ZyXel DMA-1000 Digital Media Theater
At a Glance
ZyXEL DMA-1000 Digital Media Theater
This compact, easy-to-set-up streamer lacks Wi-Fi, and rival streamers provide better audio output.
The DMA-1000 may be easy to set up, but that's chiefly because it lacks Wi-Fi, the tricky part of a streaming setup. (ZyXel says it's working to add the feature to future versions, but you'll still see a nonfunctioning option for it in the setup screens.) The DMA-1000 doesn't play DivX files or anything at a definition higher than 1080i, but it can play video formats such as .mp4 and Xvid, as well as unprotected .wma files and unprotected iTunes music (.m4a files). It produced a very good HD picture but failed to accompany it with first-rate sound.
Indeed, the ZyXel had worse sound than any other device I looked at. But let me put that in context: The other six players delivered very good to spectacular audio, while the DMA-1000's was merely acceptable. It was the only streamer that lacked an optical audio output, though it does have a coaxial S/PDIF connection (which I used). Nevertheless, it didn't sound as good as the others.
This is a very nice-looking player--small and sleek, with only a row of status lights to make its outside any more communicative than an Apple TV. In fact, the DMA-1000 resembles a well-designed router minus the antenna.
Though the remote control fits well in your hand, little thought seems to have gone into button placement. The bottom, hard-to-reach section of the remote holds 20 identical-looking small buttons, including Play, Pause, Video, Music, and Rotate. Trying to pause or rewind quickly can be a pain; by the time I found the right buttons, the moment I wanted to reexamine would be long gone. The remote control does have one very appealing touch: a Tools button that behaves like the right-mouse button in Windows. If you are watching a video, listening to music, or watching a slide show, clicking the Tools button will bring up a small, activity-appropriate menu in the upper-left corner. For instance, if you hit the Tools button while examining photos, the ZyXel will display a menu of slide-show options, so you can pick the background music and the length of time each picture will be displayed.
The ZyXel DMA-1000 delivered pleasing video, despite its slight pixelation of difficult-to-render movements, such as dissolves and swirling fog.
Despite nice video and a low price, the DMA-1000 is our least favorite streamer in this group, mostly due to its lack of Wi-Fi and its average sound.