Go-Video D2730 Networked DVD Player Page 2

Back in my living room, I popped the supplied D-Link PC Card into the back of the player and connected the Ethernet cable. Then I flipped open the lid on the remote and used the setup button to bring up the Settings menu on my TV screen. The player found the computer on my network within seconds. I experienced the same simple setup routine when I switched to the wireless PC Card that Go-Video lent me - a Lucent Orinoco Wi-Fi adapter that sells for $45 to $59 on the Internet. go video screen

Pressing the Network button on the remote switches the D2730's source from disc to Ethernet. (Similarly, pressing the open/close button switches the networked player back to disc.) My TV displayed folders for music, photos, and videos. Using the remote's navigational controls, I highlighted an MP3 track of "Swing, Swing" from All American Rejects, and it streamed into my living room. Then I selected Moby's "Porcelain," which I'd encoded as a WMA file. The only difference in usability was that I could "fast forward" or go back through the MP3 track in 10-second increments whenever I pressed the FWD or REV button, but I couldn't scan through the WMA track.

Compressed at the typical 128 kilobits per second (kbps) rate, the songs sounded the way you'd expect from MP3 - thinner and less satisfying than the original CDs. The D5 Media Server Software supports WMA files greater than 48 kbps and MP3s greater than 80 kbps. As always with compressed audio, the benefits of storing and accessing many songs and streaming them over a network have to be weighed against the loss in fidelity. You can always improve the sound quality by encoding at a higher bit rate - but that's not a function of the D2730 or any other player.

My next task was to look at photos. The first weekend that I'd taken the D2730 home was my niece's third birthday, and she came for a visit. Many crayons and cupcakes later, I'd amassed some 60 digital snapshots. I transferred them to my computer and had the Go-Video software call them up.

Sitting in front of my PC, I selected the 40 best images for a slide show and attached an appropriate song. (You're limited to one tune per slide show, and the song repeats if it runs out before all the images are shown.) We were soon ensconced on the couch watching Addy blow out her candles to "It's a Small World." Pictures changed automatically every 5 seconds, an interval that couldn't be adjusted.

Being able to stream video from your PC might seem redundant as a selling point for a DVD player since most people will be content to slap in a movie or, in the case of a home video, a DVD-R. Still, when it comes to homemade productions, trailers or clips downloaded from the Internet, or entire TV shows you've recorded (if your PC is equipped with a tuner and MPEG encoder), it's a real step-saver to be able to just point your remote at a networked DVD player anywhere in your home.

HIGH POINTSEasy network setup. DVD player/network receiver for price of receiver alone. Saves space and A/V connections.

LOW POINTSSupports only MPEG video formats. Streaming MP3 and MPEG files can be scanned only in 10-second spurts

Among the videos the Go-Video software found on my PC were a house tour I'd transferred from a camcorder, some funny TV commercials received via e-mail, a few movie trailers, and some action clips I'd downloaded from the Internet. Streamed over my network and turned into viewable motion pictures by the same MPEG decoder the D2730 uses for playing DVDs, the files varied widely in video quality according to their inherent resolution.

Some low-grade MPEG-1 clips I'd pulled off the Internet looked so bad on my big TV screen that I couldn't watch them. But trailers for Spider-Man and Men in Black II, identified by Go-Video as having resolutions of 720 x 480 pixels and encoded at 2.2 megabits per second (Mbps), looked better than VHS but not as sharp as DVD. They came streaming through my network without hiccups. Go-Video says the player will handle MPEG files as long as the data rate doesn't exceed 3 Mbps.

Since I was controlling the streamed content with the same remote that I'd point to watch DVDs, I expected to be able to use the identical trick-play controls but was disappointed to discover that pressing the slow-motion and zoom buttons had no effect. Likewise, the multiple forward and reverse speeds were now rendered useless. Instead, I was able to leap ahead or backwards only in 10-second spurts.

Though I could live with streamed video's coarser controls, I was more disappointed that the D2730 can play videos only in the MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats. (Go-Video said it planned to add MPEG-4 support by the time you read this.) That meant I couldn't play videos in a number of other formats, including AVI, QuickTime, and Windows Media Video. As for differences in the picture quality and response time between my wired and wireless installations, there were none.

All told, Go-Video's D2730 is an amazingly versatile player that cuts few corners as a standalone device while offering anyone with a wired or wireless network the added value of displaying slide shows and videos and serving up an entire digital music collection. For a PC owner who rips and downloads a lot of music, the D2730 could be the most affordable way yet to distribute that multitude of tunes throughout a home. Even if your computer crashes, you'll still have a fine DVD player to take your mind off technology.

In The Lab

DVD-VIDEO PERFORMANCE Measurements made from a variety of test DVDs through composite-video output except as noted.

Maximum-white level error +4 IRE

Setup level +7.5 IRE

Luminance frequency response (re level at 1 MHz) at 4, 5, and 6 MHz -0.26 dB at 6.75 MHz (DVD limit) -0.36 dB

Onscreen horizontal resolution 540 lines

In-player letterboxing poor

Component-output level error (interlaced) (Y/Pr/Pb) -4.9/-1.5/-1.0%

Component-output timing error (interlaced) (Pr/Pb) +18/+21 nanoseconds