DHL dropped off my Linksys DMA2100 Media Center Extender yesterday, and I had it completely set up within 30 minutes.
My first impression was, “Wow, this is small.” The v1 extenders were the size of large pizza boxes, and an Xbox 360 has a certain chunkiness to it. I didn’t appreciate how small this device was till I unboxed it:
It’s a nearly perfect square, less than 7 inches from front to back and side to side, and about 1-1/2 inches tall. For contrast, that black Vista remote, which is included with the extender, is an inch longer than the box is deep.
The backside has most of the connectors you’d expect: HDMI, component, composite, and S-Video. It has stereo audio outputs (two RCA jacks) and a digital audio output. My Xbox had been connected using a digital optical (TOSLink) cable, but the DMA2100 only has an RCA-style digital output. (The manuals say the DMA2200, which includes a DVD player, has an optical connector.)
Although I could use HDMI and pass it through my receiver, I chose component video instead to connect to my 50-inch 1080i set and found a high-quality RCA cable for the digital audio. When I powered up the unit, I had to adjust a few system settings to let it know I was using a surround sound system and wanted output at 1080i. I also configured it to go straight to the Media Center interface
I’ve set up Media Center Extenders many times before, and this setup was typically simple. I did have to install an extender update on the Media Center box before I could complete the connection, but after that small detour everything worked perfectly.
I noticed right away that there was none of the glitching I had been seeing when using the Xbox 360 as an extender. That glitching was only on one or two channels (NBC HD programming was especially noticeable); the symptoms were a very slight jerkiness in fast-motion scenes. That effect is completely gone now. I’m not sure whether it was the extender update or the hardware that did the trick, but I’m glad to see it.
Performance on menus is fast, very fast. It takes about 10-12 seconds to go from a cold start to the Media Center interface. By contrast, the Xbox 360 had to first load its own interface, then log me in, and then finally connect to the remote system, a process that could easily take a minute or more. In operation, the system is faster as well. I’m using a Logitech Harmony remote to control the extender, and response to each button press is instantaneous. That wasn’t always the case with the Xbox 360.
And it’s gloriously quiet, unlike the Xbox. The Spousal Acceptance Factor for this unit is an 11, compared to maybe a 3 for the noisy Xbox 360.
The price should drop over time, but I’m thrilled with the performance and consider this unit worth every penny of its $250 price tag.
Update: Scott Williams asks what kind of network connection I’m using with it. I knew I forgot to mention something! I have a wired connection that goes through three switches to get to the living room. The extender has Wireless N capability built in, but I don’t need it (and don’t have an N-capable router/access point anyway).
And one more unboxing picture, to show which cables are included, from top to bottom, counterclockwise: RCA stereo, component video, composite video, Ethernet. No HDMI cable, no digital audio cable (although any decent RCA cable should do fine).
I’m happy to answer questions in the comments section and will continue updating this post as needed.