MediaCentral 2.6 Review
As its name implies, MediaCentral 2.6.3 centralises the media on your Mac in a streamlined, cohesive menu, allowing you to turn your computer into an entertainment centre, much like Apple’s Front Row. The main difference is that MediaCentral allows you to access all of your media, while Front Row limits your video and music selection to files in your iTunes Library.
If you regularly rip DVDs or download media from sources other than the iTunes Store, you’ll appreciate the freedom you get with MediaCentral to browse through and access all of your media. We found some quirks in video playback and performance when testing the program, and we didn’t find the user manual to be very helpful with initial setup. But overall, MediaCentral is well designed, intuitive, and fun to use.
The ideal setup for MediaCentral is to install the application on a Mac that you dedicate to your entertainment needs; and then connect that Mac to a television or display. In our testing of MediaCentral, we connected a 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo Mac mini to a ViewSonic VX2245vm ViewDock display using a DVI-to-HDMI cable. While we found this setup to be simple, we were disappointed that MediaCentral’s user manual didn’t include information on adaptors or video cables you’d need to connect your Mac to a television.
Getting started with MediaCentral is easy. While launching, MediaCentral automatically scans your hard drive and links to your music, videos, photos, and Flash games. You can then begin browsing through the menu and selecting your media. If your hard drive is bloated with media files, this process could take several minutes.
If your Mac is connected to the internet, you can take advantage of MediaCentral’s internet-based categories – IP TV, Radio, and Skype. The IP TV category contains links to video podcasts from several major websites – if the category doesn’t include your favourite video podcast, you can add it to the MY IP TV folder.
Overall, MediaCentral performed well. However, when tested on a 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook, the program ran sluggishly even though the library contained just 3.5GB of videos and music.
We also encountered one minor issue in video playback. When playing videos shown in the 4:3 aspect ratio, we noticed small colour bars on the sides of some of the videos.
Apple’s Front Row pales in comparison to MediaCentral 2.6.3. The application does a fine job of organising and presenting your media, and its internet-based features are impressive. However, MediaCentral’s goal – to give you access to all your media in one place – can feel stifled as you add more media to your library and experience sluggish performance. With some improvements to video playback and performance, and some revisions to the user manual, MediaCentral has the potential to be a powerful piece of software.