Symbiosis Between PC And Hi-Fi Device: Pinnacle ShowCenter

Connectors And Functions

Connectors on the back. Click to enlarge.

The front of the ShowCenter is sleek in design; nothing is visible save for three blue LEDs. But a glance at the back reveals the connection possibilities offered by the Pinnacle product. These include: SCART-TV connection (video and audio, widespread in Europe), video-out component (for North America), S-Video (S-VHS jack with 5 pins), FBAS-Video (yellow cinch jack), audio out L/R for two pairs of speakers A (front) and B (rear), digital audio out as SPDIF cinch or, alternatively, optical jack, 100 Mbit/s Ethernet port, expansion slot for a wireless LAN card (wireless network acc. to 802.11b/11Mbit standard) and network connection.

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Supported File Formats
DivX Simple Profile ab V4Row 3 - Cell 1 GIF
XviD Simple ProfileRow 4 - Cell 1 Row 4 - Cell 2
DV AVIRow 5 - Cell 1 Row 5 - Cell 2
WMVRow 6 - Cell 1 Row 6 - Cell 2

All other data formats have to be converted first. Although the supplied software does feature a conversion function, it didn't always work reliably in the test. For that reason, we recommend using conversion tools from external providers if needed.

Wireless Network Card (WLAN): Too Bad It's Not 54 Mbit/s (802.11g)

The box firmware supports a host of 11-Mbit/s WLAN cards. The following cards are compatible with the ShowCenter.

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Linksys WPC11 Ver. 3Prism3
D-Link DWL-660Orinoco
Orinoco Silver (32T19111)Orinoco
Microsoft MN-520Prism2
LG LW2150NPrism3

We received the D-Link DWL-660 for our test. You need to bear in mind that the current ShowCenter revision only supports cards that comply with the 802.11b standard. That means that the maximum theoretical bandwidth is 11 Mbit/s . From that, seasoned PC users will be able to recognize the system's physical limits. That's because the actual data throughput rate for 11-Mbit cards is 4.5 Mbit/s without WEP encoding, and even less than that with WEP. And that's simply not enough to play back MPEG-2 videos from a DVD. It's a different story with DivX, WMV and VCD. Wireless LAN offers sufficient bandwidth for seamless playback in those formats. So if you want to play DVDs with the ShowCenter, you'll either have to convert the material to a more compact format beforehand or work with a cable (100 Mbit/s Ethernet).

It would be nice if it supported WLAN cards with 54 Mbit/s (802.11g ). At least that would solve the bandwidth problem. Since the player and the Sigma reference design were already in development prior to acceptance of the 54-Mbit/s standards, the developers didn't manage to integrate this feature.

Uwe Scheffel