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Which Multimedia Player to Buy?

Which Multimedia Player to Buy?

There are many ways to view movies downloaded from Internet or stream on-line content on a big screen TV. You can use desktop or laptop computer, game console (PlayStation or XBox), some models of DVD players, etc. Recently, small media players become very popular as well. They are cheap, easy to install and use. You will find here review of the most interesting multimedia players.

Introduction

When it comes to playing HD movies on big screen TV, I was supporter of the desktop or laptop solution (preferably desktop due to power and storage capacity) for a long time. I liked the idea to have computer with all capabilities connected to the TV. You can watch movies, play games, browse Internet and do all your regular tasks. Also, you have all your collection in one place.

However, I’ve switched recently to a media player, and I don’t think that I will ever use PC to play movies on TV again. Configuration with a media player attached to a HD TV and streaming content from a NAS (Network Attached Storage) seems like a perfect solution.

I don’t think, that the perfect player exist already, but there are few good candidates:

WesternDigital TV Live

WesternDigital TV Live

WesternDigital TV Live

I think, Western Digital was the first company to develop multimedia player. They have two versions of the same device now. One is just multimedia streaming box (WD TV Live) and another one is almost same device with internal hard drive (WD TV Live Hub) and possibility of multi-room streaming.

WD TV Live Screenshot

WD TV Live Screenshot

Features WD TV Live WD TV Live Hub
Full-HD 1080p Yes Yes
Supported video formats Virtually all Virtually all
Stream over home network Yes Yes
On-line streaming services (YouTube, etc.) Yes Yes
Multi-room streaming No Yes
Internal Storage No 1Tb
Price at Amazon.com $129.99
($74.69)
$199.99
($152.79)

Visit WD TV Live Website for complete information about it.

User Reviews

WD TV Live - Pros

WD TV Live - Cons

Summary of the User Reviews

iPhone Remote App for WD TV Live

iPhone Remote App for WD TV Live

WD TV Live receives great amount of positive and negative reviews. People like that WD TV Live supports vast amount of video formats, its simple setup process and user friendly GUI.

Highly appreciated features are support for wireless keyboard and iPhone/Android apps, which can turn your mobile device into remote control. Also, these two features will allow you to overcome sluggish remote issue.

The most dangerous issue is that this player was able to erase data on NAS drive. This issue is under investigation by WD staff.

Overall, it seams like WD TV Live is a little bit unfinished product. Yes, they provide firmware updates, but quite often these updates fix one issue and introduce whole bunch of another ones.

Roku 2

Roku 2

Roku 2

Roku 2 is the streaming genius. If you want to replace your conventional cable subscription with a set of cheap on-line streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc, than this is the way to go.

Roku 2 - Streaming Channels Selection

Roku 2 - Streaming Channels Selection

Roku 2 Screenshot

Roku 2 Screenshot

Features Roku 2 HD Roku 2 XD Roku 2 XS
Huge channel selection Yes Yes Yes
Built-in wireless (Wi-Fi b/g/n) Yes Yes Yes
Expandable memory slot plus Bluetooth Yes Yes Yes
Full HD video (1080p)   Yes Yes
Enhanced RF remote with motion control     Yes
FREE full edition of Angry Birds game     Yes
Ethernet port and USB port     Yes
Price $59.99 $79.99 $99.99

Visit Roku 2 website for complete information about it.

Roku 2 comes in 3 different flavors – HD, XD, XS. The HD version doesn’t support 1080p. XS version is fully loaded and comes with Angry Bird game, motion sensing remote for games and Ethernet port. Ethernet port seems like the most valuable feature. In my opinion, luck of the Ethernet port draws HD and XD options completely useless — for stable and fast movie streaming Wi-Fi is not an option.

Angry Birds game and motion sensing remote doesn’t have any real value — it is better to buy PlayStation or XBox, if you want to play games.

User Reviews

Roku 2 - User Ratings

Roku 2 - Pros

Roku 2 - Cons

Summary of the User Reviews

People like countless amount of available for Roku 2 on-line streaming services and they see this as an opportunity to replace conventional cable subscription. However, many of them were really disappointed.

Many users indicated that they had to switch to previous version of Roku as it was more stable, than the new one. Hopefully, after numerous firmware updates Roku 2 will be capable to fulfill all user expectations.

The player has many good features, but they don’t work perfectly. With such amount of issues you hope for excellent customer support, but it isn’t.

The player is very small and it is easy to hide it behind TV.

Some complains about picture quality may be related to network speed, as player adjusts quality video according to available bandwidth.

The game is totally useless and may cause freezes during playback due to luck of internal storage capacity. Removal of the game or installation of the SD memory card can solve this issue.

Patriot Box Office

Patriot Box Office

Patriot Box Office

The Patriot Box Office is a full 1080p HD media player which supports nearly any file format. It is simple, well build, has different TV connectivity options and it is possible to add internal 2.5” hard drive for internal storage.

Also, Patriot Box Office supplied with composite and HDMI cable and that is a real bonus, considering already low price.

Patriot Box Office - Screenshot

Patriot Box Office - Screenshot

Features Patriot Box Office
Full 1080p HD playback Yes
Expandable storage with 2.5″ SATA Hard Drive Yes
Supported video formats Virtually all
Supports playback from NAS, USB, External USB Hard Drive/DVD, USB Memory Card, Internal Hard Drive
Ethernet port Yes
Wi-Fi Optional
Video/Audio Interface HDMI, Composite, Optical Audio
Price at Amazon.com $129.99
($79.99)

Visit Patriot Box Office website for complete information about it.

User Reviews

Patriot Box Office - User Ratings

Patriot Box Office - Pros

Patriot Box Office - Cons

Summary of the User Reviews

The strongest features of this player are amount of supported video & audio codecs and the possibility to add internal hard drive.

Also, you can plug nearly anything (DVD, hard drive, memory stick) into 2 USB ports of the Patriot Box Office and it will play it.

Nice feature is support of the DVD file system. You can back up you DVD’s as ISO files and play them from hard drive.
Patriot Box Office also has built in BitTorrent client, which you can use to download online content.

Yes, it has clunky user interface, but it is not that difficult to figure it out and easy to forgive, when you start to enjoy everything else.

On-line streaming services is the weakest part of that player. Even Netflix is not available on Patriot Box Office.

Apple TV

Apple TV

Apple TV

Apple TV is an excellent device for those people who like Apple products. It has excellent configuration for its price, excellent build quality, simple user interface which allows you to stream all your iTunes content (Movies, Music, Photos, etc.). On-line streaming services, such as Netflix, Vimeo, some sport channels are the excellent bonus.

The biggest and the most obvious drawback is 720p output, but it can stream 1080p movies.

Apple TV has huge advantage over other competitors — AirPlay and AirMirror from other iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, etc).

Apple TV Screenshot

Apple TV Screenshot

Features Apple TV
Full 1080p HD Playback No
720p Playback Yes
Ports and Interfaces HDMI, Optical Audio, Ethernet, USB
Wi-Fi Yes
Supported Video Formats Only Supported by Apple
NAS Streaming Only from iTunes
Price $99

Visit Apple TV website for complete information about it.

User Reviews

Apple TV Ratings

Apple TV - Pros

Apple TV - Cons

Users Reviews Summary

Users give Apple TV mostly positive reviews. People like price, configuration, stable and fast operation, simple user interface.

The most discouraging feature is 720p playback. You can play 1080p movies, but the maximum output resolution is 720p. That is really surprising and I can’t find any logical explanation for this.

Despite it has Netflix along with some other on-line streaming services, Apple TV can’t be really considered as a replacement for conventional cable subscription. Although you can rent or buy movies from iTunes store, but the price is too high. Several people also complained how long does it take to download your purchased content.

Support of the limited amount of video codecs is very sad, but not surprising. That is typical Apple. So, if you have bunch of AVI, MKV and other files, forget about playing them through the Apple TV, unless you want to spent some time converting them into supported format.

However, Apple TV has two irreplaceable features — AirPlay and AirMirroring. So far, none of the competitors can offer same functionality. If you have iOS devices Apple TV is the must have device and you can combine it with either Patriot Box Office or Roku 2, to compensate for other features.

1 Comment

One Response

  1. erik says:

    I’m just not interested in buying a bunch of new equipment to enjoy a service already offered by my TV provider. I have the Blockbuster Movie Pass from DISH, and have access to thousands of titles by mail, in store or streaming live. DISH just added an additional 3,000 titles to the streaming library, and also gave me an extra 20 HD movie channels to add to my content library. I didn’t have to buy any equipment, I just signed up for the $10/month unlimited access package. Some DISH coworkers signed up around the same time, and we all agree the Blockbuster Movie Pass is the best way to combine video store quality with online selection!

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