The LaCie LaCinema Black PLAY is a 500GB Wi-Fi-enabled media streaming device.
We first had a look at the LaCinema range of media-streaming devices back in March when the LaCie LaCinema Max - the top end model in the range - arrived in the PC Advisor Test Centre. The LaCie LaCinema Black PLAY is a marginally less capable product with very similar styling and a lower price tag. It comes with a 500GB hard drive but doesn't have a TV tuner.
The LaCie LaCinema Black PLAY is the prettiest of the media streamers in our group test. Finished in piano black, we were immediately smitten by its sharp black lines. Discreet LaCie branding is hidden on one side, while the only indication of any sort of function is a recessed USB connector. In use, the LaCinema Black PLAY has a glowing blue light that emanates from below.
Its design therefore gets a huge thumbs-up - the LaCie LaCinema Black PLAY products are among the few you'd probably be happy to find sat next to your flatscreen TV or DVD recorder. Round the back of the device is a neat arrangement of connectors: component video and audio outputs, an HDMI port, two flat USB 2.0 ports and a square one plus an ethernet port so you can connect the Play directly to a network. It also streams over a draft n wireless network.
The 500GB LaCie LaCinema Black PLAY comes with its own HDMI cable and a dear little remote control about half the size of the one you probably use with your TV. Buttons control and mute the volume, bring up an onscreen menu and let you access the settings menu. A navipad is used to get to items you want to play.
Media to play back is detected by a Twonky server that in effect turns your PC into a UPnP (universal plug and play) server and funnels respective content into Video, Photo and Music Spaces on the LaCie LaCinema Black PLAY device.
Photo file formats run from Jpeg and bitmap to Tiff, GIF and PNG - far more than most such devices can recognise. Music playback options are similarly impressive, with Ogg Vorbis, AAC and AC3 joining the ubiquitous MP3 and WMA options.
It's video that will interest many consumers, however, given the LaCie LaCinema Black PLAY's 1,080i high-definition playback capability and its inclusion of a wireless n receiver. H.264, Mpeg 2 and Mpeg 4 are joined by DiVx, MOV, VOB and MKV and several others.
All of this worked flawlessly and, against the smart black background of the PLAY's interface, photos and videos looked exceptional.
Our only real criticisms of this LaCie LaCinema Black PLAY are that it seems a little expensive compared to the similarly capable Netgear Digital Elite and that it doesn't support Macs. Given its design pretensions, this seemed an oversight worth addressing.
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