Can't All Our Gadgets Just Get Along?

A new technology helps PCs, TVs and other devices talk to each other, but some things get lost in translation. We put six new DLNA-certified rigs to the test

Anyone who's attempted to share a broadband connection among multiple computers knows that the line between networking and not-working is nerve-frayingly thin. For a true adventure in agitation, though, try feeding your computer-based music, photo and video files to your TV and home A/V equipment.

The Digital Living Network Alliance was founded in 2003 to create "a wired and wireless interoperable network of Personal Computers (PC), Consumer Electronics (CE) and mobile devices in the home, enabling a seamless environment for sharing and growing new digital media and content services." Gadgets that play nicely together when tested are allowed to flaunt the DLNA-certified logo.

I brought home a sampling of the first products with that badge for a test drive. The results? A few hits, but mostly misses.

Launch the gallery here to see how each fared.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G1

Shoot some pictures and turn on the camera's Wi-Fi wireless function, and the DSC-G1 magically appears as a new server that I can click to view photos on the TV screen.

Pioneer BDP-94HD Blu-ray player

First the good news: A few pieces of gear worked with no tinkering or hoop-jumping... Using the BDP-94HD's remote and the TV screen, I could easily search for the files I wanted, selecting clear onscreen icons for file folders and then individual files (or music playlists, or photo slideshows) using the remote's navigation buttons.

Pioneer PRO-1150HD plasma TV

Now the glitches†While fetching photos from the Buffalo drive, it could display thumbnails of all the pictures in one huge array. But it didn´t let me drill down into file folders to choose groups of pictures on the drive, even though its brand-mate Blu-ray player handled the same task with aplomb.

Buffalo LinkStation Live

For starters, I tried to install the 250-gigabyte Buffalo LinkStation Live ($230), a network-attached hard drive that's DLNA certified for serving music, photo and video files. But the computer-based setup software stalled repeatedly. I tried everything from swapping cables and disabling firewalls to changing computers (from Vista to an XP machine). Finally, on the Web site, I discovered the answer: I had to download completely new installation software. That did the trick. After loading some tasty media files on the LinkStation and accessing them successfully from my PC (no DLNA magic required), I began festooning the network with DLNA-certified clients--a plasma TV here, a Blu-ray player there, my PlayStation 3 game console, an A/V receiver and a digital camera.

Denon AVR-4308 AV receiver

The Denon had intermittent trouble accessing my network, found or failed to find the server files based on the phase of the moon (so it seemed), and presented a garbled menu when trying to access Internet radio stations.

Sony Playstaion 3

At first glance, the console seemed to work beautifully. Sony's Media Bar navigation system strings categories (games, music, movies, etc.) horizontally across the screen and selections within each category on vertical branches, making it easy to find files. Then I added more photos and music to the Buffalo drive--and the PS3 ignored them. If I deleted some files, the PS3 still showed them in the onscreen list. I finally found a workaround, but it's ugly. I had to turn off the LinkStation, let the PS3 fail to find it, and then turn it back on and let the console rediscover and re-catalog the contents-every time I added or removed files.