The MediaMan's key feature is that it's a hard drive in a box that can play illegally downloaded video files. (Well, it doesn't support DRM'd downloads from the iTunes or Windows media stores, but it does support DivX.) We turned it on. We paused. We asked around the office: "does anyone have any illegal video files?" Heads shake guiltily, eyes flicking towards security cameras that aren't there, save for a passing freelancer.
He's nervous. Is this a test? A trap? "I, er, think I've got an episode of Doctor Who on my laptop," he mumbles. Pause. "Which one?" "That one where he fights the devil in space." Brows furrow, and a half-hour debate on the merits of said episode ensues. Nothing is achieved for a while.
Three hours later, and we've watched the Doctor shout at the devil every which way we can - over DVI, composite and component, at 480 through 1080, zoomed and letterbox. No-one likes the episode any more. But we do quite like the MediaMan, though we've scoffed at its lack of support for WMV or HD video. We've had fun turning its fan off and seeing if it'll overheat. It steadfastly refused, even after several hours of playback at room temperature.
We've been bemused by its pricing (£126 for a hard drive-less model, a reasonable £190 for 160GB, up to £302 for 500GB). We've admired the intuitive menu system and become slightly annoyed at the language it uses to fool you into thinking it's a high-def player, when all it does is interpolate SD video up to higher resolutions for HDTVs. Still, it's in the higher echelons of the hard drive players we've dabbled with. Alec Meer