back to article 2009's Top Set-top Media Players

Apple's Apple TV was launched in 2007, but it has taken until 2009 for rivals to really get to grips with the notion of a device you can use to play local and network-connected content on your TV. Too many storage vendors have tried their hand, offering good content capacity but usually accessed through a slow, poor UI. Western …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Arnold Lieberman


    Still kicking arse after all these years and a damn sight more complete than any of the "best" players mentioned. All running on give-away original xbox hardware (if you don't mind not having HD) or PC/Mac/Linux.

  2. Anton Ivanov
    Thumb Down

    List misses the best one - popcorn hour

    Frankly it better than either the WD or the Iomega and you can stuff it with any size disk you like. It can also serve as a proper NAS to both windows and Linux kit you have at home so it is not just a "media player".

    It is a pity that this fairly popular in the EU or USA media player remains almost unknown in the UK.

  3. MarkOne
    Dead Vulture

    The big question is...

    Why would anyone buy ANY of these for between 120 and 220 quid, when £199 gets you a 120GB PS3 Slim from Sainsburys with media streaming, ample and upgradable storage, PSN Movie store, iPlayer, webbrowser and gaming, and another £40 gets you a PlayTV Freeview tuner for it...

    1. Anonymous Coward


      You never give up, do you? Why do you have such a hardon for Sony?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Where is the Xtreamer?

    €99 for a great network based player with the most comprehensive support for varying codecs with the added bonus of being able to stick your own hdd in it and turn it into a NAS.

    Should have been Number 1.

  5. Alex Walsh
    Thumb Down


    You recently reviewed the Hisense 1080p HD TV Media Player and gave it 85%. And at 60 quid thats definitely worthy of a place in your list!

  6. MJI Silver badge

    Are they worth it?

    We have a media player, BluRay player and games console all in one and that was only £300.

    It is good at media streaming, so why bother with a dedicated box?

    Grenade - that is Nates.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    missed players

    strange that you missed off 2 of the most popular players - the Asus o!Play and the X-treamer

  8. Andrew Ducker
    Thumb Up

    Definitely agree about the Apple TV

    I hacked mine and stuck XBMC on it. Plays absolutely any file I throw at it, and connects to both SMB (windows file shares) and UPNP on my network. It was definitely worthwhile.

  9. Sir Runcible Spoon

    I like traffic lights

    what happened to the Hisense media player?

  10. conhoolio

    What about the Hisense 1080p Media Player?

    Ahem! Not long ago, this very site gave the Hisense 1080p Media Player

    ( an 85% rating, equal to WDTV Live - the #1 recommendation. Considering the Hisense unit is half the price of the WDTV Live, why is it not #1, much less not on this list at all?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Xbox 360

    Best of them all but not included? why? You can play games with it as well as stream. Apple TV lol whatever.

    1. Citizen Kaned

      xbox or ps3?

      for a media player ps3 has to win over xbox as its much quieter, has a bluetooth remote (so you can use it outside etc) and plays blu-ray.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Apple TV, seriously?

    I'm sure the interface is really nice and it's ok to mention it, but come on now...

    It's 2009 and I want 1080p playback (including MKV) in a media player. (We could argue if Apple TV is even a 'media player', since it plays about 3 formats.. it's more of a 'dedicated iTunes player'.)

    There are many quite decent HD players on the market, like the PopcornHour, Xtreamer, Egreat, Playon, ...

  13. Radio

    Popcorn Hour?

    No popcorn hour? It got rave reviews when released.

  14. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Where is the Xtreamer?

    We've asked Xtreamer for a review sample, but they have not submitted one. Perhaps it will make it into 2010's list.

  15. Ed Courtenay

    Old Skool Media Player

    Personally my Set-under Media Player of choice is my trusty XBox 1 fitted with a modchip running XBMC; although the unit hasn't played a game in over two years now, it's used almost daily as a media centre, with practically seamless integration with the BBC iPlayer thanks to a plugin. Old XBox units are as cheap as chips these days; I picked one up the other day for £10.00, and with a further £10.00 outlay for a modchip and £30.00 for a wireless ethernet adapter from eBay built a media centre for the kids bedroom.

  16. Daniel Owen

    Popcorn Hour!!!

    Overlooked again by el reg?

    Should really be up there, did they not get you a review unit?

  17. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge


    Seconded on the Hisense - I bought one of these on the strength of the review, and it's a nice unit (especially at that price). It happily plays back MP4's with 1920x1080 H.264 and 6 channel AAC, and the user interface is great because there's so little of it - my non-techie GF didn't roll her eyebrows once when using it, so I consider that a pass.

  18. Captain Underpants

    Maybe I'm missing a trick here, but...

    ....I've got the original WD TV without networking and don't see why anyone wants to have a HD-capable media player that then pulls the media over a wireless network. Is home wireless networking good enough to support streaming HD-quality content from your storage to the box?

    (As for the "why not buy a PS3/Xbox 360" brigade - maybe, like me, you've already got lots of USB storage around the place and just want your digital files on TV. In which case, something like a WDTV for ~£70 makes more sense than >>£70 for a bigger box with loads of extra functions I neither want nor am likely to use. Mileage may vary, but let's not pretend one size of tech fits all usage patterns, eh?)

    Also, including the Apple TV on the basis that it can just about be considered equivalent to the other devices if you hack it is a bit disingenuous. As with most Apple things it's only really a concern if you also use all the other Apple services; I'm surprised that you think it's even worth a look if you don't already use iTunes, because given the choice of "buy any alternative product for less" or "buy functionally-crippled Apple product at more expense, then invalidate your warranty by hacking it"....well, that's not much of a choice at all.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asus O Play

    Asus O Play not there! WTF does everything the WD does but plays ISO and has Ethernet

    So much so WD Now copying the Asus product

  20. Arnie

    Wot No Popcorn?

    Popcorn hour with myihome and the Aeon skin...... Great stuff

    of course what you really want is a revo dualcore with xbmc.

    XBMC has to be the "killer" mediacenter app.

  21. Mark Greenwood

    PS3 - Pah

    All those using their PS3s, have you checked your electricity bill recently? I was using mine for a while but it sucks about 400W and makes a hell of a noise into the bargain. When I'm swimming up the high street in 10 years time, it'll be you who I blame :P

    1. Wonderbird

      Not what I measured...

      I measured about 80watts draw from PS3. The Roku Netflix Player only draws about 5watts or less so it is definitely much more efficient at the job than the PS3 is...

  22. Adam 10

    KiSS DP-500?

    Why does the author give the impression that Apple invented this niche? As always, they were not the first, nor did they make it the best.

    I bought a KiSS DP-500 so long ago I can't remember exactly when, but it was either 2002 or 2003. That played all the common audio and video formats available at the time, including VOB, over ethernet, and was also a damn good DVD player. And it had internet radio built in. And it could output high-definition VGA via it's SCART socket if you wanted.

    They even brought out plasma screens with the technology integrated into it.

  23. AJames
    Thumb Down

    Uk prices - ouch!

    There are more HD media players on the market now in Canada than I can easily count, selling for as low as $30. The top rated WD Live from this review sells for half the price in Canada. I could buy a full laptop computer with HDMI video out for the price of these players in the UK - in fact, I have done recently. I suppose most UK residents are already well aware of the price difference, but I'm surprised more don't complain about it!

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @ Tony Smith

    You wanna borrow mine?

    I want it back though.

  25. MarkOne

    @Mark Greenwood

    400W is utter BS.

    You clearly don't understand the difference between PSU rating and power consumption.

    The original 60GB was 170W

    The new slims are 90W (0.5w in Standby)

    I still can't fathom why anyone would waste £200 on ANY of these, when £200 gets you a PS3 that does all the same stuff, better, plus a WHOLE LOT MORE...

    I also can't fathom why anyone would have that noisy POS 360 in your living room either...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mark-number-One Sony fanboi

      Wow, for someone that says that they don't even own a PS3 you sure know a lot about them.

      You really need to get out more. (Or just ShuttingTFU would be good too).

    2. Captain Underpants

      Reasons? Here are a few possible ones:

      Because not everyone wants to give Sony their money?

      Because they already have a games console they're happy with and don't want to buy a second one they don't need just to use what was originally touted as an ancillary function?

      Because £120 for a product that does what you want it to is cheaper than £200 for a product that does what you want and a bunch of other stuff you're not interested in.

      If you want a Blu-Ray-capable HD media centre and games console with network access, the PS3's definitely a contender. If you don't need it to play Blu-Ray discs or go online or play games, the PS3 is probably not the best fit to your needs.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Yeah, I can't help but wonder why the Hisense didn't make the list too.

    is it because it's cheap? because it isn't a well-known brand? because it isn't backed by an American company with a huge marketing budget like the rest? I dunno.

  27. Neoc


    I own an original WDTV (not Mini, not Live, not Gen 2) and with ~3 minutes to download the hacked firmware and ~30 seconds to flash it via a USB key, my WDTV does everything I need it to do. Including network support (so no need to upgrade to WDTV Live), UPnP and upscaling to 1080p. And my 5x1TB HDDs (via hub) are visible to the rest of my network, so it also acts as a NAS. Subtitle support might be better though.

    I *might* be enticed to upgrade to the WDTV Gen 2 for the bigger CPU and memory. Maybe. If subtitling gets better. But don't hold your breath.

  28. Tom 40

    PS3/XBOX argument

    I bought an LG BD390 recently. Not the cheapest in the world, but it plays absolutely everything I've thrown at it perfectly, including some 20gb+ mkv's and MT2S files.

    Sure - it isnt a PS3, but then I've got a Wii/Xbox/PC for gaming :)

    And yes, I could have bought a 250gb PS3 for the same price. However, why the hell would I want "another" console I wouldnt use?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021