Multimedia players used to be all the rage but gaming consoles are fiercely encroaching on their territory. Where is the sense in spending a couple of grand on a single purpose device when a console will do the job and then some? The Lacie LaCinema Classic then is the equivalent of bringing a knife to a tank battle.
On the looks front the LaCinema is gorgeous and the box even boasts that it was designed by Neil Poulton who, Google informs us, is an award-winning designer. Well Mr Poulton may well have designed one of the most beautiful rectangles on Earth. The sleek black box reveals nothing of its purpose and does not even boast an LCD, which is annoying yet only heightens this unit’s appeal.
The front panel has nothing more than an infrared receiver and a USB 2.0 port which allows one to jam in a USB stick with multimedia content. The rear panel features a USB 2.0 port to connect to a PC, an HDMI port, composite video and audio ports as well as a coaxial SPDIF port. In keeping with the minimalist design the LaCinema features no labels for any of the rear ports, which can make it a little bit intimidating for the inexperienced. The remote is just as featureless as the unit itself and has only the most basic of buttons which, as it turns out, is an indication of what is to come.
The GUI is simple providing only the ability to view video files, jpegs and listen to audio files. Playing the files, however, is where things start going pear-shaped. The first interface lowlight is the requirement that the audio and video content be put into their respective folders with anything else being completely inaccessible.
The limited number of supported file types leaves one chomping at the bit in frustration. Trying to find an AVI video that would play became a comedy of errors due to the diversity of codecs in use today, most of which are not supported. In some cases the video would play but there would be no sound. The limited codecs is a death knell in today’s world especially when it is to the extent that a ripped folder from a DVD won’t even play without a conversion.
Support for the popular H.264 codec and the Matroska (.mkv) file format are surprisingly absent. This makes no sense since the former is the de facto codec for encoding HD video with the latter being a popular open source wrapper for the aforementioned codec. Playing audio files became a joke simply because only MP3 and WMA are supported and while the former is the most popular format, this limitation left the room eerily quiet when any file utilising a superior codec was played. Unless they update the firmware before this hits shelves it’s a bit of a no brainer.
Price R2 100
Outputs HDMI, Composite, coaxial SPDIF
Supports (Video) MPEG-4 AVI, XviD, DivX (3.11, 4.x, 5.x) (Audio) MP3, WMA