The DMA1100P, comes with a built-in combined power supply and HomePlug. There is no wireless alternative but you can still connect it to your computer or router the old-fashioned way via Ethernet if you prefer.

Form and function

Bigger than the average router but still looking very much like one, it has an Apple-esque white finish with a row of blinking LEDs running along the top.

On the rear are a power button, an HDMI output, composite video and stereo phonos (for which Zyxel has provided an adapter ending in a Scart connector) and a coaxial digital audio output. There's also a USB 2.0 port for playing media from external drives and the aforementioned Ethernet port.

The grey remote is a little on the tacky side, suffering from that familiar curse of too many similarly proportioned buttons, although the most commonly used are in easy reach of the central navigation pad.

Intuitive menus

The menu software is fairly intuitive; a row of clearly labelled icons provides a jump-off point for browsing Music, Photos, and Movies from USB-connected sources or the 'Server', where you can access the contents of networked computers or hard discs. Allowing the streamer to 'browse' our Vista-powered laptop's media contents was simply a matter of giving it the OK using Windows Media Player Connect.

The streamer organises files on connected drives into categories (i.e. photos, music) and selecting each and pressing the tool button allows you add them to one of five favourites lists. Zyxel claims extensive file support but there are a few apparent omissions.

We had no problem with audio and photo formats, but video playback was hit-and-miss. Most of our XviD and AVI files played with no hitch, but those encoded in H.264 or PlayStation 3-friendly AVC were rejected.

iPlayer issues

BBC iPlayer playback is stressed on the box but the quality of video downloaded from the service is jerky, a problem exacerbated when viewing on our 42in TV.

When compatibility is not an issue the HD and SD streaming experience is very smooth either via a direct connection between laptop and streamer or using the HomePlug method. Even with our laptop on a different floor to the streamer we suffered no long delays before starting and no audio or picture break-up.

Video files can be fast-forwarded and rewound at up to 100x normal speed and looked their best (especially those in HD) piped through the HDMI output, although soft by comparison via the composite option.

Verdict

Factoring in the cost of additional plugs as required could make the DMA1100P a costly streaming solution if creating complex cable runs is ruled out.

However, plug-and-play networking, generally reliable XviD and DivX (still probably the most popular video formats) plus audio and image playback and smooth streaming capability make it a decent enough product, albeit one in need of enhancement here and there.