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Tech Tips: How to Choose and Install a Digital Media Adapter

By: Anthony Moreira

It's hard to believe that there was a time when all of our devices were unable to communicate with one another. The interesting thing is, that this wasn't so long ago. At the time, the thought of seamlessly watching a movie from a PC on a large screen television, or wirelessly listening to a library of hundreds of songs from a laptop on a home entertainment system seemed farfetched - or at the least very complicated to do. Over recent years, however, technology has continued to mature, resulting in the integration of many of these devices into a true home media center. This is all possible due to a device such as a Digital Media Adapter.

What exactly is a Digital Media Adapter?

A Digital Media Adapter is a device that allows media content to be sent (often from a computer) to other home entertainment devices including televisions and stereo systems. Many of these newer devices, also known as a Digital Media Hubs, Digital Media Extenders, Digital Media Streamers, and more, often don't even require the use of or a direct connection to a computer. These devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, can stream content to multiple devices including game consoles, and are also available as a wired or wireless device.

What to look for in a Digital Media Adapter.

Most Digital Media Adapters can be purchased for a fairly reasonable price, especially when compared to the cost of the other devices that make up a complete entertainment system.

The first thing to consider is whether the adapter should be wired or wireless. The inconvenience of physically connecting the device to a router or a computer may not be desired, especially if they are not in close proximity to the entertainment system. A wireless Digital Media Adapter allows for wireless connection to the network. The media is then sent through the air to the entertainment system from a source, even if the source is located in a different room.

The next things to consider are features and expandability.

A Digital Media Adapter will have a variety of ports and options for a full featured entertainment experience. Here is a list of some of the popular features to consider when shopping for a device.

Built-in internal hard drive. Check to see whether the Digital Media Adapter includes a drive and how large. Also check to see if the drive includes any form of back-up options.

Full-HD 1080p video playback. Be sure the device supports HD video playback and connectivity to satisfy the needs of that large flat screen TV.

Ports - Investigate the number of available ports. This includes RCA, Optical, USB, Ethernet, and more.

Audio - Review the supported audio formats. These include AAC, AIFF, Dolby Digital*, DTS, FLAC, MKA, MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA, and more.

Video - Review the supported video formats. These include Xvid, AVI, MPEG, MP4, MOV,VOB, WMV9, and more.

Photo - Review the supported video formats. These include JPG, GIF, TIF, and BMP.

Other features - Many Digital Media adapters are configured with a variety of other features. This includes being webcam-ready, on screen keyboards, USB keyboards, and instant easy access to services such as YouTube*, Netflix*, Flickr*, and Pandora*.

Expandability/Upgrades- Think ahead when purchasing a Digital Media Adapter. Perhaps a device you are considering may have a few extra features that you don't need right now, and costs only a little bit more than the base model. Also see if firmware upgrades are available for the adapter. Manufacturers are always releasing quick fixes and feature upgrades via routine and free firmware updates.

Installing a Digital Media Adapter.

There are an uncountable number of Digital Media Adapters on the market. Installation and the specific methods of use for each will vary. Configuring a wireless connection will require a common communications protocol between the adapter and the router, including 802.11n and 802.11g, and a common security mechanism, such as WEP or WPA if supported. Consulting both the router and adapter manuals will provide specifics pertaining to the particular models.

Connecting a Digital Media Adapter to an entertainment system is as easy as connecting the various ports on the back of the adapter to your entertainment devices. This includes any audio and video connections including RCA and HD.

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