Geek Chic: Iomega's ScreenPlay Multimedia

If you're off on a long trip, you'll like the support for ninety hours of video-and more--in Iomega's new multimedia device.

February 2, 2006

4 Min Read
Network Computing logo

From the company that brought you the Zip drive comes another step up in storage technology: The Iomega ScreenPlay Multimedia, which has a 60-GB notebook drive at its core and integrates audio, video and still-image playback capabilities with PC connectivity through a USB 2.0 interface.

Any type of video file can be saved on the unit from your PC and played back on a TV hooked to the ScreenPlay over the included A/V cable. There's no need to convert .AVI files to DVD or VCD. I moved only about 8 GB worth of video to the ScreenPlay for testing (an entire season of the darkly funny The Venture Brothers, a spoof of the old Johnny Quest cartoons), but you can transfer up to 90 hours of video to the ScreenPlay. Good news for anyone going on an extended vacation.

Iomega ScreenPlay Multimedia Click to enlarge in another window

The video files are arranged according to file name and the device has a thumbnail control. Unfortunately, the thumbnail system attempts to load and play each video in its entirety as the files are listed, so getting a full directory can take some time. But video playback overall is good. I put many .AVI files of differing codec types through the ScreenPlay and had only a single hitch: When I started one video file, then pressed stop, then started from the menu again, the file's audio was corrupted. I had to turn the ScreenPlay off and on again with the switch at the back to fix the problem.

Another concern: When the ScreenPlay is put through its paces in video-playback mode, the unit becomes hot. Very hot. Heat is not unexpected in a purpose-built embedded media device coupled to a high-RPM hard drive, but I was troubled by the extent of the temperature issue. The unit lacks a cooling mechanism and has only short "feet" to give a bit of clearance and airflow underneath.Audio playback with MP3 files was a snap. When the menu option for music playback is selected, the ScreenPlay hops right to the appropriate directory and displays a track list. Tracks can be selected and played back, shuffled and so forth. Unfortunately moving up and down the track lists skips to the next song, so scanning ahead to find a tune while one is playing isn't an option. I couldn't find any menu options for playlist creation, and the remote has no "shuffle" button for random playback.

But ScreenPlay's audio playback can accompany slideshow presentations. The system is a bit rudimentary because you can only start the audio from the first track, but it's nice nonetheless. The slide-show mode features a few different fades and wipes to transition from one photo to another, and you can set the length of a time between transitions.

The ScreenPlay includes Iomega's Automatic Backup Pro to support the its additional role as an external hard drive. Tests using the open-source Iometer show the ScreenPlay fares about as well as most external hard drives--that's to say, it's considerably slower than our comparative model, a 160-GB Seagate SATA hard drive. The Seagate drive claimed a 56.11 MBps throughput compared to the 7.43 MBps throughput achieved by the ScreenPlay, for instance. But given the ScreenPlay's position as more of a media device than a simple storage unit, and that it plays back audio and video without a skip or pause, it's I/O performance in the desktop arena is secondary.

The two-piece power lead that comes with the device is interesting. It features a detachable "prong" section; that is, the plug itself can be removed from the power lead. No additional plugs or voltage converters are included, so the solution seems to hint at the possibility of a battery pack in the unit's future. Frankly, the ScreenPlay cries out for that option.

And for a better remote. The remote control is a "credit card" device; the buttons are blister style set in a membrane and require more than a light touch to press. Even more distressing is that the remote will turn the unit off, but not on. That's inconvenient.But that shouldn't keep you away from the ScreenPlay. If you're looking for a small, easy-to-transport, simple-to-use, and high-storage capacity multimedia device, it's got the goods.

$219.95. Iomega, (888) 516-8467.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights