LaCie Silverscreen (80GB)

LaCie's Silverscreen turns a USB drive into a multimedia repository that travels with you, though it's on the pricey side.

Though Apple's multiple announcements at Macworld SF had everyone buzzing, other companies also announced new and notable products. LaCie announced several, one of which is the Silverscreen portable USB multimedia hard drive. It does double duty as a USB hard drive when attached to your PC and a playback device when attached to a TV (via A/V cable). The Silverscreen drive comes in 40GB (AU$499) and 80GB (AU$699) capacities. The 40GB drive is available now, and the 80GB drive should ship in February.

Upside: The LaCie Silverscreen drive is truly portable: it measures 140 by 89 by 28mm (LWT) and weighs less than 285 grams. Loading the drive with media is as simple as plugging the USB cable into your computer and dragging and dropping movie, song, and photo files. The A/V cable connects the drive to your TV or display monitor, which needs an RCA, S-Video, SCART, VGA, or yPbPr input. LaCie's thin remote control and simple user interface allow you to easily navigate through your files. It's compatible with HDTV quality video and Dolby Digital or DTS quality audio. Another neat feature is Video On-Demand (VOD), which allows you to go online to rent or buy DivX VOD movies from the DivX Web site. With the Silverscreen, it should be a snap to take movies or presentations along when you travel.

Downside: As with any hard drive, there's always the chance of disk failure, taking with it your precious photos and songs. Also, you can't just hook it up to speakers and use it as a simple audio playback device because the drive has no display, and you have to go through the user interface to play the media. And a price of AU$700 for what is essentially a hard drive with A/V outputs (and firmware to allow playback) is a little steep. Other than that, we can't comment on any particular downsides until we test this product.

Outlook: This may prove to be a popular item for people who want a relatively inexpensive and mobile dumping ground for their gobs of media.

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