With the increasing abundance of digital media it comes as no surprise to see more media jukeboxes like Lacie’s LaCinema crop up over the last year or so. As a solution for those who want to view photos, videos or listen to music through a TV they are cheaper than streamers though you’ll obviously forgo network support, usually in favour of an internal hard drive.
The LaCinema comes with a choice of capacities from 250GB to 500GB and is a compact, stylishly designed device with a soft rubberised support that adds to the overall aesthetic as well as offering peace of mind should it be accidentally dropped or kicked about.
In terms of connectivity you’ll find the all-important HDMI along with a digital optical output and a Composite for older TVs, with the former allowing it to play back files encoded at up to 1080p resolutions and handily there’s an HDMI cable supplied in the box.
There's also a Mini-USB to connect the device to a computer, at which point files can be copied across and are separated into music, video and photo categories by the LaCinema once plugged into a TV. File support appears to be pretty good after a glance at the specifications but in practice we found it to be a little more temperamental than it should be at recognising and playing back content, particularly in the case of video.
While quality here is pretty good we were quite disappointed by the overall experience as skipping back and forth through files often results in a complete loss of picture. With no progress bar to indicate the current position this becomes an arduous process, and to make things worse it is prone to crashing if you’re a little too overzealous with the controls. This isn’t the end of the problems either; when connecting the device directly via HDMI we noticed that there was no audio available for either video or music playback unless a separate digital optical cable was hooked up as well. Though this wasn’t a problem through a Composite connection it’s clearly an issue that needs to be resolved; Lacie is currently investigating and if we hear back from them with a solution we’ll let you know.
Audio and photo playback seemed a little more responsive but in general we were quite disappointed by the rather limited degree of control over all types of media. There are basic settings here such as repeat controls for audio and a rudimentary slideshow control for photos but this really is the bare minimum required to make this sort of device usable. The interface is also quite bland and the lack of media management can make large collections difficult to browse.
As you can probably tell we weren’t very impressed by Lacie’s entry into this market. The LaCinema’s most redeeming feature by far is the tidy design, though to be fair audio and video quality is quite good when it’s working. Unfortunately it’s plagued with far too many usability and stability issues for this to hold genuine merit and the basic approach to operation and media control certainly doesn’t do it any favours.