Blu-Ray player manufacturers realized last year that the Internet Age consumers want more from their purchase than just dumb playback of optical disks. The latest players from the top tier companies such as LG and Samsung provide support for VOD (Netflix, YouTube etc.) and streaming of media from the local network, while also adding USB ports to support playback of local media.

The LG BD390 is almost universally accepted as the best Blu-Ray player / media streamer combo. It is noted for its inbuilt Wi-Fi capabilities, and provides support for NTFS drives connected to its USB port. It utilizes the Mediatek MT8520 SOC for the core media streamer functions. The host processor is an ARM1176 core running at 500 MHz. The SOC also integrates  Ethernet MAC, 2 USB 2.0 and 2 SATA II ports with a HDMI 1.3 transmitter. Hardware acceleration is supported for decode of high definition H264, VC1, MPEG2 and DivX videos. All varieties of Dolby and DTS soundtracks are also supported. With an inbuilt hardware cryptography engine (really, a pre-requisite for any chip trying to get into the Blu-Ray market), handling DRM content on Blu-Ray disks is the main duty of this player. The operational power consumption for this player is 21W.

Now that the specs are out of the way, let us take a look at how this player holds up to the rigors of usage as a media streamer. LG issues frequent firmware updates, and almost all VOD services have been enabled (except for Amazon Video on Demand). Since the MT8520 happens to be Mediatek's first SOC geared towards the HD market, software support for the product hasn't matured yet. As of December 2009, the unit is unable to play MP4 files even though the internal codec is supported. There are also reports of sluggish picture playback, possibly due to the fact that JPEG decode is not hardware accelerated. Many of these issues may be resolved by future firmware updates. Another Blu-Ray player based on the same SOC is the Oppo BDP-83. Media streaming capability wise, it fares similar to the LG BD-390, albeit at a higher price point. While the Oppo version sells for US $500, the LG player can be obtained for less than US $250 as of June 2010.
 


The MT8520 Rebadged as an Oppo OP8521G
[ Picture Courtesy : User oppohellas at avsite.gr ]


The Mediatek SOC offering in this arena seems promising and its full capabilities may surface down the road with future firmware upgrades. Mediatek's future roadmap in terms of updates to the MT8520 SOC itself also merits a watch. Broadcom has already released a few generations of SOCs targeted towards the Blu Ray market (most Samsung Blu-Ray players use Broadcom chips), but they haven't made their mark yet with capabilities necessary for the media streaming market.

HTPC Based Platforms Pure Internet Service Media Streamers
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  • wiak - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    hello Aikouka mr lover 恋人 Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Aikouka,

    Thanks for your feedback. We will definitely make a comparison of how much each extra feature costs (over a particular base price) in our reviews.

    All said, except for ease of use and power concerns, a properly built HTPC scores over a media streamer any time.
    Reply
  • cknobman - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Why did this get no mention?

    I have several media streaming devices (this, patriot, and xbox 360) and the kodak is by far the best one with the most features, smoothest interface, built in wifi N, 1080p capabilities.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    cknobman,

    Yes, we are aware of the Kodak Theater HD player. In terms of features in the product spec, it doesn't seem to compare that favourably with other players in the market. [ http://www.iboum.com/pr/kodakt1.php ] ; Of course, if Kodak is interested in getting its review out, we will carry it forward. As of now, Anandtech doesn't have any plans to review this unit, but things are likely to change going forward. We will keep you updated!
    Reply
  • johnlannock - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    What a great idea for a section. A few months ago I purchased a single Patriot Box office streamer as the price point had dropped to the point where I wanted to replicate it across my home network ; cat 6e cables, NAS, mult servers, wireless etc. My main streamer is a win 7 64bit mch running win 7 ultimate. Imagine my surprise when I was informed by Patriot support that the only way to share folders across a wired LAN was to invoke "regedit" and modify my registry.

    i WAS TOLD THAT WAS THE ONLY WAY THE BOX COULD SHARE WHEN USING Win7 ultimate.

    Now think of the implications for Patriot if that is needed for the mass market. The margin implications are staggering for Patriot.

    Please include this type of "software mod implication" in your future reviews of these boxes.

    I hate this requirement as I do not want to have to maintain this regedit mod as Microsoft continues to mod Win 7. A CONSUMER BOX SHOULD NOT REQUIRE SYS PROG MODIIFCATIONS.

    Needless to say I have not rolled out these boxes to my network.

    Please feel free to contact me if you need more details.

    NOT HAPPY in the Far North (Canada)
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    johnlannock, Thanks for your feedback.

    We will include this in our future reviews:

    (1) Ease of networking feature usage / Implications on host OS
    Reply
  • pjladyfox - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    The biggest weakness that I've found in just about every single NMT (read: Network Media Tank) is the depth of subtitle support. Currently, right now most boxes while they say they support SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, and SMI only spit out the subtitles if they are in ANSI format and nothing in UNICODE. Worse still they also default to this rather garish font size that either takes up a large portion of the screen or is extremely difficult to see on white backgrounds.

    The other big problem is the complete lack of full softsub support by a lot of these devices. While you can get the subtitles the formatting is completely stripped or ignored. This pretty much kills the device from being able to display non-English, or hardsubbed, HD titles since they mostly come in .MKV format with softsubs.

    So if you are a fan of these kinds of videos you're pretty much stuck with a HTPC which comes with it's own variety of problems and to get decent performance on HD media pretty much require a system more powerful than a Atom system since not all formats are GPU accelerated like RMVB.

    If proper subtitle support could be implemented, while keeping the cost low, in these boxes the sales for these would greatly increase. Otherwise, right now it's like playing Russian roulette when you come home from the store wondering if the box you have will support the videos you watch or not. -_-
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    pjladyfox, Thanks for your feedback. We will note the following point for our reviews:

    (1) Support for UNICODE subtitles display
    Reply
  • pjladyfox - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Would it be possible to add the following as well:

    1. SSA v4.00 support
    2. ASS v4.00+ support

    If you require more info a good starting point would be http://wiki.multimedia.cx/index.php?title=SubStati...

    A lot of boxes, like the Popcorn Hour, claim SSA/ASS support but are only really parsing the text and converting it to .SRT stripping out the style and event tags. While nobody really expects full support just having support to the point where the position and subtitles appear correctly would go a long way. ^_^
    Reply
  • daskino - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Hey Annadtech, finally a serious media like yours take up the sprawling market of media players. great to see i will follow it closely. for a more in depth view of the media player market. Also look at my page and blog on the digital media players. www.industryconvergence.com Reply

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