DLNA is all about the Digital Home and getting the devices you use everyday to work together. Chances are you’ve got a digital camera, but are restricted to watching your photos back on the screen of your PC, or you’ve got video footage on your camcorder that you have to stop and burn to disc, and then hope it will play on your DVD player. You’ve got a big screen TV in the lounge, but can only use it for TV and DVD’s. Getting them all to work now normally involves lots of cables, lots of patience and a fair bit of time too, but DLNA is hoping to change all that.
DLNA stands for Digital Living Network Alliance, and is basically a set of rules that electronics companies are all following in order for devices to talk to each other. I struggled to get to grips with it to start with, but if you look less at what it is and look more at what it does, you’ll soon see how its going to change how we use our devices.
What is DLNA?
The first thing to remember is DLNA is not a product itself (you can’t buy DLNA adapters for existing devices) the support for DLNA needs to be built into the software of the device you’re using, so for most of us its not gong to be something we can all use straight away – but the next time you buy a digital device its worth looking for one with DLNA support built in, just look out for the DLNA logo (shown above).
In order to use DLNA features there are a few things you’ll need:
- A home network (wired or wireless)
Most of us by now already have networks in place at home for accessing the internet, so you should easily be able to expand your network to incorporate more devices with minimal hassle. Some devices will only be able to connect wirelessly, and others will need to connect to your network using a cable.
- Home media server software
It sounds scary, but its not. There are several different media servers available, but these are becoming a standard part of PC operating systems, and most new PC’s should have one built in.
- DLNA Certified products
Certified products include mobile phones, PC’s, TV’s, Network Storage Devices, Digital Video Recorders, Audio Systems, Printers & Digital Media Players. You’ll need more than one obviously in order to really do anything, but no doubt over time most devices in your house will support DLNA.
What does DLNA do?
In a nutshell, DLNA allows digital devices to talk to each other over a wired or wireless network. It lets you access content from your PC on your TV, play music from your phone through your Hi-Fi, all with out having to plug anything in!
What does it allow me do?
There are loads of different ways that DLNA devices can help make your life a little bit easier, here’s a couple of examples.
You’ve been on a day out, you get home and want to look back at the photos on your phone. With DLNA devices, you can play your photo slideshow back on your widescreen TV, and when you’re finished you can send all your photos to your network storage device for safe keeping. Without DLNA, you’d have been restriced to watching them back on your phone screen or messing around with cables to transfer them to your PC to watch on your computer screen.
You’ve filmed your recent holiday and downloaded it to your PC, and you sent it to your networked storage device for safe keeping. When the family come round, you can all sit and watch it together, watching it back on your TV using just your TV remote to play it back – its that simple. Without DLNA, you’d have been restriced to watching them back on your computer screen, burning the film to DVD or messing around with cables to connect the camcorder to your TV.
For more possibilities have a look at the DLNA website.
I’m sure you’re probably thinking this all sounds good, but does it really work? Honestly, Yes. To give you a better idea of what a simple DLNA network set-up would be, this is my current set up at home:
- Windows PC running Home Media Server, connected to Wi-Fi network,
- Sony Bravia TV connected to my wireless router using an ethernet cable,
- Nokia N82, connected to Wi-Fi network.
With this set up I can view photos from my phone and PC on the TV using my TV remote. I can play music from my phone through my PC or TV, and can control hte music playback from my phone or my TV remote. My Dad has a DLNA enabled laptop, and when he visits, he simply logs onto my wireless network and he is able to show pictures and music on my TV straight away with out having to set anything up.
Current DLNA certified Mobile Phones:
Currently there are only around 12 handsets in the UK that are DLNA Certified, the more recent of these are listed here:
To see what other devices are available have a look at the DLNA certified Product Range.
If you don’t have a Media Server installed on your PC, take a look at these solutions.
These aren’t the only options out there, but the one’s I’ve found easiest to use, although Orb is slightly different in as much as it allows you to stream your content over the internet to any device. Twonky and Home Media Server are simpler to set up and use.
If you have any questions or comments, or need anything clarifying – leave your comments below!