A superb multiroom system, but a lack of HD file support makes us wonder how long before the appeal wears off
Super-quick playback of Blu-ray rips
Excellent videophile-standard 1080p images
Can only output 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS streams – no HD audio format support
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Lewis Home Theatre has been proﬁcient in Media Centre PCs for a couple of years now.
Rather than rest on its laurels, the company has spewn forth a range of insanely ambitious and heftily-priced media servers and multiroom systems, the like of which a large manufacturer couldn't conceive.
There's so much custom tech inside each bit of kit that only a dedicated chap with a soldering iron and a spare two weeks could possibly be responsible.
Premium media streaming
This, the MS Series Multiroom, is only a small aspect of Lewis' masterplan. It's the streamer bit.
Sans DVD or Blu-ray drive, the shiny metal box's sole purpose is to hookup with the company's storage solutions and transmit whatever's stored on the servers or media PCs. That includes ripped Blu-rays (and HD DVDs), as well as the more obvious DVDs and CDs.
And it is for this reason that the MS Series is so interesting. The massive illegal download community may be proud for offering 720p and 1080p rips from BDs, but the Lewis method allows you to stream everything backed-up from a disc, any disc – the menus, special features, et al.
Of course, without an internal hard drive, the Multiroom is only capable of playing the ﬁles, resulting in the need to rip them to a separate source, but it is truly the access point to a jukebox of the modern age.
Windows Media Center
Its front-engine is a modiﬁed version of Vista Media Center and, if you escape from the software, you'll be unable to directly access any normal Windows features. This is a welcome measure that ensures your £1,800 toy stays lurgy-free.
Admittedly, the dependence of remaining within Vista MC throws up a few problems, such as an inability to change the player's video resolution (easily), but for the money Lewis sends someone around to set it up anyway, so you don't have to.
It is also initially setup to interact with other Lewis gear from the off, but that's not to say you can't invest in one to drag entertainment ﬁles from your own PC.
HD good and bad
Ultimately, though, it comes down to video and audio playback quality, and both are exceptional. Video can be output at 1920 x 1080 (at 50, 60 and 24Hz) and is as good as any dedicated Blu-ray deck I've encountered, and audio is superbly rendered via digital socketry.
My one major gripe with the Lewis MS Series Multiroom is that there is no support for high-res audio formats (Dolby TrueHD/DTS HD) as the HDMI output can't carry audio streams and the optical and coaxial don't have high enough bandwidth.
It'll put off some, but it's an insane and inventive piece of kit that moves like a Japanese bullet train nonetheless.