The initial installation process was pleasantly straightforward. When you turn the Director HD on for the first time it asks you to select a language and either 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio, and whether you want to connect to a network. Everything went smoothly here and the Director HD was able to automatically connect to our network without asking us to enter any additional settings.
The Menu options are certainly easy to follow
The Director’s hard drive also showed up as a network drive on both PCs and Macs on our office network, allowing us to transfer files onto it with no difficulty. That said, Mac users will have to reformat from the default NTFS format to FAT32 if they want to connect the drive directly to a Mac with USB. It supports UPnP and DLNA networking as well, so you can stream audio and video from a games console or other UPnP/DLNA devices.
After the initial set-up the main menu appears on screen, displaying large icons representing music, photos and video files. There’s also there’s a fourth icon – that wasn’t present on earlier models – for ‘online media’. The little remote control has a matching set of four buttons so you can quickly dip straight in and play whatever type of media you want.
We did encounter one problem here, though. The manual indicates that the Director HD should already have a default set of folders installed on it for storing your music, photos and video files. We couldn’t locate these folders when examining the contents of the hard disk, so we had to create them ourselves. That’s not a major hardship, but first-time users who haven’t used a media player like this before could get confused here.
You’ll also need to organise your files quite carefully too, as the browsing options are fairly limited. The Director HD only lists files or folders alphabetically, so you can’t browse through your files using criteria such as ‘artist’ or ‘genre’ unless you specifically create ‘artist’ or ‘genre’ folders and then organise all the files and folders yourself.
Music listings lack accompanying album art
There’s no option to display album artwork either. Rivals such as the AppleTV provide a much slicker interface and more versatile browsing options. To be fair, though, the Director HD is a lot cheaper than the AppleTV and provides much greater storage capacity as well.
Folks - first let me say I love the Reg, and most of the reviews here are both entertaining and informative. But while the entertainment aspect is great - I think you need to beef up the information level in your reviews. In particular, if you are reviewing a specific class of product - like a media streamer - it might be good to stick to the same person, so that he or she can build up a level of experience, and perhaps check out AV forums for that type of product to see what the users are saying.
Cliff, it looks like you haven't done many media streamer reviews (hey - we all have to start somewhere). Not sure where to begin on the long list of things that people need to know about these boxes, but a few things spring to mind:
- How long does the box take to boot? We are continually told to switch electrical products off when they are not in use so cold boot time becomes a critical useability feature.
- There are two recurring features that are demanded by users of the Western Digital and other similar media streamers (with and without internal hard drives). First is the ability to create a shortcut to a designated network share (this is a huge missing feature in many devices). Second is the ability to proportionately fast forward through a movie (check the Popcornhour feature where you can go to X% of the movie by pressing the number keys). So does the Iomega have either of these?
- You mention that the unit "made hardly any noise". Hmm. Forgive me, but that is not a very useful comment. I'm sure the manufacturer publishes the noise level in dB so we could compare it to other reviews. Also - I'm guessing you reviewed this at home. Is this a quiet environment where even a tiny cooling fan sounds loud? Or a noisy flat next to a busy road? I know this seems pedantic, but HD movies with high quality soundtracks tend to have a huge audio range - everything from explosions to almost total silence. And in the latter situation the last thing you need is a noisy hard drive, or even worse a cooling fan starting up. So some idea of the steady state noise (mainly caused by the hard drive) versus peak noise (cooling fan) would be great.
- You mentioned that the interface is not as graphically pleasing as the Apple TV. Fair comment. But does that mean it is more responsive? A big complaint in the media streamer forums is the sluggish way that the user interface behaves. Eye candy is a novelty that soon wears off. A responsive UI is a genuine, and highly valued feature.
- Remotes can be very directional. So in other words, the unit only sees the command if you are directly pointing at it. What is the situation with the Iomega?
- On the topic of remotes - nobody (almost) who own boxes like this uses the out of the box remote. I think I'm right in saying that the de facto "all in one" remote is the Logitech Harmony series. So you need to provide two usability reviews - one using the in-box remote, and one using the Harmony.
Generally I would say that the Reg needs to become more systematic in the review of media streamers, and other types of gadget, so that different reviews could be compared more easily.
Stepping away from the soapbox now :-)
Your original account and handler were hacked/replaced
But can it be hacked?
The hardware sounds OK, but what OS does it run by default and can be hacked/replaced?
P.S. What happened to my original account and handle?