The ScreenPlay Director is the most advanced media player from Iomega’s line of ScreenPlay multimedia drives. This media player also doubles as a Network Access Storage (NAS) drive with its internal hard drive and Ethernet support. It’s not a new player in the market being introduced mid last year but it’s one of the few media players available locally that has a built-in internal storage.
Iomega didn’t go with the traditional lay down type of design for the ScreenPlay Director. This player stands vertically (similar to the Nintendo Wii) which is going to find a home beside your TV instead of hiding inside the TV rack. I personally like it better this way because it’s easy to fiddle around with the connections from behind in case you would often move this unit around the house.
In front of the unit are media control buttons including the important NTSC/PAL button which are useful in times when you can’t find your remote or if its batteries are dead.
Behind the unit you will see a complete set of AV connections. There’s composite audio/video, component, HDMI and optical S/PDIF audio port. Data connection includes the Ethernet port, 3x USB 2.0 ports, and a USB out port in case you want to connect this to your PC as an external drive.
Included in the package is a remote control, an HDMI cable (some manufacturers don’t include this), USB cable, power supply, composite video cable and some CDs you probably won’t need. There’s no component (RGB) cable nor RJ45 LAN cable in the package however.
The remote control is functional and simple to use but I would like to point out that it is lacking a dedicated Back button. To go back, you typically use the Left button but this is not the case in all menus. Sometimes, you have to use the Enter button to go back. Otherwise, the buttons are pretty well laid-out.
Ease of Use
The Iomega ScreenPlay Director is quite easy to set up. I already have a media player and I found that the cables including the power adapter can also be used here so I just plugged my component cable, my LAN cable which is already connected to my wireless router and I was set. If a wired connection is not an option for you, you can purchase a separate WiFi dongle that you can plug into one of the USB port to connect wirelessly.
In my old TV, I had to press the TV/SYS button in the remote a few times to get the correct display. One thing that that irks me here is that every time I turn on the unit, I have to do this step unlike in my old player where it remembers my TV/SYS setting.
As for browsing the network, I just add the ScreenPlay Director to my Workgroup from the Settings menu and I could instantly access the shared drives in all PCs for some streaming action. In effect, I could also easily access the player from my PC via Windows Explorer so I could dump files onto it.
Features and Performance
Just like the ScreenPlay MX, the Director comes with either a 1TB or 2TB internal drive which makes it a decent NAS drive for a small household. It is preformatted using NTFS which means Mac users can’t natively read the drive. A FAT32 formatting utility is included in the package though.
User Interface is pretty straightforward and intuitive. Navigating produce a teeny bit of lag but as you go deeper into its menus especially in the setting area, it gets slower to the point that you don’t know if the system hanged (happened a couple of times) or not.
The Ethernet connection of the Director only uses a 100/10 Mbit interface which makes transferring of files onto the the player a bit slow. A 700MB movie transferred in about 9 minutes when on my own player it will only take 4 minutes. However, it is sufficient for video streaming of your typical AVI files. No lags or stuttering whatsoever. Haven’t tried it on HD or BDRip files unfortunately.
Iomega claims that the Director can play most popular formats including MKVs and full HD 1080p videos however, it failed to output the video (sound only) on a couple of my downloaded AVI files. There’s also one instance that it couldn’t display a video resolution correctly so the sides were cut off. It also won’t display subtitles unless it’s ripped from the DVD. There’s a firmware update though that I wasn’t able to try (need to create an account) that’s supposed to provide support for SRT subtitle files.
I also couldn’t get YouTube to work on the Director. It can browse the Top Rated and all those categories from YouTube but it kept on saying that the video was unavailable. It has web videos from a content provider that I was able to play though.
When it comes to media players, I would go for the whole shebang especially since I have a wired home. The Iomega ScreenPlay Director would surely fit in a networked household where people can just dump multimedia files onto it and stream videos to and from PCs and other TVs, just get something like the ScreenPlay TV Link for secondary TVs.
It’s easy to use, has a nice, solid build and decent choice for a complete media player but the slow network transfer, laggy user interface and poor YouTube playback might slightly offset the advantages you would get from this. These can be fixed with firmware updates though like what they did to update codec support.
The Iomega ScreenPlay Director is one of the few media players out there that’s manufactured by a reputable storage solution company. If brand is important to you when choosing a gadget, your options would be limited when it comes to media players and Iomega ScreenpPlay products are one of those. On the opposing fence, the newer WD TV Live Hub (SRP: Php9,990) will rival the Iomega ScreenPlay Director (SRP: Php9,400).