Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.Measuring approximately 2 by 7 by 6 inches (HWD), the ViewSonic WMA100 is a small, silver plastic box with rounded edges. To save space, you can attach the included plastic stand and position the WMA100 vertically rather than horizontally. The sparse front panel features a translucent black plastic strip behind which a few status LEDs reside. Because the WMA100 lacks a text display and doesn't have any controls besides a power button, you must switch on the TV and grab the remote to navigate the device's menus. The WMA100 employs built-in 802.11g wireless networking rather than relying on a removable card.
The midsize remote control gets the job done. It has the requisite four-way keypad, as well as Home, Videos, Music, Pictures, and iRadio buttons as shortcuts to the main media navigation screens. Page-up and page-down buttons facilitate navigating long media lists fairly quickly, although new screens usually take a few seconds to load. A search function allows finding files by entering text with the alphanumeric keypad.
The rear panel has an impressive assortment of jacks. In addition to the standard composite and S-Video outs, the WMA100 sports component and DVI connectors, which are capable of supporting HDTV resolutions of 720p and 1080i. An included adapter converts the DVI jack to VGA should you wish to connect a computer monitor or a projector, and the DVI will interface with an HDMI port with an affordable cable. Audio jacks include a stereo RCA output and a coaxial digital output. The rear panel also hosts an adjustable, black plastic wireless antenna plus an Ethernet port for wired networks.Although the ViewSonic WMA100 plays numerous file formats, its music features are comparatively weak. The WMA100 streams MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, and XVID video files (but not WMV video files); JPEG, GIF, and PNG image files; and MP3, WAV, unprotected AAC, and unprotected WMA audio files. It also has Dolby Digital 5.1-channel pass-through for AC-3 audio files. Because audio playlists aren't supported, you have to organize your music files into the same folder if you want to play them together. Unlike D-Link's MediaLounge series, the WMA100 can't play protected WMA audio files such as those purchased from the Napster or Musicmatch services. Also not supported on the WMA100: Rhapsody, a high-quality, on-demand streaming music service, and Apple's iTunes Music Store. The WMA100 does play Internet radio, but there's an unfortunate catch: you can't add selections to the device's preprogrammed list of approximately 85 channels, some of which have bit rates as low as a paltry 16Kbps.
In addition to streaming files from WMG120 and WMG80 wireless media routers, the WMA100 can stream files from the hard drive of any networked PC that's running the included--but unfriendly--MyView Media Manager software. Unlike some competing digital media receiver software, MyView Media Manager lacks a scanning utility to automatically find files scattered around your PC's hard drive. In fact, the software can be configured only to look for files in one video folder and its subfolders, one music folder and its subfolders, and one pictures folder and its subfolders. As a result, you may have to move some of your files into centralized locations.
The oversize ViewSonic logo emblazoned across the bottom of the screen detracts from the WMA100's generally well-organized main menu. Videos, Pictures, Music, Internet Radio, and Setup buttons provide straightforward access to your media library. You can browse music files by artist, genre, and album and search all file types by the folders in which they're stored on your server. Conveniently, you can use the remote to start music playback, then select an accompanying photo slide show. Interfacing with the WMA100 sometimes feels unintuitive, in part because several prominent remote control buttons are frequently disabled.During testing, the ViewSonic WMA100 did a competent job of streaming files from a PC and from the hard drive of its companion WMG120. Hiccups were fairly infrequent. Both the WMG120 and the MyView Media Manager PC software occasionally had to be rebooted to restore a dead communication link.
With the WMA100 connected to an HDTV via a component-video cable, digital images and videos looked sharp. The analog audio outputs sounded decent. The coaxial digital output successfully passed Dolby Digital 5.1 signals to the A/V receiver.
Unfortunately, the WMA100 doesn't quite stack up to more polished competitors, including the aging Prismiq MediaPlayer. ViewSonic's system appears to be loosely based on the same lackluster engine employed by several other decent but underwhelming digital media receivers, such as ADS Tech's Media-Link, Actiontec's Wireless Digital Media Player, and FIA's On3.