren't supported at all. It's important to check compatibility with your media before purchase.

Playback quality is generally good, although not quite as good as when viewed directly on your PC's monitor. And some movie formats appeared slightly stretched on playback due to the Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD's lack of easy aspect-ratio adjustments.

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Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD: Specs

  • Supported video formats: Windows Media 9, WMV-DRM, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVI, DivX, XviD
  • Supported HD video formats: MPEG 2 (720p and 1080i), MPEG 4 AVI (up to 720p) and WMV (720p and 1080i)
  • Supported music formats: mp3, WMA, WMA Pro, WMA lossless, WMA-DRM, PCM WAV
  • Supported image formats: JPEG, PNG: SCART, Composite video, S-video and Component video connections
  • built-in wireless 802.11g and wired 100Mbit Ethernet
  • infrared remote control
  • 298x230x40mm
  • 1.37kg
  • Supported video formats: Windows Media 9, WMV-DRM, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVI, DivX, XviD
  • Supported HD video formats: MPEG 2 (720p and 1080i), MPEG 4 AVI (up to 720p) and WMV (720p and 1080i)
  • Supported music formats: mp3, WMA, WMA Pro, WMA lossless, WMA-DRM, PCM WAV
  • Supported image formats: JPEG, PNG: SCART, Composite video, S-video and Component video connections
  • built-in wireless 802.11g and wired 100Mbit Ethernet
  • infrared remote control
  • 298x230x40mm
  • 1.37kg

OUR VERDICT

The Pinnacle ShowCenter 250HD is simple yet functional and, once it's set up, relatively unobtrusive. But in this age we demand something slicker and more inviting from an entertainment device. A few simple tweaks could make a world of difference.

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