LaCie LaCinema MiniHD
Small box, big picture
Review We weren’t wildly enthusiastic about LaCie's Black Max set-top box. Thankfully, its new LaCinema MiniHD is a more modest affair that just concentrates on being a media player. As a result, it’s more successful than the Black MAX, although it does still have some rough edges.
Honey, I shrunk the vids: LaCie's diminutive LaCinema MiniHD
The MiniHD certainly lives up to its name, as it’s an extremely compact little device that measures just 118 x 118 x 40mm. That’s not bad going considering that there’s a 500GB hard disk crammed inside it and that it plugs straight into the mains, with no bulky PSU to get in the way. Indeed, you could easily carry it around to a friend’s house and bore them senseless with your holiday photos and videos.
Tucked around the back of the unit you’ll find an HDMI interface that provides full 1080p output, along with composite video and stereo audio, S/PDIF digital audio interface and Ethernet. There’s no Scart, though, so you can only connect the MiniHD to an HD TV that has HDMI, unless you can live with composite video output alternative.
There’s a mini USB port on the back that allows you to connect it to a Mac or PC so that you can copy files straight onto the MiniHD, and two further USB 2.0 ports that can be used to plug in memory sticks or additional hard disks. Mac users take note, the MiniHD can work with USB storage devices that use the Mac’s HFS+ file system, as well as Windows and Linux formats. The MiniHD also scores brownie points for its built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi, although it’s a shame that the Ethernet port is 100Mbps only.
LaCie includes all the HDMI, video and Ethernet cables you need, so you can plug everything in and get started straight away. The MiniHD takes a leisurely 28 seconds to start up when you initially plug it in, but only five seconds to subsequently start-up from standby mode. Power consumption during our tests never rose above a modest 10.5W, although that only drops to about 8.4W in standby mode. The internal fan emits a low hum while it’s running, but you have to lean over it to hear this so it’s not going to overwhelm any music or films that you might want to listen to.
Browsing looks simple, but could be more effective
When you turn it on, the MiniHD displays a simple horizontal row of icons on your TV screen that allow you to select music, video or photo files, or to adjust system settings such as the Wi-Fi password, video resolution or aspect ratio. Several of the media players we’ve seen recently merely list music files alphabetically or leave it up to you to organise the files into folders, so it’s good to see that the MiniHD does enable you to browse by artist, album title or genre.
poor xvid support seems like a serious oversight to me!
Another lacking review
Come on Cliff, you should have this down pat by now. Things we need to know if you're testing media players:
1. What audio formats - MP3, yes, what about AAC? FLAC? OGG? AC3? Audio output - stereo only or does it output 6-channel over the HDMI?
2. Video formats - yes, thank you previous posters, MKV is a container - remarkably, that changes very little. Test it with codecs that we know are supported (MP4 and AAC, for example - the standard for MP4 which you've already said is supported).
3. Subtitles. Do they work? SRT file? How about subtitles embedded in MP4 files?
4. DivX doesn't work?!? What, at all? That's a little extraordinary in 2010, can you give us more detail? Doesn't work in an AVI? What do the manufacturers say on this? Surely there's more to be said here.
5. Network. You gloss over this in every review. Does it do NFS? AFP? SMB? Client, Server or both? DLNA? Renderer, Server or both? USB is the way of the dodo, this stuff is important.
Christ, if you're going to go to the effort of reviewing these units every few weeks you could at least make them useful. This isn't Click Online or T3 mag - we want detail, dammit.
While I agree with your post in general (it is a rather vague review), it's fair to say that an "mkv" test is pointless - much like an "avi" test. They don't specifiy codecs as they are but container files.
Given that it fails to cope with xvid (which incidentally usually appear in an avi container), I'd feel free to write it off as a failure anyway.
For that price I'd rather buy an Asus Revo and have a fully operating (and configurable) PC. More than £200 for something my Panasonic TX-P46G15 TV can do out of the box is robbery.
Bah, for that price I'll get a QNAP NMP-1000. GUI looks nicer and it has more functionality. Lacks the wi-fi (nothing a cheap USB stick can't solve), but comes with way more connection options.