D-Link MediaLounge Wireless Media Player - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

October 18, 2004

Putting the MediaLounge to work
Installation was fairly straightforward. The D-Link server software that sits on your host PC is simple to use—perhaps a little simplistic, in fact, compared to others I've tested. It lets you add folders from your hard drives to be shared with the MediaLounge player. You can also use it to update or refresh the media list as you add new files to the shared folders, and even set up a schedule to automatically refresh.

Hardware set up was also simple. The device worked first time on my wireless network, which is controlled by a NetGear 802.11g router. The MediaLounge does also come with an Ethernet cable you can use to plug in to a wired/wireless gateway to configure the player for the wireless network if necessary.

The infrared remote control is fairly well designed with reasonably large buttons—within obvious limitations. They're also well marked and logically arranged. I found the four-way direction buttons a little over sensitive—I kept scrolling past the menu item I wanted—but this just required a little practice and a lighter touch.

Unh oh!
The real problems first surfaced when I tried to access audio files using the player. The D-Link software was apparently not able to sort the tracks properly.

Under Album, it should show an alphabetical list of album titles. Under artist, it should show an alphabetical list of artist names, and under each one an alphabetical list of album titles. Ditto for Genre. But when I clicked on Album, Artist or Genre, I found only one option—Others. When I clicked on Others, I was presented with an alphabetical list of the one thousand-plus tracks in my library. Not very useful.

A D-Link spokesperson speculated there was a problem with the ID3 tags, the text data stored with my audio files identifying artist, album, genre. They asked me to e-mail sample files, which I did. A week later they had not been able to offer an explanation for what I was experiencing.

The next problem came when trying to view Photos. Initially, I had a similar problem to the one with audio files, in that all the files in the subfolders in my My Pictures folder, which I had added to the list of shared folders in the D-Link server software, were displayed in one long alphabetical listing. This later resolved itself and I was able to view thumbnail indexes of individual subfolders. The MediaLounge lets you rotate pictures and zoom in and out, which is useful.

However, many standard JPEG files refused to display. They generated an error message saying the file format was not supported. This appears to be a problem with file naming conventions. The D-Link system does not accept all Windows-legal file names. If the names include some special characters such as the percent sign or are too long, it won't recognize them.

Video vagaries
Video, which generally requires a higher bit rate than audio, is always a big challenge for a wireless media player. This one played some MPEG and AVI files but not others. With some, it would start to play, then the system would freeze and require a re-boot. Some hiccupped at the beginning of play, then played fine. Others did not play at all.

This is perhaps not unreasonable. There are many different CODECs (CODerDECoders) that can generate files with the AVI and MPG extensions. D-Link built in support for files created using only some of them. This is not explained in the documentation, however, which only says that the unit will play AVI and MPEG files without caveat.

MPEG2? When I converted an AVI file created in Adobe Premiere to MPEG2 format using a shareware video file converter, it played fine through the MediaLounge player at first, but then music and video playback both became very jerky.

When I reviewed this product, the only Internet radio service available was AOL's, which worked fine, though with the demo account (it's a for-fee service), the selection of channels was poor. D-Link has since added support for RealNetworks' Rhapsody and Napster services.

While the product will play M3U and PLS music playlists that you create and store on your hard drive, there is apparently no way to play free Internet radio stations such as those at Shoutcast, which is what we really wanted.

Bottom line: Despite the problems—some, I'm guessing, are not common to all installations, others will be fixed—and based on some superior design features and D-Link's obvious commitment to the product as evidenced by the addition of the new radio services, I'd say this is one to watch. Just make sure you can take it back if it doesn't work properly on your system with your files.

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