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Dreamíeo Enza Portable Media Center
by Robert Sanborn

 With the Consumer Electronics show fast approaching, I thought I would take a look at the some of the new portable media products coming out and the Enza from Dreamíeo looked like a good start. Think of it as a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) that is designed for entertainment so that you can take your movies, video clips, and music with you. It sounds like a great concept as I think about a long 4 plus hour plane ride to Las Vegas. The real question will be how much of a differing variety of content it can handle.  So what exactly is an Enza? It really is a PDA, about 3 by 4.5 by 1 inch thick. It has a 3.5 inch TFT screen that is very bright and can display 320x240 pixels. An Intel 400mhz processor with 64mb or ram and a 20 gig hard drive as well and the operating system is Microsoftís Portable Media Center.

 To get started, all you do is to first connect it to the power adapter and charge the internal battery. The package comes with a getting started booklet that is pretty well set out with enough detail to darn near just plug and go. Of course, like a lot of new equipment these days, you must run the CD and install the drivers before attaching the Enza to your computer with the supplied USB cable.

 The package contains the Enza Portable Media Center, (PMC) the getting started booklet, the CD, the USB Cable, a remote control unit, and finally the AC power unit which is switchable so you can plug it into either our 110 outlets or a 240 volt outlet you would find in Europe.  The USB cable is the type you would find on most digital cameras, standard plug for your computer and the mini B plug on the end that plugs into your unit.

 Installation is very smooth, click an install button after the agreement and you are ready to go. What is interesting when you install the CD is that the license agreement that comes up is between you and Microsoft because you are installing version 10 of Windows Media Player. It also states that you are using pre-release software for which no support is available and you must offer feedback to Microsoft on using the product. At this point, you are ready to plug in your PMC. They recommend USB 2.0 so you get the much faster transfer rate between your computer and the Enza but USB 1 will work.  Before you click the finish button, they recommend checking for updates but at this time, that feature is not working right, it takes you to a Chinese web site that then points you to Dreamíeoís home page at www.dreameo.com.

 When you connect your Enza to your computer, the dialog box asks you to use Windows Media Player to connect and synchronize content and you allow it to continue. If you donít have the latest version of Windows Media Player, it will install it for you and then search your computer for content to send to the Enza. This might take some time depending on how large your hard drives are and how much material you have. The connection to the Enza works very quickly for small files but it is a bit confusing to decide what to select and how to get it across. Windows Media Player does a great job in scanning your hard disk for media content but to tell it to create a new playlist for the Enza is not intuitive and I really donít like how you send files to the Enza. This is a really a fault of the Windows Media Player (WMP) program and not the Enza. Donít be surprised if your Enza goes black during this period of transfer but according to WMP, it is sailing along just fine.  My preference here would be to default to always on if the power is on AC.

 Probably the most time consuming part of this whole installation project is to determine what you want on the Enza. It has a 20 gig hard drive with about 18 gig free and you can easily fill it up with movies and music. So, I went trolling through my archives and selected a variety of music and movie clips that I had accumulated. One thing I quickly found was that many of the movie files were missing codecs and so could not be converted. It looked confusing at first but the trick here is to go into media player, select the movie in question, and tell it to play it. If it plays here, you are in luck. In my case, several files would not and the error message pointed directly to the web sites to download the proper codec files to allow me to play them.

 This also points out another problem for those of you who have been copying music and video over the years. Windows naturally has its own media formats that it prefers and if you have been using other programs and systems to dump files, you may find that you have all sorts of conversion problems to deal with. In my case, I have a really varied collection. Video CDs from China and other countries, clips from an ATI All in Wonder card, downloaded home made movie files, files from various cam-corders, and so on.  You can almost spend as much time getting your music converted to WMF formats as you can downloading it.

 What makes it easier as you might know is that it converts all these files to a format suitable for the Enza (or any other media player or PDA), and that compresses them quite a bit. Who needs a large video file when the biggest image you are going to see is 320x240. And that is fine. In testing it with audio files, they sound great using either the little ear buds that came with it or actually, any set of headphones.

 I like using the Enza Portable Media Player. The video clips I downloaded from the internet worked out just fine and were fun to see. Many clips when downloaded are already in the smaller format so you really donít see much difference when you watch them. Some of the larger ones did show some hesitation in the video while the audio track sailed along just fine. Those that did not play as smoothly as I would expect were ones I had recorded using my Media Center PC. I would have thought Windows Media Player would have done a better job of converting those. Other movies and videos played just fine.  The remote control unit is handy because the buttons on it are spaced a lot better than using the controls on the unit itself. I did find that the remote had to be pretty close to the Enza but that could be because of a weak battery.

 To setup your Enza, there are a lot of options to you from turning the screen effects and sounds on and off, to changing the amount of time the screen stays on when not actively used, though the maximum of one minute seems short to me. There is an equalizer you can set for different music styles, you can change the brightness of the screen and set the TV out mode to either NTSC (US) or PAL (European) compatibility.  In a status window, I can see I have 1 TV program, 376 songs, 46 albums, 0 pictures, and 47 video clips taking a total of 3.37GB with 15GB free.  As you can see, lots of space available for more content.

 With the portable media player, when selecting music to play, you have the option of sorting it by album, artist, playlist, genre, and song list to name just four ways of picking the music. When you play the music, you can shuffle play, repeat all the songs, set the equalizer settings, or even mark them for purchase. Volume controls on the side of the unit make it easy to adjust the level. Another neat feature is the hold button on the top. I first saw this on my world band radio, hit the button and it disables all other controls on the unit so you donít have to worry about hitting something by mistake if you stuff it in your pocket while listening to the music.

 While playing the music, you see a battery indicator and a timer telling you how long the music is playing. A pause/play button on the top of the unit lets you stop if you need to in the middle of a song or video clip. You can also check the indicator when playing video clips as well so you donít run the battery all the way down.  Since it uses a 5v power connector, I am hoping that a USB power adapter will soon be available.

 There are lots of options for playing the Enza. The hold switch makes it easy to carry around using headphones and if you like, there are a ton of portable music player speaker systems that you can use when you are working in a single spot. Check out speakers for iPods and the like from companies like Saitek. Pretty cool stuff there. 

I liked using the unit. It has a simple interface and can easily select songs and music to play. I like the categories that I can browse through in selecting music.  I do wish the video side allowed me to break the files into more manageable segments or to organize them by category as if you have a lot of them, you must scroll all through the listings to find what you want.  My biggest complaints though are with the Microsoft Windows Media Player 10 and how you synchronize music, videos, and pictures to the Enza. They need to work on that interface more. There is a ton of room on a 20gig drive in the way they compress files so you will have a lot of room and hopefully time to view and listen to your entertainment. 

Dreamíeo can be found at www.dreameo.com and is available at MWave, www.mwave.com for $399.

Robert Sanborn is a technology analyst for PC Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at robert@pcll.com

 

 

Last Update:06/26/2007

 

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