: Formats Explanation
What is DLNA and Why Should I Want It?
by D. Speer
DLNA is an acronym that’s showing up more frenquently on televisions, home theater receivers and set-top-boxes. But what is it, and what will it do for your home entertainment?
DNLA is a set of networking design guidelines created by the Digital Living Network Alliance (hence the acronym, DLNA), a group that consists of at least 45 companies involved with computers and A/V equipment. The lofty goal was to design a system where computers, mobile devices, and consumer electronics products would communicate with one another and share digital media files effortlessly. Tech-savvy people may notice that DLNA is very similar to, and in fact in many ways based on, the more computer-oriented communication protocol called Universal Plug ‘n’ Play, or UPnP.
DLNA may have been a bit overhyped in its early days, but it’s well worth paying attention to as long as you can accept a few of its present quirks and glitches.
Here’s the idea. With DNLA Certified devices, you can easily put together a multimedia system in which the connected products instantly communicate with one another. It enables the sharing of media across devices–you can watch video that’s stored on your mobile phone on your HDTV’s screen. Or listen to music files that are saved on a hard drive using your phone. Or use your AV receiver to find those music files and listen to them through your home theater’s speakers. Or – well, you get the idea. Digital AV files, no matter where they happen to reside in your home (or cloud) can be accessed and/or controlled via whatever DLNA Certified devices or software you own.
Of course, that’s the promise that DLNA boldly holds out. The reality, however, is a little less fanciful; and there are a couple of reasons for that. First and foremost is the fact that in order to be DLNA Certified, and therefore display the official DLNA Certified logo, a device or piece of software must pass a vigorous set of tests to ensure that it will reliably communicate with other DLNA Certified devices. Some companies take an easier (and cheaper) path and design their own protocol based on DLNA, and then say their product is compatible with other DLNA products.
DNLA Certified devices usually play nice with one another; although, of course, with electronics and especially computers, nothing is ever perfect. However, random glitches, inconsistencies, and outright refusal to work together will many times plague AV systems and computer networks that mix and match DLNA Certified items with the other non-certified DLNA variants. And the reason is often because the off-brand DLNA soft/hardware doesn’t 100-percent adhere to the DLNA standard. This is the stuff multimedia network nightmares are made of. It can also cause severe dissatisfaction with an otherwise absolutely phenomenal networked multimedia system.
Another potential issue with DLNA Certified/Compliant/Compatible stuff is that it was in most part created from the mindset of a hardcore PC user. Instead of dazzling GUIs and a simplified selection process, DLNA devices often present you with a stark, computer file/folder hierarchy that often isn’t intuitive or enjoyable for someone who just wants to sit on the couch and listen to music. This is another reason some companies design their own systems based on DLNA—to improve upon it.
Despite its foibles, though, the fun and convenience DLNA Certified stuff provides – easy access and sharing of AV media within your home – can be well worth the cost of entry and administration. And since the DLNA claims there are 9,000 products that are DLNA Certified with an estimated 440 million individual DLNA Certified devices already in people’s homes, the chances that in the near future you’re going to run across something for your home theater or computer network that has a connection with or usage of DLNA technology are about as close to a sure thing as you can get. Just remember that not all implementations of DLNA guidelines are the same, and be a little skeptical of those promises you read in the advertisements. Follow this simple advice, and multimedia nirvana awaits you.
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