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Imagine owning a small box that, unlike a DVD player, plays back all popular media formats, produces no audible noise and is operated by remote control from the comfort of your armchair. And, the video and sound quality is at least equal to that of a DVD. Attempts to pull this feat off in the past have failed.
However, the ShowCenter from Pinnacle satisfies appears to fit the bill. The device is hooked up to a television via S-VHS or SCART and imports all data - video, audio and photos - from a PC. Data transfer occurs via either 100 Mbit/s Ethernet or wireless WLAN. For that reason, it doesn't need mechanical components such as a DVD drive or hard disk.
The approach is - as mentioned above - simple and effective. So does the Pinnacle ShowCenter have any competition at all? In our view the Palmbutler system and EPIA platforms from VIA approximate the concept pretty closely. Another option worth mentioning is the KISS DP-450 DVD player. But there was always a hitch with those devices. For example, the CPU performance of a VIA-EPIA system is not sufficient to play back DivX/MPEG-4 videos without jerky operation. The Palmbutler has problems with its limited cable length in S-VHS mode and inferior image quality in channel mode.
The strongest rival of the Pinnacle ShowCenter is the KISS DP-1500 . With good reason: both Pinnacle and KISS Technology use decoder chips from Sigma Designs in their products. The breakthrough for Sigma Designs came, incidentally, in the form of the first MPEG-4 decoder chip, which we already described in the article At Last: A Hardware Decoder For MPEG-4 . Pinnacle integrated into the ShowCenter the modern chip Sigma Design REALmagic EM 8551 , which even boasts a few HDTV features.