Now, some say that you should leave the best until last, but in this case I'm going to do the opposite, because the biggest let down with the Link Theater is the appalling remote control. Not only is the remote control generic, with unpleasant feeling rubber buttons, but it's also convoluted and confusing to use. Entering an IP address is case in point: you have to use the number buttons, but these also let you enter letters, so you have to cycle through lower case and upper case letters before you get to numbers. Then trying to enter a dot to separate the IP address requires multiple presses of the 1 button, but you have to return to lower case letter mode to do this. But the worst part of the remote control is that the range is, quite simply awful - at one point I found myself having to get up from the sofa and stand two feet from the Link Theater to make it work.
In the box you'll find a three-plug phono cable for composite video, and left and right analogue audio. Of course you could use this for component video, but I'd suggest getting a decent cable from a company like Ixos. There's also a composite video and analogue audio to SCART adapter, but you shouldn't even think about using it - composite video is evil!
There are no optical or coaxial digital audio cables included, which is a shame, although there is an Ethernet cable for getting hooked up to your network.
The last aspect of the Link Theater is the price, and at £181 it seems fairly reasonable. After all you're getting a great deal of functionality for that price, it's just unfortunate that not all of it works as well as it should. Hopefully future firmware upgrades will improve the wireless streaming, while I'd like to see future versions of the Link Theater build on and improve what Buffalo has created here.
Buffalo has created a very versatile AV playback device. On paper it has just about every base covered, but there are issues with the Wi-Fi streaming, some optical media and the remote control. The latter is probably the most disappointing aspect of the whole package and just doesn't seem to fit with the Link Theater, which itself seems a cut above similar products.
The image quality from both DVD and MPEG 4 playback over component video is very good indeed, better than I've seen from any other device of this type. And the ability to stream video directly from a USB key is a feature I have grown to love during my time with the Link Theater.
I can't help but hope that Buffalo will address all of the issues I've mentioned with the next generation of the Link Theater. There's no doubt that with a little tweaking and some ironing out of the rough spots, the Link Theater could be a fantastic product. As it stands though, it's not quite there, leaving the user frustrated all too often.
|Buffalo Link Theater|
|More info||The Link Theater site|