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Monday, January 03, 2005
Zensonic Announces Z500 Networked DVD Media Player


Breakthrough DVD player offers High definition and WMV9 playback

Australian home theatre designer Zensonic Corporation has announced a groundbreaking DVD player with wireless networking and the ability to directly connect a hard-drive.

The Zensonic Z500 networked digital media player gives users four connectivity options in one unit: wireless networking, gigabit Ethernet wired networking, optical disc playback and USB 2.0 hard drive connection.

It has unprecedented file format support including high definition Windows Media? Video 9, DivX? and MPEG4 playback. In addition it also supports HighMAT? (High Performance Media Access Technology). HighMAT is a standard way of organising digital media files on burned discs for easy browsing and playback through a DVD player or other digital player. It is already implemented in Windows? XP, Ahead Nero and other popular CD/DVD writing products and solves the problem of confusing, unordered lists of files on burned discs, instead presenting easy to navigate interfaces.

The Z500 server software is not only available for Windows, but also Mac OS X and Linux.

"First generation digital media players forced users to compromise," said Zensonic CEO Raaj Menon. "It was generally a choice between a DVD-based player or a networked player."

"The Z500 offers both of these capabilities in one, and adds the option for the direct attachment of a USB 2.0 hard drive for the fastest and most convenient transfer of digital media from home PCs," he said.

The USB 2.0 port can be used for either a USB flash memory device or a USB hard drive, including Apple iPod* and other music players that can be used as a hard drive for convenience. Alternatively, the Z500 can play digital media files burned on to all popular optical formats including CD-R(W), DVD±R(W) and even dual layer DVD±R(W).

The Z500's music playback capability handles all the formats enthusiasts have been waiting for, including the high definition FLAC lossless compressed format, OGG, AAC (commonly used in Apple iTunes**), MP3, Windows Media Audio 9 (including digitally rights managed WMA9), CD Audio and others.

Video playback is also astonishingly comprehensive. The Z500 handles playback in Windows Media Video 9, DivX XviD, MPEG-4, QuickTime MPEG-4, MPEG-2, MPEG-1, DVD, and other formats.

High resolution photos can be played back, preserving resolution if displayed through a high definition TV or monitor. The device supports popular image file formats including JPEG, TIFF, RAW and others.

The Z500 is engineered from the ground up for high performance networking, with Gigabit Ethernet networking and 54Mbit/s*** 802.11G wireless networking integrated.

Likewise, the Z500 has stunningly comprehensive sound output options. Both coaxial and optical outputs are available for flawless digital connection to home theatre amplifiers, while advanced sound decoding capabilities allow direct playback of 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtracks through analogue outputs.

The internet is just a button away on the Z500, with instant access to stock quotes, local weather and more. Internet radio stations can be streamed from sources offering the popular PLS and ASX formats.

An easy to install and use Zensonic server application called Z-Drive is supplied with the player to make sorting and streaming digital media files from multiple PCs simple. It is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

The player can even be controlled directly from a PC or Mac if a user prefers, or through the supplied Zensonic backlit remote control with scroll jog-shuttle for easy menu navigation.

The unit is powered by Sigma Designs' EM8620L media processor. The power of this chipset can be enhanced and extended over time by Zensonic software upgrades, which are automatically downloaded and installed by Zensonic Z-Update. Users never have to worry about whether they have the latest firmware for their player - if an internet connection is available, they always will.

"It is exciting to see a player which utilises the full capabilities of our chipset," said Ken Lowe, vice president of strategic marketing for Sigma Designs. "Zensonic's player strikes a balance between feature richness and affordability which we believe will become a trend within high definition Windows Media DVD players."

The Zensonic Z500 will be available in March at a recommended retail price of AU$429.

First prototypes will be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, January 6-8, 2005. You can read the entire press release at http://www.zensonic.com/press_z500.php


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