Freecom’s last foray into the media streaming market garnered mixed reviews from consumers, but we were impressed by the performance and straightforward operation of the MediaPlayer 350, even if it was on a little on the basic side in terms of extras.

The MediaPlayer 450 hit the shelves recently as the company looks to build on its recent success, though on the face of it you wouldn’t think that much has changed.

Freecom seems to have missed a beat in terms of a redesign here, since the new version looks and behaves in exactly the same way, still offering a choice of internal capacities and still using Windows’ folder sharing to choose what content you share over a network. Neither of these factors caused problems in the past so we’re not too concerned with a seeming lack of innovation on the part of the 450, though it’s worth noting that it now supports SATA drives by default instead of the IDE option of the previous version.

If you’re wondering which option to go for, we’d suggest opting for the Drive-In model, which is basically an empty device without a hard drive, and picking up a cheap internal drive yourself from someone like eBuyer (www.ebuyer.co.uk) since it seems to work out far cheaper than buying a built-in hard drive with the device, even if you do sacrifice the warranty on its operation in the process.

Of course Freecom couldn’t justify re-releasing the MediaPlayer without a few improvements and the most notable on offer is the presence of an HDMI port, which is certainly a worthwhile upgrade. You’ll also find the ability to listen to internet radio and provided you have a hard drive plugged in with the appropriate resources on board you can now change the theme of the interface to give you a little more customisable control.

It also appears as though performance has been improved somewhat, while general streaming quality wasn’t an issue with the original model, high definition content did start to struggle over a wireless connection and we’re pleased to report that we had no problems at all here. Performance is still excellent once you’ve got the thing up and running, and if you’re after a solution that doesn’t require a great deal of effort, in terms of building and maintaining a library through software like iTunes or Windows Media Player, this is a great way to go.

Unfortunately it’s not all good news. The 450 seems to be a little more temperamental than the last model and establishing a connection via the HDMI port caused us a few problems on initial setup that required a number of restarts. Patience will get you there eventually, but further down the line we encountered issues with format compatibility and stability that occasionally caused the unit to crash, requiring a restart and in most cases forcing you to unplug and plug back in to regain control.

Verdict

Aside from the HDMI connectivity and a few minor upgrades not a lot has changed with the MediaPlayer 450, but it doesn’t seem nearly as stable as the 350. These issues didn’t occur very often so it’s not a major problem if you appreciate the straightforward operation, but we’d have liked Freecom to build on its excellent performance in the past with a few more bells and whistles and more stable operation.