Since the vast majority of video, music and photos are now stored digitally on a number of devices, from smartphones through to laptops, it is often difficult to share media away from the personal device without having either a cerntralised household server, or a some form of media streming device. We have reviewed a number of media streamers, most notably the D-Link DSM-330 we reviewed a couple of years ago which did a good job, but was somewhat limited in it's reach. Honestech have recently released their take on a media streamer, the Honestech nScreen Deluxe and this essentially, through the use of custom software for PCs, Macs and smartphones (Android and iOS), allows for media to be streamed directly to a TV via these devices.
PC System Requirements
- Operating System : Windows 7®(32/64bit), Windows Vista®(32/64bit), Windows® XP Service Pack 2/3(32bit)
- Processor : Intel® Core™ 2 Duo or higher, AMD Athlon X2 2.1GHz or higher
- Wireless LAN : 802.11g/n Wi-Fi •Memory : 1GB of RAM
- Free Hard Disk Space : 200MB
- Operating Systems: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or higher
- Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor or higher
Smartphone / Tablet Requirements
- nScreen™ app (free download)
- Android OS 2.1 or higher Apple iOS 4.0 or higher
- TV or Projector : nScreenBox™, HDMI connection for HD content or composite cable for standard resolution
- Ethernet Cable (optional)
- 802.11g/n Wi-Fi Router (optional)
- nScreen software CD
- Hardware (nScreenBOX™)
- Composite AV cable
- Power adapter
- Quick Start Guide
The Honestech nScreen Deluxe is a small, lightweight box about the size of a small router with a design that is somewhat Apple-esque in it's design (smooth white glossy lid with a silver nScreen logo). At the rear of the box is an ethernet port , USB port (for firmware upgrades), an HDMI port (output to compatible TVs), mini-AV out (for composite input on older TVs), a power button and the power supply port.
In order to use the nScreen Deluxe you simply have to plug it in to both a spare plug socket and the TV using either the composite or HDMI connnectors and push the power button on the back of the unit. On power up, a green LED lights up on the unit and a homescreen is displayed on the TV detailing the device's current IP address and it's configured access point name. As yo may have guessed by now, the nScreen sets up it's own wireless network to which you can connect to stream media to your TV, requiring you to disconnect from your home network and therefore losing internet connectivity. Alternatively (and probably of more use to most users) the nScreen can be set as a client on your existing network by connecting it via the network port or wirelessly, meaning that you can connect to both internet and nScreen at the same time.
To use the nScreen for it's intended purpose you need to download the server software to any device you want to stream media from. For smartphones running Android or iOS this is very simple (and free) requriing you to simply log in to the corresponging store (Google Play or the Apple App Store) and installing the software. For PCs the software is protected by a product key that is printed on the sleeve of the included CD (which we though is quite strange as we couldn't see a reason why anyone would want to pirate the software!). Once installed it's simply a case of connecting to the box either using the individual SSID and password detailed in the CD sleeve and using the respective softwares to stream (or alternatively mirror in the case of the PC software) to the device and connected TV.
In mirroring mode the visual performance is slightly reduced to 1280x720, but is certainly good enough so that TVs can be used as a second monitor for essential desktop activities (Office, email etc.). Playing video using the mirroring option however is not really an option as the data transfer rate appears to be too slow with noticeable artifacts making it unwatchable. However, using the full streaming mode video is reproduced very well and entirely watcheable in fuill 1080p. The smartphone interface is very much simpler, with a simple file browser allowing media to be selected and streamed to the nScreen Deluxe.
£129.99 at Amazon: Honestech nScreen Deluxe
3/5 - The Honestech nScreen Deluxe offers a novel and simple way of streaming media and mirroring desktops to TVs without the need for physically connecting laptops or smartphones and would be ideal where space is at a premium in home use. However, in this price range Honestech are directly competing with lower-end dedicated NAS servers which can also stream media effectively, albeit requiring media to be copied to them first, and alos offer a number of other useful features.