Digital Entertainer brings PC content to big screen

So there you are with all those videos, photos and MP3 music files, and the only place you can play all that digital entertainment is on your computer. It's probably sequestered away somewhere in the room you've designated to be your home office.

Yes, you can offload some of it to your iPod, but your real entertainment system is down in the game room or the living room or some other location in the house. That's where you spent the really big bucks on the 50-inch plasma screen or projection system with the surround-sound speakers that rattle your teeth and subsonic woofers that make your insides vibrate.

So the question is: How do you get all that great content from your computer into your entertainment system?

Netgear just introduced their next-generation Digital Entertainer Elite media player and it's ready to do the job. Unlike some of the earlier offerings out there, the Elite plays more audio and video formats that I've seen to date. And as newer formats and standards become available, Netgear seems committed to making them work with this media player by offering both software and firmware updates. For example, the popular Web site that offers up first-run and recent television show content just became compatible with the Elite in an additional release from Netgear.

The Digital Entertainer Elite is a simple black box that connects to your entertainment system via a variety of interfaces such as composite, component, optical, S-Video and the most technologically advanced HDMI standard.

You can connect the Elite to your computer with an Ethernet connection, but who wants a cable running up the stairs and across the room? Fortunately, the folks at Netgear knew this and equipped the Elite with their fastest 802.11n wireless standard. Actually it's even faster with Netgear's 40-megabit Dual Band arrangement. This really fast data rate lets you easily transfer high-definition video with room to spare. And their Push N Connect option lets the Elite interface do everything automatically. You don't have to know anything about all of that networking stuff such as IP addresses and encryption to make it work. It's really sweet.

Once you have the Elite operational, all you need to do is use the included remote control and sit in front of your entertainment system. A series of really easy-to-navigate on-screen menus lets you play most anything you have on your computer. And if your computer is down, don't worry _ the Elite's built-in 500-gigabyte hard drive lets you offload any or all content so you can play it all even when the computer is turned off.

You can also plug in another external hard drive or install a SATA internal drive. And if you have more than one in the house, the Elite can pull content from all of them, as long as they are on your home's network. Netgear has really put a lot of good thought into this second-generation product _ their previous model didn't even have a hard drive.

The Digital Entertainer Elite is multi-platform, meaning it works with Windows PCs, Macintosh OS X, Linux and others.

The bottom line is that the Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite will handle today's multimedia demands and its upgradability insures you're going to be using it for a long time to come. The Digital Entertainer Elite sells for $399.99.

More information: www.netgear.com

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(Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology.)

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(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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