One of the reasons why Microsoft's Media Center is so attractive is because of the extender functionality. It allows you to enjoy just about all the same content in every room of your house, without the need to buy more than one HTPC. But with variety sometimes brings hard choices, so this motivated us to start a quest to find the best Media Center Extender. While the Xbox 360 is the obvious choice for most, it isn't the best solution for everyone. So we started out by comparing it to every extender out there. But since our initial shoot out, a few more Extenders have made their way to market, and the most recent addition is the Samsung MediaLive Media Adapter. At first glance it seems that this is the perfect solution for anyone with a Samsung TV, and while the tight integration, great price, and diminutive size is attractive, you'll have to click though to find out why we're still on the hunt for the perfect Windows Media Center Extender.

Samsung MediaLive Digital Media Adapter

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The Good
  • Super easy setup.
  • Little remote is cool looking.
  • Performance is usually snappy, but sometimes lags, just like other extenders.
  • Setup options are pretty extensive.
  • Extender settings menus are just as good looking as VMC.
  • There was already a firmware update fixed a problem where the preview video window wasn't displayed.
  • Built in WiFi.

The Bad
  • Doesn't detect TV's native resolution automatically.
  • No 1080p output.
  • No animated transitions like the real VMC or Xbox 360.
  • Your TV's remote works pretty good with the MediaLive, but doesn't have VMC buttons and some of the functionality like "Info" is confusing, as it's hard to tell if you are accessing the VMC's Info or the TV's info.
  • Media Center remote is missing too many VMC buttons like Live TV, etc plus no channel numbers.
  • The included mounting bracket uses a VESA mounting hole, so you can't use it with a wall-mount.
  • Included wires are too long, but at least they are included.
  • It'd be nice if it didn't need it's own power brick.
  • Not compatible with any other Media Center remotes.

The Ugly
  • TV's Toslink only passes two channel audio from the MediaLive Extender.
  • Only works with Samsung TVs; it displays an error if you plug it into anything else.
  • Green button doesn't turn on TV, so two buttons are required. One to turn on the TV and another to switch to Media Center. It takes over a minute to get to the main menu.

Wrap-up
As far as extenders go, the MediaLive Digital media Adapter is exactly the opposite of the Xbox 360. While the 360 tries to be everything to everyone, Samsung's MediaLive is designed to do one thing for a very specific customer. In a world where the phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none" is never more true, we appreciate hardware that does one thing really really well. But at the same time, it's hard to get excited if you don't have a need for that one thing. In the case of the MediaLive Extender, that one thing is to bring the Vista Media Center to a newer Samsung HDTV. But our biggest problem is that you are basically paying more, but getting less.

The less part is the fact that it is nearly impossible to get surround sound out of this thing -- we assume you could with a HDMI A/V receiver, but didn't test it -- and because of the fact that it won't work with superior 3rd party Media Center remotes. The remote part wouldn't be that bad if there weren't so many important buttons missing from the included Media Center remote (or your TV's remote). But hitting The Green Button, and then navigating menus just to access the guide, gets real old, real fast. That being said, we could easily see where someone would pay more for this than a Linksys Extender because of the tight integration with the TV, for say a bedroom, but then comes the part where the MediaLive doesn't work with most wall-mounts. So the bottom line is that we suspect for most people, you're better off with another extender, one that works with any Media Center remote, any HDTV and any A/V receiver. Meanwhile, we still wait for an Extender that can also play Blu-ray Discs.

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Samsung MediaLive Digital Media Adapter review