The Media Hub is a network hard drive (NAS) that can be used to store then remotely access your multimedia collection from elsewhere in the home or via the internet.
Our test model comes with a 500GB hard disc (a 1TB version is available) accompanied by a separate bay for adding an additional drive of your own.
Its home cinema looks belie the fact that there are no connections for plugging it into your TV set. File transfer is achieved via Ethernet, using plug-in external USB drives attached to ports at the front or rear or memory cards inserted into the multi-format 6-in-2 card reader (from a digital camera, perhaps).
The quickest (if not slickest) method, however, is to transfer them directly to the drive from a computer via USB. The hub will work in conjunction with uPnP and DNLA-certified devices and can act as an FTP and iTunes server.
Contents are accessed from your computer using a slick Apple-style web browser interface requiring Internet Explorer or Firefox. Here you can play back music, video and photo files with playlist and slideshow options, sort them (including by A-Z) and search by album, artist name, song and date. The list of file formats supported covers most bases including the .mov and .aac files beloved of Apple fans, but not the often-used-for-HD, MKV, which would have been nice.
When streaming locally via Ethernet, music and photo playback was handled very smoothly while standard-definition video in Xvid and DivX took just a few seconds to load, looking and sounding as good as the source. But the Hub struggled with our MP4 HD files, which took a while to load (something the software warns about) and when they did suffered from jerky playback and couldn't be viewed in full-screen on our HD-ready laptop.
All of this also applies to remote streaming (despite our 50Mbit cable connection) and viewing files from our PlayStation 3, though to the Hub's credit the console was able to recognise its presence straight away.
Stripped of its fancy stylings, £300 seems a big ask for what is foremost a network hard disc rather than a dedicated media streamer. Still, it's worth considering if you want remote backup of and access to your media and aren't too fussed about hi-def reliability, perhaps.
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