Multimedia Center 9 - EAZYLOOK, EASYLAUNCH & Media Library
The Multimedia Center 9 also comes with some improvements to existing areas of the software, building on an already powerful bundle. The first major change we noted was with the EAZYLOOK interface. Here the menu system has been fine tuned to be more intuitive, integrating tightly with the Remote Wonder to be the sole controller for the system. ATI implemented EAZYLAUNCH into the EAZYLOOK package which makes it extremely easy to navigate between the various modules of the Multimedia Center from a simple rolling menu. Without reviewing any documentation, we were able to get quite comfortable navigating the interface in a matter of minutes. We easily navigated from DVD to DTV to Library with a few clicks of the remote and soon lost the urge to reach for the mouse. The on-screen display was the perfect size, making it easy to read from across the room. When in DTV, we could watch a show, press the record button and automatically record what we were watching. Once recording was complete we could navigate to the Media Library, pick the file from the list and play it back.
The next major upgrade came in the Media Library component. Along with the ability to catalogue various media on a particular system, the Media Library also integrates tightly with the DTV component. Unlike the TV component which lets users record directly to various formats and locations on a PC, the DTV recording feature is directly linked to the Media Library, automatically cataloging recorded content accordingly. Once in the main list, the media is easily accessed from EAZYLOOK directly from within the Media Library for playback. However, the files are basically locked into the library until you decide what you want to do with them. For starters, each recorded file can be exported from the library to any location on your system in various qualities of MPEG-2 ranging from HD quality to reduced quality and size for playback on a handheld device.
Aside from simple exporting of files, ATI has also integrated native CD/DVD recording functionality which lets users create basic menus before writing to CD/DVD. We do think the interface could be more intuitive, though. For example, when opting to burn a DVD you are given a long list of menu choices to give your DVD a theme, such as Birthday Kid, Halloween and Summer Fun, yet no preview was available to see what they looked like before burning the disk. We also found it difficult to figure out how to actually complete the process without reading the documentation, which was not fully available at the time of review. One of the more confusing issues occurred when using the TV-On-Demand option, which caches the files to the hard drive so live TV can be paused, fast forwarded or rewound. The files that are cached automatically get added to the Media Library, and if we followed the steps for recording them to a DVD, we encountered a series of various errors and crashes or the software simply hung. This is part user error and part poor interface design, but once you learn the proper steps, the software worked as promised. We think ATI is truly going in the right direction with this, letting users record HDTV shows and back them up on DVD in a few clicks, but the process could be made easier.