back to article The year's best... TV media players

2010: it's a wrap Networkable media players aren’t new, but in 2010 the addition of BBC iPlayer and similar services to set-top boxes and TVs made more consumers aware of the possibilities of online entertainment pumped straight into the living room, while Windows 7 made it simpler to stream content from your PC’s hard drive …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    FAIL

    PS3 outclasses all of these on value and usually features.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Uhhh Huh

      How can a £200+ piece of kit (PS3) outclass on value a sub £100 piece of kit (WDTV Live) that has more feature support for the intended use of media playback (i.e. not including playing games)?

    2. karakalWitchOfTheWest

      No it does not...

      Not only ist the codec support of the PS3 mediocre, but the PS3 is noisy, expensive, needs a lot of power and needs a proper media server with recoding support.

  2. Chris Miller
    Thumb Down

    Correction

    Samsung's Internet@TV, is a good product, but still doesn't support iPlayer*. I'm not sure whether the issue is with the Beeb or Samsung.

    * Based on a BD-C8200 - but the interface, at least, looks to be identical.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Correction

      Think that's more to do with your blue-ray device than @Internet TV. Have you got the latest firmware?

      @Internet TV works fantastically on my Series 6 TV.

      1. Chris Miller

        Thanks

        Yes, latest firmware (September 2010). Internet@TV works fine for other purposes (eg Youtube and firmware updates), but no iPlayer (yet).

    2. Jamie Cole
      Thumb Up

      Works on TVs

      Hi,

      I own a Samsung UE40c8000 and it does support the iPlayer as I've used it. It seems Samsung have deployed the iPlayer for their TVs but not the Blu Ray players as it doesn't work on my BD-5900.

      It seems for some reason the software and/or licensing issues vary on whether you're using Internet@TV on a TV or a player...

  3. Danny 14
    Go

    boxee may be £200

    but it works. And works well. It plays just about anything. Plus it will SMB stream, surf, and since it is based on XBMC is will be pretty much future proof too (famous last words).

    My vote would go for a cheap ION system with XBMC live though.

    1. karakalWitchOfTheWest

      Yep.

      This is the system I own. Acer Revo with additional MediaCenter Remote and XBMC. Can be controlled with a Logitech Harmony and is perfect for my needs.

  4. wondermouse

    Cyclone Live?

    What about the Cyclone Live box?

    Only £60, tiny, well built, and handles almost everything you can throw at it! Full HD 1080p too.

  5. eJ2095

    Also

    The SumVision mkv box thingy

    Had one since jan fab for streaming films etc over network think its about 50 quid these days

    1. James Hughes 1

      I've got one too

      I like it. Does a good job and pretty cheap. Used it to stream from my Ubuntu desktop over uPnP.

  6. Oliver 7

    No mention for the Asus O!Play???

    I have an Asus O!Play HD 1080p HDP-R1, which retails around £65 now. There is a wireless version and a R3 wireless N version. The menus are clunky and the built-in streaming features are rubbish (mainly asian and religious channels, when they work!) but it plays just about any media format and supports UPnP so you can stream from a media server. I even managed to get Sopcast streams to work with the help of TVersity. We have a Virgin Media contract so we get a lot of catch up services through our VM STB anyway so the O!Play does everything I need.

  7. Tim Walker

    File formats over DNLA

    Out of curiosity - and bear with me if this sounds like an odd question - but how many of these media streamers will play MP4/H.264 videos over DNLA?

    We have a Sony BDPS370 Blu-ray player, which also makes a decent enough network media machine (I especially like the YouTube feature). The great, howling, inconceivable problem with it, however, is that the player cannot handle MP4/H.264 video files over DNLA - meaning that about 90% of the vids on our Synology NAS device are "unrecognisable".

    I contacted Sony support, who replied that the DNLA spec doesn't include that format, and basically it is at best highly unlikely that the BDPS370 will be able to play MP4 videos over DNLA in future. I flat out don't believe that the "iPod video format" is unplayable by any DNLA players anywhere... or am I mistaken, and Sony is correct?

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

      Re: File formats over DNLA

      http://www.reghardware.com/2010/10/18/wtf_is_dlna/

      AVC/H.264 is part of the DLNA spec. It's a mandatory format. The fact Sony isn't supporting it shows how broke DLNA is.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Or...

        How broke Sony is?

    2. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      Just give me the files...

      DNLA is kind of moot if you have a device that can hit file shares directly.

      Such a device is bound to be able to handle more formats and features too.

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Homebrewed Wii with WiiMC

    Does the job.

    It's not HD but it doesn't really matter (to me). It plays anything MPlayer can over SMB and FTP.

  9. catmambo
    WTF?

    No Sony entry

    Given they offer more than Samsung in the media services stakes - seems like somewhat of a massive omission

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Ummm....

      You did read the bit where we mentioned Sony TVs, didn't you?

      Since the primary focus was media players, rather than IPTV, we pointed out that Sony kit tends to be pretty poor on streaming media in the home, but does have a good range of catch-up and on-demand services.

  10. ooral
    Gates Halo

    360 for me...

    Not wanting to start a war....

    I use an X-Box 360 as a media centre and games machine, streaming from a Win7 PC, works really well. Have a PS3 as well, and never really got round to setting it up for media as the 360 is so good. (For my purposes anyway!)

    1. jason 7
      FAIL

      360? I wish.

      Let me fire up my 360.

      Ok where is Netflix...nope.

      Ok Where is iPlayer....nope.

      4OD? nope.

      Any tv streaming other than Sky? nope.

      A large range of movies to watch in the Zune movies section? nope.

      My 360 fails at anything media wise other than playing movie files off a NAS box.

      The 360 isnt a media center. Its a console trying to be a media center. Whereas the PS3 is a media center trying to be a console.

  11. McBread

    Will 2011 be the year of...

    ...Youview?

    It's either going to blow everything else out of the water or be yet another half-baked solution that only does half of what you should reasonably expect it to do.

    In the mean time, it's a desktop PC for me.

  12. Richard Lloyd
    FAIL

    World's laziest year end review?

    This was a pretty poor year-end review for two very obvious reasons:

    1. Hardly any prices quoted in the article itself. Instead you're expected to follow each link to old reviews which may not have current price information anyway.

    2. No re-review of the equipment at the end of the year. I bet all the equipment featured had firmware updates during the year and would have fixed bugs and maybe added a few features too. They all need re-reviewing as to their state now, not 6 or more months ago! My 8320HD just had a massively better firmware update that may have added another 10% to its rating for example.

  13. James Macey
    Thumb Down

    Really?

    I am, for the first time, horrified by an article on the Reg.

    The group of products tested is a real mish-mash and has missed so many key choices in this field.

    The technical content in this article is poor at best and I'm inclined to believe that the originator has no real knowledge of these devices at all - it would honestly suprise me to find out that they had any hands on time with the units.

    Poorly researched, poorly written and not informative or useful in any way. Complete waste of my time - not what I have come to expect from the reg. Please do better.

  14. dz-015

    I'd rather just stick with my Mac mini

    I can absolutely everything on that with the help of some wonderful software.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Yep ...

      There are some great solutions that you can put together with things like a Mini (or even by jailbreaking a first gen Apple TV), or building your own small-form-factor PC.

      However, if we'd included home-brew stuff too, then we've have been even more pushed for space. I'd have had to annoy even more people by not mentioning their personal favourites.

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        ...almost homebrew.

        Considering that one of the top contenders is PC-software-turned-appliance, the idea that you can just build your own with minimal fuss or cost is a rather obvious point. If any PC hosted content is a part of your solution then you will be engaging in the futz-ware anyways.

        The real question is why are the free software solutions still spanking the consumer electronics consoles?

  15. Jamie Kitson

    SSD

    Could we please have an SSD round up?

  16. lucien

    Technika SmartBox 8320HD

    With its latest firmware on 15 december this box deserves a close score of 90% or better

    http://www.fetchtv.net/FAQs/index.php?action=artikel&cat=42&id=84&artlang=en

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/pvrs-vcrs/1346042-fetch-tv-hd-pvr-tesco-04-06-2010-part-five-21.html

    1. Lee Duckworth

      lucien - Technika SmartBox 8320HD

      It's better, but really the latest firmware is only fixing issues and not adding any features. We are going to need to see 4OD etc before its getting a 90%

      Do like mine though.

  17. John Borgoy
    Unhappy

    I N C O M P L E T E

    VUDU?

    ROKU?

    Wii?

    XBox

    PS3

    IPAD

    &c,&c

    Didn't do your homework.

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

      Re: I N C O M P L E T E

      Wii, Xbox etc are games consoles primarily and though they do do media playback, that's not their prime function. These are dedicated boxes, which is why we didn't also mention a variety of PCs, Macs etc.

      Likewise iPad - can be connectef to a TV, but most people will not do so.

      Roku, Vudu - for a variety of reasons didn't make the cut.

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Media players, not online content

      While online content was a consideration in what to look at, our starting point was media streamers in what, I think, most people would consider the 'traditional' sense, ie units that can be used to play back media you already have in your home.

      And, for online content, in the UK iPlayer, other broadcaster's catch up, and services like LoveFilm are key things that we looked for.

      Vudu is a platform for online content, rather than a specific single product; not to mention that it's US online.

      The current Roku boxes too, aren't really media streamers in the sense that we were looking at; sure, you'll have a load of US-only internet content, but they too are not UPnP/DLNA media players, so they won't be much -if any - good with content you have already.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    4 Legal.. the brands..4.illegal....Popcorn wins hands down

    Its a no-brainer, news or torrent happy with one device, now with menu or slick movie jukebox, all in one open linux based box, with no computer in sight, popcorn wins.....

  19. P. Lee
    Coat

    I love my mythtv

    Opensuse also does iscsi for freebie time-machine provision.

    Yes it's an expensive solution to buy new, which is why it's running on an old athlon 1500+ that I got for £20.

    I know, out of scope for this review.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overlooking the obvious

    For under 200 quid (or a hundred if you want second hand), you can have a SFF PC which does everything all these boxes can do combined and 10x more. Throw in a HD freeview or freesat and a fully featured PVR as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Why restrict yourself to a SFF?

      You never can get enough hard disks into a SFF case. My TV box lives in a full tower, has 12 x 1.5 TB drives in a ZFS raidz, for 16TB of redundant storage (half full now), and runs a homebrew recording/playback/downloading system that is solely controllable by web browser (ie from my phone/tablet), using data from tvrage.com to find US shows for download and and tvtimes.co.uk to find UK shows for recording from Freesat HD.

      On the other hand, I don't have any friends :/

      1. R Varia

        Why use SFF

        Becuase most people would prefer to have something small and discret in their lounge. Save the storage for the home office, or like me in the loft. Install ethernet next time you decorate (seems to be more popular with new builds luckily) and you can keep the mrs happy.

  21. R Varia

    Why limit yourself

    Revo + XBMC

    Yes it takes a small amount of know how but infinately updatable and customisable, and those that want it a great ipad remote utility as well.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WMC Extenders?

    Hey Tony, would have been good to state whether any of these boxes can be Windows Media Centre Extenders or to do a review for WMC Extenders would be magic!

    Cheers

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