LaCie LaCinema Rugged HD multimedia player

LaCie's LaCinema Rugged HD is one of the pricier and more capable hard-drive-based portable digital media adapters on the market

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LaCie LaCinema Rugged HD
  • LaCie LaCinema Rugged HD
  • LaCie LaCinema Rugged HD
  • LaCie LaCinema Rugged HD

Pros

  • Lots of codecs supported, attractive design, excellent 1080p video playback

Cons

  • Poor remote control, occasional file errors

Bottom Line

The LaCie LaCinema Rugged HD is one of the pricier hard-drive-based portable digital media adapters on the market, but it's also one of the more capable.

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Note: pricing for this product is in US$.

LaCie's LaCinema Rugged HD is a hard drive that attaches to your PC's USB port, and it's a multimedia player that outputs the video, music, and images that you copy onto it to your TV via HDMI or composite/analog outputs. It's price (US$339) is above average for a hard drive-based portable digital media adapter, but it's also significantly better than average, with 1080p output and 500GB of capacity — enough for 100 DVDs' worth of video, even at 1080p if compressed properly.

Annoyingly, I ran into a snag with the LaCinema Rugged HD right off the bat thanks to its sub-standard remote control. Only a complete redesign will rescue the remote, which unfortunately achieves simplicity at the cost of reducing its ease of use. Pressing the Play button is the only way to drill down the menu tree from the main page, even though a four-way rocker button just beneath it could perform the same function — and does, except when you're in the main menu. Another problem: Because the rocker button steps through menu levels continuously, I repeatedly overshot my intended target. In contrast, the on-screen menu — though it lacks the preview function of WD's TV products — is easy to learn and use.

The LaCinema Rugged HD handles significantly more multimedia formats than does the non-HD LaCinema Rugged, including wave audio and WMV video files (such as WMV9 HD). Other supported codecs are MPEG-1, MPEG-2/HD, MPEG-4, XVID, H.264 HD, and VC-1 video, and MP3, MP4, OGG, and WMA audio. No Apple lossless or FLAC; sorry musicians. Regrettably, though the unit rendered a bitmap and .GIF image correctly, it refused to play one of my larger .JPG files and locked up trying to display a .PNG file. The unit also failed to display a standard H.264 version of Assault on Precinct 13 that I had on hand. Playback of other media was excellent, especially video at 1080p via the HDMI port.

The LaCie Rugged HD is an international product. The AC adapter comes with three changeable prongs. The case is handsomely rendered in black plastic with a wraparound rubberised strip. Rubber shock absorbers inside the case provide further resistance to damage from falls, though you should still handle it (and any other hard drive) with care.

It's nice to see that LaCie has beefed up its codec support with the HD version of the LaCinema Rugged. The drive still needs some tweaking, but it's now a roadworthy, handsome device with presentation-quality output. Now if only LaCie would do something about the pitiful remote.

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