The Toshiba StorE TV+ is like a delusional contestant on Britain's Got Talent. It thinks it can sing, dance and entertain the masses, but, in reality, it has trouble just holding a tune.
We'd hoped this multimedia hard-drive streamer might bring a savvy consumer-electronics sensibility to what has often seemed a parochial product category -- after all, it's a Toshiba device. But it doesn't. What we actually have here is a PC peripheral with a bad sense of direction.
Our 1TB model costs around £110, but 500GB, 1.5TB and 2TB drives are also available.
The StorE TV+ makes a great first impression. The glossy black box is small, and sports an appealing high-res LCD display. The small size of the device has been achieved by using an external, 12V power brick.
Having any form of display is a novelty in this category. Toshiba uses it to offer a simple status update as to where the device is looking -- the local hard drive, a USB stick, a memory card and so on.
Connectivity is also good. There's an HDMI output, phono AV, Ethernet jack, digital coaxial output, three USB ports, and a three-in-one card reader, compatible with SD, MultiMediaCard and Memory Stick media. You can hook an external CD/DVD drive up to a USB port, and discs will automatically play through the StorE TV+ when inserted.
Getting online is easy. The StorE TV+ comes with a Wi-Fi dongle in the box.
The user interface initially impresses and navigation is intuitive. High-resolution graphics represent the local hard drive, any connected USB devices or memory cards, any external DVD drive, and your networks. Once on our LAN, the StorE TV+ effortlessly located an assortment of network-attached storage devices and PCs.
There are several ways of moving content to and from the device. You can stream across a network, or simply use the host USB connection and drag your sound and vision files directly to either the music or video folders on the device.
File support is reassuringly broad -- the unit can play MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, FLAC and LPCM files, as well as Dolby Digital and DTS bit streams. Video compatibility is equally good. Our test pool of AVI, MKV, MOV and MPEG files all played.
Note that there are no Internet-connected entertainment options.
Alas, the user experience is unremittingly poor. It quickly becomes apparent that the StorE TV+ is very much a product of Toshiba's IT division. Quite who its designers thought were going to use this product, and where, is a mystery.
Browse an album and each track is displayed as a thumbnail graphic tiled across the screen. These sit there even when you hit play. There's no sense that you're actually playing music. You can't search by album, artist or genre either, and album art is ignored. Whereas rival media streamers found and displayed cover art from our music server, the StorE TV+ saw it as a separate file, displaying it in isolation. Even track names have to be scrolled to be read.
On the plus side, the file-management system is good. Not only can you copy files between a USB device, memory card, network and local hard drive, you can also rename and delete them. A playlist function allows you to select music, photos and videos from any of the available sources.
The unit is also accomplished when it comes to displaying photos. It takes no effort at all to set up a slideshow, with intervals variable between 2 seconds and 2 minutes, and a choice of eight transitional effects. There's even background music.
The unit offers a variety of standard picture controls, including contrast, saturation and hue. We'd rather rely on our TV for this kind of fine-tuning, though. It does, however, seem something of a missed opportunity that the StorE TV+ doesn't offer Toshiba's proprietary Resolution+ picture-enhancement software.
It's worth noting that this streamer is rather noisy in operation. The confined cabinet space means the fan has its work cut out.
The Toshiba StorE TV+ is just another PC-centric media streamer. It offers good file support, but, unfortunately, provides an uninspiring user experience. The seed of a decent product line is here, but Toshiba really needs to think about who this product is aimed at before it knocks on the door for a second audition.
Edited by Charles Kloet