Here's the link between your television and the music, pictures, and videos on your Mac.


There's a confounding disconnect between your TV and the audio, pictures, and videos on your Mac. Fortunately, there's LaCie's silverscreen, a hard drive with a built-in software interface that offers a refreshingly manageable way to display your Mac media on your TV.


To load video, photos, or audio files onto silverscreen, you simply connect it to your Mac via USB with the included USB cable. (If your USB port doesn't provide enough juice to power the silverscreen, LaCie includes a dual-port USB plug that connects to both the USB cable and an included power adapter.) Once the drive mounts on the desktop, you drag the files into the appropriate folders: photos (JPEGs only) into Pictures, audio (WAV, MP3, AC3, and unprotected AAC - sorry, no music from the iTunes Music Store) into Music, and video (AVI, DivX, and XviD MPEG-4; AVI, VOB, and ISO MPEG-2; and MPEG-1) into Movies.


There is one catch: The silverscreen is preformatted as a FAT32 drive, so that means it has a file-size limit of 4GB. If you have videos that are bigger than 4GB, either figure out a way to cut down the size, or reformat the silverscreen as an HFS+ drive. You can do this with the included silverscreen software CD, but that comes with another caveat: LaCie preformats with FAT32 because it's the only format that offers cross-platform reading and writing. HFS+ can't mount on Windows PCs. If you have access to Windows, you can opt to reformat the silverscreen as an NTFS drive - but then your Mac would only be able to read from the silverscreen and not write to it.


LaCie includes a cable that lets you connect the silverscreen to your TV via composite video or S-Video; it also includes a standard European Scart RGB adapter. You use the included power adapter to power the silverscreen when it's attached to your TV. The silverscreen also comes with an S/PDIF cable so you can play audio through your home-theater receiver, but you'll need a TV and the included remote to navigate the interface. Simply select one of the four onscreen icons - Movies, Music, Pictures, and Settings - to get going.


The remote control is chock-full o' buttons, but unfortunately, it's not intuitive. We had to constantly look at the remote to press the correct navigational buttons, and there's no tactile way to tell the difference between buttons. Some of the buttons, such as the volume controls, felt awkwardly placed. And while the remote is light and thin, it has no backlight, making it almost impossible to see in a dark room.


While the remote is confusing, the silverscreen software interface is a breeze to navigate - it's a lot like navigating through a DVD movie. After you select the media icon from the opening screen, you're taken to a list of the appropriate files on the silverscreen. For example, if you select Pictures, the next screen shows a list of pictures, each with a thumbnail. To play or view the file, you select it using the navigation buttons and press Play Enter on the remote. Automatic slide shows (sans music - boo!) for pictures and shuffle for audio are also available.


When manually navigating through a series of photos or sound files, we experienced noticeable lag. For example, when viewing pictures, there was a five-second gap between the time we pressed the remote's Next button and when the image appeared. Unfortunately, there's no visual indicator to tell you that a file is loading - that would have stopped us from mashing the remote buttons because we thought the silverscreen didn't receive the remote's signal.


Pictures and movies from the silverscreen look great, and audio is quite good. Overall playback quality, of course, depends on the quality of your files - what bit rates you used for sound, compression levels for your JPEGs, and so on - but the silverscreen doesn't degrade media quality.


The bottom line. Despite some of its quirks, the silverscreen takes little effort to set up and use, and the payoff is big. It's nice to have a simple method of viewing media from your Mac on your TV. No muss, little fuss.


Silverscreen's software interface makes it easy to get to your picture, movies, and music.


CONTACT: 503-844-4500,
PRICE: $219.99 (40GB), $279.99 (80GB, tested)
REQUIREMENTS: USB-equipped Mac; Mac OS 9.x or later; display or TV with RCA, S-Video, Scart, VGA, or YPbPr input
Compact. Easy to use. Offers drag-and-drop file transfers.
Can't play music with slide shows. Can't navigate controls while playing music. Confusing remote.





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