First Looks: PROLiNK PME200 Wireless N Media Extender
Two Extenders, One Connection
Every once in a while, we'd come across a product which raises an eyebrow or two, if only for questionable reasons. PROLiNK's PME200 Wireless Media Extender supports the B, G and singular 2.4GHz 802.11n bands, designed mainly to stream HD video and audio sources wirelessly from source to screen. It comes as a package of two - a sender and a receiver. Four transmission channels are supported, which you can conveniently toggle at the press of a button. That, however, isn't the confounding part.
First, the basics and price point. Out of the box, you'd realize these gizmos come with just two measly VGA cables. It's quite a letdown, considering the PME200 supports S-Video, component and composite outputs. That's not all. You'd expect a Wireless N extender to offer a HDMI port at least, but we are sorry Joe, no luck here. This means you'd have to contend with a mess of cables, not forgetting that the sender and receiver units each requires a power adapter as well.
Also, whilst its component input accepts up to a 1080i/p source, the PME200's receiver is only able to dish out 720p at best. Its VGA option, however, does 1280 by 1024 both ways. To add, PROLiNK's hefty price of $699 is bound to turn some heads, albeit the wrong way.
Handling & Performance
On the other hand, the PME200's easy manageability may prove to be its redeeming factor. To get it up and running, fire up both units, turn on the source device, select the relevant inputs by depressing the "S" button, and cap it off by turning on your display. Easily done. To simulate real world performances, we paired a notebook powered by an U7300 dual-core workhorse to a Full-HD screen. Supplied VGA cables were used. Of course, a 3.5mm stereo cable is needed at both ends for the audio aspect. We tried out three video formats; a 1080p MPEG4 file, a 720p WMV clip (data rate of 9Mbps), and a standard definition 480i video. Range was locked at 10 meters.
As much as we hate to be the harbinger of bad news, all three files experienced stuttering at some point. Interestingly, lags were most apparent with the 720p clip, possibly due to its higher data rate. On the bright side, these "stutters" were few and far between when tried repeatedly. Also, audio transmissions sounded like the source was wired to the TV itself without any audible blips or noise.
All things considered, the PROLiNK PME200 Wireless Media Extender might bode well for those who aren't finicky about Full-HD resolutions, or those blessed with deeper pockets if transmission over a larger distance is a concern. But given a choice, we'd rather pair a media center with a dual-band router if the situation allows. Forking out $699 for a media extender is a wee bit too much in our books.