Affordable excellence

The Screenplay MX TV Link excels where some more expensive players falter

Finishing off pretty much where I started, Iomega’s Screenplay MX TV Link is a device very much in the vein of the PicoHD5.1.

The lightweight aluminum case (with its classy brushed effect) is slightly larger than that of Crystal Acoustics’ player, which means that there is now room for phono sockets rather than a 3.5 jack. However, there’s no component; all you get are stereo audio, composite video and coaxial digital audio. For best results, and for that matter an ability to take advantage of HD content, you’ll need the HDMI port.

No provision has been made for network connections, there’s no SD card slot. The only way of getting content into the Screenplay MX is via its front-panel USB port, which supports hard drives and solid-state media. Also on the front panel is a sensor for the supplied handset. Although this is not backlit, its layout is practical enough.

The comparative simplicity of the Screenplay MX TV Link is reflected in its user interface, which consists of a carousel showing the available options in iconic form. Among these ‘video’, ‘music’ and ‘photo’. Select the one that best describes the nature of the content you want to play and, with the handset’s joypad, navigate the various folders of your storage device until the file is found. Rather than the usual text list, you’re presented with a grid of icons for audio files and video clips. Photos in the folders are shown as thumbnails. It’s pretty zippy, thanks in part to the fact that the content is held on a storage that’s directly connected as opposed to being on a network. Pressing the enter button selects the content, and initiates playback.

Elsewhere on the carousel are links to a file browser and the setup menus. Soundtracks can be decoded by the Screenplay MX TV Link itself (i.e. two-channel analogue, or PCM via the HDMI port or digital output), or via the digital outputs in bitstream form. This is essential for DTS, as the unit won’t decode such soundtracks. Even in bitstream mode, the sorts of codec that sometimes cannot be handled by an AVR – such as FLAC, MP3 and WMA – are converted into PCM. In other words, you’ll get 5.1 when it’s needed and no alarming silences at other times. Which is how I like it.

The HDMI output offers 50Hz and 60Hz modes for all resolutions; as with the other products, these are 576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Sadly, there is no 1080p24 mode for Blu-ray derived video.

Subtitles are supported, as are basic (Winamp-type M3U) playlists. I’m impressed with the photo replay. There’s an attractive ‘slideshow’ function, with or without your choice of music files playing in the background, and you can zoom in and pan around. An ability to rotate pictures, however, is absent.

Considering the modest nature of the Screenplay MX TV Link, the codec support is excellent. Like the others, it can play 1080p MKV video and FLAC audio. However, the Screenplay MX TV Link’s ability to handle GIF images and Flash video are denied to some pricier players.

AV performance was good, and there were no lip-sync errors. In all, like its PicoHD5.1 rival, this affordable little player has a surprising amount going for it.

But if I had to choose between the two of these £50 devices, I’d plump for the Iomega, as it edges it in pure performance terms.


HCC VERDICT

Iomega Screenplay MX TV Link
Price:
£50 Approx

Highs: Excellent codec support; clear menus; simultaneous analogue and HDMI outputs; good AV quality
Lows: No networking; cannot decode DTS – ‘passthrough’ only
Performance: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications

Video file support: MKV, DIVX, XVID, WMV, FLV, MPEG1, MPEG2, MP4, TS (off-air), VOB (DVD files), ISO (disc image)
Audio file support: MP3, FLAC, WAV, AAC (not all), M4A, WMA, Dolby Digital (analogue decode), Dolby Digital (bitstream), DTS (bitstream)
Image file support: JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG
Connections: Composite, HDMI, coaxial digital audio, USB
Dimensions: 105(w) x 20(h) x110(d)mm
Weight: 0.2kg
Features: Screensaver; subtitle support; playlist support; time-search bar; photo slideshow