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  • StormyParis - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - link

    I'm disappointed by your excluding AMD. I seem to remember a test in which Dell's Zino HD played Bluray perfectly, and HD Flash almost perfectly with a beta flash player. That makes it "good enough" in my book, and I'm contemplating either a Zino or an AMD Zbox for my next Office PC. Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - link

    I did mention the Zino HD in the final paragraph on Page 2 (HTPC based platforms). In our opinion, the Ion / Atom based nettops are somewhat better than the AMD based nettops. If the ZinoHD or the Zbox had a HD 4xxx series based motherboard, things could have been a little different. As is, the Ion series gives same video decode capabilities as the GeForce 9400.. while the Zbox / ZinoHD tend to not have the same capabilities ; All said, it depends on the usage scenario, and if Blu Ray and flash playback is all that you need, then the Zino / Zbox might be well suited. Reply
  • Hubble70 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    The Zino HD has an available 4330 graphics card if you want HD audio and better video performance. Also, the Zino's deinterlacing performance is subpar not because of the onboard graphics, but because it uses an Athlon based CPU that uses hypertransport 2.0 instead of an Athlon II CPU that has hypertransport 3.0. The onboard graphics is memory bandwidth starved, and the 3200 graphics in the Zino is perfectly capable of good deinterlacing if you drop in a CPU with hypertransport 3. Either way, its still able to do full acceleration of BD and other formats. Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - link

    Thanks, fixed :) Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - link

    Sorry, my bad! Fixed :) Reply
  • JPVann - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - link

    Although they are hacked using existing APIs, there are two different projects that now stream both Music and Video to your TV via the ROKU. Both install extremely easily and require no hacking or programming skills.

    Coupled with all the current 'Channels', Netflix, MLB Baseball, Facebook etc the ROKU is one capable box. Upgrades have been constant and full of content since I bought mine last Nov.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - link

    JPVann, Thanks for the info. Since local media playback is not officially supported, we classified Roku as a Internet only media streamer. Hopefully, the new Roku box will officially support streaming media through its USB port.

    The problem with the original Roku is that there is no USB port. So, the user is at the mercy of his network connection speeds for high definition Blu Ray videos. Local content 'streamers' usually have USB or eSATA ports, and that is our criterion to classify a player as a local media streamer.

    Another issue with both Roku and Vudu is that they utilize chipsets originally intended for set top boxes and not dedicated media streamers. As such, the experience delivered from the WDTVs and the OPlays are quite different from the restricted environment of the IP set top box platforms.
    Reply
  • CorrND - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    I agree, Roku is quite capable, very affordable and already has the Channel Store (aka App Store) model that is a leading contender model for future content delivery. They have an installed base of 500k (as of January '10), expected to increase to nearly 1M this year, and a non-exclusive (but preferential) partner in Netflix. For a relative newcomer, they're sitting on pretty good ground for now.

    The thing that is going to kill Roku is the rumors that Apple is going to re-release Apple TV with the iPhone/iPad OS. That will place Apple TV in direct competition with the Channel/App Store model that Roku already uses. The difference will be the additional Apple clout and industry connections that Roku can't possibly compete with.
    Reply
  • flamethrower - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - link

    Is support for Asian characters. Basically does the thing support unicode in subtitles and filenames.
    That is probably not something many people in the Anandtech audience would like to see tested though. It might be included in "multiple subtitle formats" but I think you had something else in mind for testing this.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    flamethrower, Thanks for the pointer. We will keep this in mind. In fact, we already have a sample file with subtitles in more than 20 different languages (though this particular file is not related to the 'multiple subtitle formats' we mentioned). We will report languages which don't display correctly in the review. Reply
  • agold80 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Could I put in a request that you test subtitle languages that are Right to Left oriented, like Hebrew? there is quite a market for HTPC and Media Streamers in the middle east but companies support for RtL languages has been less than stellar and is something that often even their technical support finds hard to give a straight answer about. Reply
  • beginner99 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I would also test network capabilities. Support for wireless or wired, limitations, connection stability and so on.
    I would say most people buying such a device will sooner or later also get a NAS.

    Personally I have a WD TV Live and it's fine.But it has it's issues. One beeing that it sometimes has trouble connecting to the network. Another thing is that some content from youtube is blocked. You get a message similar to:
    "This content can not be watched from TV attached devices."
    This is pretty annoying because it is no mentiond that youtbe access i limited...
    -> one thing that speaks for a real HTPC.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    beginner99, Thanks!

    We definitely plan to test the networking capabilities, and present it in the review. The only problem we will need to work around is the fact that the network performance is highly dependent on the setup and environment. So, one thing which works in the reviewer's home perfectly, might not be very stable in someone else's home. Of course, we will be keeping an eye out on the various forums to get the various users' experience and make those observations play a small role in our review.

    By the way, my WDTV Live experience is also very similar to yours, and that is the main reason I am unable to get rid of my HTPC :)
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    For HD content you will def. need 50+ sustained mbps. I find that even my netgear WNDR3700 based wireless stutters on High Def, I just wired everything and now it's silky smooth.

    I think the devices should be reviewed in their own right, with no networking limitations, then a general review of how wireless works on media streamers ( unless you find one that performance unusually well or poor)

    Also you might think about looking at software media servers like twonky and tversity and others. With Twonky and WD Live, through the twonky software on your server ( computer) you can tell the WDlives what to do, for instance, play music in the bathroom, see what each device is playing, Play the same music through out your home.
    Reply
  • clarkn0va - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    "For HD content you will def. need 50+ sustained mbps"

    For non-recoded BD rips perhaps, but many users will not run into this limitation, at least not in the current state of things. I've tested hundreds of 1080p mkv/H264 rips and typical bitrate is in the neighbourhood of 20mbps (variable, peaking as high as 40).

    I don't stream a lot of HD over wireless, but with a good 54mbps connection I've found 720p to work well, while 1080p is more hit and miss.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Yea I'm talking about demuxing and remuxing a Blu Ray and playing back TrueHD which is my preferred way of getting HD content. I guess if you reencode it at 720 P you would be ok. Now, I'm way more picky then most so to get acceptable quality encoding HD takes around 5-10 hours, I have a Core I7 at 3.7ghz. So for me, forget that.

    But I just say 50mbps just to be on the safe side, you'd probably be ok with 40 but you would have no overhead.
    Reply
  • Hubble70 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Don't forget the SageTV HD200. It is the only media streamer that spans all of the categories. It can act as an extender for their excellent media center software, can play almost any file format (mkv, blu-ray file format, etc) as a standalone media streamer, and can stream non-DRM internet video. I'd love see Anandtech cover it since it never seems to get any love from the media. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Hubble70,

    Thanks for your suggestion. SageTV HD200 is based on a Sigma Designs chipset. It will probably have the same features of a WDTV Live or any other NMT, except for UI changes. We will definitely review an upcoming revision of the product if we manage to get our hands on a review unit.
    Reply
  • Hubble70 - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Yeah, its based on the old Sigma, but I find that its not the hardware that limits most of these devices, it is the software stack. Whether or not they can play ISO, full BD menus or just BD menu lite, whether you can pick a BD playlist, container support, etc. It seems to matter a lot more than the hardware in them unless you really want HD audio support which it lacks.

    And no, the HD200 is nothing like the WDTV since its primarily designed as an extender for for their media center software. And when you use their media center software you can use any UI on it that you want. There are LOTS of user created UIs and you can customize your own easily. SageMC is the most popular alternate UI. Their new version of their media center, V7.0 even allows you to install XBMC frontends on them, though this feature is in beta.

    Used as a standalone unit it is pretty similar to the WDTV live but with better file format support.

    It's definitely worth taking a better look at since it is unique among media players because it can be used as an extender, a standalone media streamer, and even as a placeshifter.

    Here's a geektonic review of the unit.
    http://www.geektonic.com/2009/01/sagetv-hd200-hd-t...
    Reply
  • dumbletore - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Hi and thx for an very interesting article.

    I would like included test for playback of the format WTV which is the standard TV recording format for Windows7 / media player 12
    WMP cannot record TV shows in any other format, and i am really annoyed by my WDTV LIVEs lack of ability to playback it.
    Not that any of the competition can either though..
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    dumbletore,

    WTV and DVR-MS are already in our test suite.

    We will make sure the following is in our reviews:

    (1) Support for WTV and DVR-MS containers
    Reply
  • s44 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    The LG BD390 has been discontinued and unavailable for months now. At this point we should be looking at the LG BD570/590 or the Samsung C5500/6500. Reply
  • Hubble70 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Yes please. My parent's LG590 freezes up on them and they are pissed. If you did a review maybe it would whip them into shape and deliver a decent firmware. Reply
  • Decaff - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Another thing I believe you should add to the list is DLNA support. It offers some neat capabilities in controlling your setup from a PC.
    Also, be sure yo check the audio and video quality, as I have heard rumors of some players not displaying a proper picture (Xbox for example).
    Furthermore, I think you should pay special attention to the interface of the media streamer, as it has to be easy to navigate, even if you have a thousand movies stored on your NAS.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Decaff, Definitely!

    WDTV Live is DLNA 1.5 certified. So, we will definitely test similar capabilities for other media streamers that we review.

    Points to note from your comment for our reviews:

    (1) DLNA Support
    (2) Quality of User Interface
    Reply
  • hughlle - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    erm, "as is its wont"

    that makes no sense to me, although granted i'm just out of bed.
    Reply
  • clarkn0va - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    http://www.google.ca/search?rlz=1C1GPCK_enCA378CA3...

    Does that help?
    Reply
  • genzai - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    It would be very helpful to me (and i think many other readers) who have extensive libraries ripped (by for instance handbrake) into "iDevice" compatible formats, such as the appleTV, iphone etc. Though these files are essentially a form of h264 in a .m4v (quicktime?) wrapper i have found in my own limited testing that they rarely work on non "iDevices". When we are considering moving away from the appleTV or extending our iPod video library to one of these new feature rich players, it would be very good to know whether we would be looking at re-encoding our entire libraries, or if a device will support the .m4v files.
    Thanks,
    g\
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    genzai, Thanks for your very good suggestion.

    We will take the following point for our reviews:

    (1) Support for M4V container
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I use the WD Live and Twonky to host HD movies, Series, Music. Twonky does a great job of organizing my music but I wish the interface was more customizable ( and maybe it is, I haven't played around with it much).

    WD Live may not be the most powerful, But its fast enough to play 40 mbps .264/VC1 movies with DTS or DD, I also think it can support DTS HD, but TrueHD seems to be lacking. Like Twonky, the interface could use a little work, but it's plenty usable.

    I use 4 TB worth of harddrive space and for my series DVD's, I just use handbreak and reencode them ( thank god for the Core I7).
    Reply
  • Xajel - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I think that Input & Output and all connectivity features are very important along with any remote interface ( network interface ) they may have... + if they can be used as a PVR or not... Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Xajel, Thanks for your suggestions.

    Currently, I believe that no shipping media streamer has PVR capabilities. The upcoming ZaggBox fits your description, but it is nowhere close to shipping :|

    We will consider your concern about connectivity options and remote interfaces in our reviews
    Reply
  • Hubble70 - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Actually, The Moxi DVR and its extenders can do PVR duty and coupled with Playon it can do Hulu and with Tversity I think it can playback your local content as well but I'm not sure about that.

    No standalone unit can do PVR duties, but coupled with SageTV Server software running on any computer in the house (widows, Linux, WHS, or OSX) the SageTV HD200 media streamer can be a PVR and playback your local movie content.
    Reply
  • morpheusmc - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Congrats for the media streamer roundup, I believe an Anandtech-class article is very much needed to clear up the this area.

    I would like to see the performance of media streamers over a wifi network. Most of them support 802.11N USB wifi adapters, but do not exceed even 802.11G speeds. I have had a bad experience with an eGREAT M34A and had to return it because of it.

    I am interested in finding out which is the cheapest device to play at least 720p MKVs (4,38GB/movie) over wifi (assuming a Wifi Access point (G or N if needed) is installed).
    My 4 year old (dual core) laptop plays 720p fine over 802.11g by the way, so 25Mbps ought to be enough, IF the device can actually achieve such speeds.

    Keep up the great work!
    Reply
  • morpheusmc - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Forgot to mention that I would like to see speed tested with WPA2 enabled. Not sure it makes a difference, just want to be sure though.

    Bottom line, I would like to see if any of those devices can function as a drop in addition in a house with an encrypted wireless network and a NAS/file server. Assuming of course that all the other components (NAS/File server, access pint etc) can support the required bitrates.

    My experience up to now says no, but I haven't tested any of the more expensive devices. Although spending 300-400$ for a media player seems a lot, considering the prices of cheap, but HD capable laptops/netbooks.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    morpheusMC, Thanks for the pointers.

    Wireless network performance will also be a point for us to consider in the review if it is part of the original specifications of the player. Some versions of Asus O!Play support 802.11n natively, and your suggestions will be handy while reviewing them. For units such as the WDTV Live, it wouldn't make sense, because we would be introducing third party additions to the hardware platform (yet another variable which could go wrong!) to enable this feature. Of course, wired network performance will definitely be tested thoroughly.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    As I said in an email to Anand,

    I would like to see the Ceton InfiniTV reviewed. I think you can stream up to 4 live HD channels at once. Not too sure if the $399 price is justified, but this might be something to consider as an option in the future, since you only need one CableCARD.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    vol7ron,

    We will be having a separate series of articles in the same section which will cover the TV tuners / recorders / PVRs and DVRs. CableCARD products like Ceton's will be dealt with in that series.

    Best Regards
    Reply
  • glugglug - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I have a Jasper XBOX being used as a media center extender. Your power consumption estimate of 140W only applies to the original XBOX, not the Jaspers currently being sold. The Kill-a-Watt tells me it is using just over 90W no matter what it is doing (unless its off). Sitting idle uses the same ~ 90W as playing HD video, and it doesn't go up past 100W during gaming.

    Also, I have yet to encounter a video that was too high a bitrate for it. U.S. HDTV is MPEG2 @ around 15-16Mbps (max 19Mbps). This bitrate of MPEG-2 yields the same quality as roughly 3Mbps H.264. So 10 is actually overkill. Blu-ray rips may have this overkill, but they play just fine. I played an Avatar x264 rip at 20Mbps on the XBOX with no issues. The official maximum bitrate may be 10Mbps, but generally higher bitrate stuff still works. Otherwise you would see a lot more people who use it as an extender complaining in Europe, where their broadcast TV is H.264.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    glugglug, Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    We quoted the official lines on the Xbox capabilities. Still, 90W is very high for a media streamer. There are much more capable media streamers which perform the same task for less than 1/10th the power consumption :) (Agreed, HD playback isn't XBox's main agenda).

    We may touch upon HD playback capability when covering any new Xbox versions that MS decides to put out in the future.
    Reply
  • twol - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I think the review would have gained from the author having looked at some of the user forums for this area - e.g. Mpcclub, avsforum - where there is a wealth of information on these devices and their popularity, some of the most popular are not mentioned in this article unfortunately . Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    twol, Thanks for the tips. I am quite active on AVS Forums, and I also keep a lookout for HiJack's posts on MPCClub.

    Our readers would hugely benefit from the content on those sites, but our reviews and analysis are intended to complement the content on those forums.

    To the best of our knowledge, there is no English review site which has a standardized test suite for media streamers. We intend to create one with the help of our readers. This is only part of the story! You will also get Anandtech's unique style of SoC and system analysis in the reviews and articles. I hope this will help consumers to identify whether a company is just plain lazy, or the base hardware platform doesn't have enough power for a certain task when they demand features from their media streamer.
    Reply
  • Golgatha - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    A bit of background:

    I recently purchased a newer and bigger home. At my last residence I had just my 32in Sharp Aquos (for my HTPC) and 22in TV/Gaming Rig Samsung monitor as the only screens in the house. At my new residence we plan to use the old Sharp Aquos TV upstairs, buy a newer and bigger TV for downstairs, and install a smaller TV in the kitchen area. I transcode my DVDs to MP4 with the audio left untouched for the most part. I also stream Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube etc. through TVersity.

    Current day:

    I just recently got my GbE network set back up downstairs and have my XBox 360 and PS3 streaming content from a Tversity DLNA server to my main 32in TV (we plan to buy something bigger and put this one upstairs above the fireplace) and 22in HDTV/Monitor at my PC. This is mainly for my family's benefit, as I just watch videos directly from the HTPC on my main 32in HDTV, while navigating around with a Logitech DiNovo Mini. For the 2 new upstairs locations, I had some choices to make.

    Location 1 - 32in Sharp Aquos 1080p HDTV

    Basically for $100-$150 more than a local network enabled streaming box, I can put a 120GB PS3 behind my 32in HDTV and control everything with a PS3 Bluetooth remote, which doesn't need line-of-sight transmission to work. This is advantageous because we can play all our Blu-ray disc content and all our streaming media from one device. Also, the space for this TV is above a large fireplace, so line-of-sight transmission would require standing up and lifting the remote in the air to change anything. Not acceptable for a sitting room and the Bluetooth remote fits the bill nicely and cheaply. The TV's IR receiver is easily seen and settings on the TV can be changed easily from a sitting position, so that's not a problem.

    Location 2 - Yet to be purchased wall mounted TV

    I'm kind of unsure about this location and this is where I hope Anandtech reviews and user experience can help me out. I need a smallish local streaming enabled device, which can be easily mounted to a wall, and is not very intrusive space wise. I envision it beside an extendable mounting arm, with the 19 or 22in TV covering most of it up. An Apple TV or WD Live unit would seem to fit the bill here. I do however wonder what the maximum bitrate one can stream is for these devices, and if the wired ports are GbE or 10/100Mbps Ethernet. I also wonder how they handle a 5.1 encoded file when outputting it in stereo, since most of my transcoded DVDs are 5.1, but my upstairs locations will just be using the TV speakers or a simple stereo setup at the most. Finally I wonder if iTunes will require re-transcoding of my already transcoded files, and if either one will be able to stream from my TVersity server. That's a lot of questions and I almost wonder if a Slim PS3 wouldn't be the easiest solution since I'm used to using it already and I know what its limitations are as far as streaming is concerned.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Golgatha,

    Currently, there are no shipping media streamers with Gigabit Ethernet. Looking at your background, I would suggest that you go with something you already have experience with, i.e, a Slim PS3, since you are already aware of its limitations. Any other product you purchase is probably going to present you with new challenges to overcome.
    Reply
  • papaki - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    You should definitely test LG's BD570. It doesn't have to do with the fact that I bought it just 1,5 month ago and even after 2 updates it's wireless speed continues to drop to ~1Mbps when streaming through the provided Nero's Essential version of Media Home (grrr), it's just that its wired speed and the wireless as well, when streaming from Win7's own streaming setup, is perfectly adequate (~20Mbps from a 802.11g modem/router - perfect for even a 1080 mkv file)... (Btw, Win7's streaming service is lower in capabilities that Media Home's, so this is why I'm writing these) (Also, the player shows the exact same behavior when it tries to stream via wireless from other programs, such as TVersity. Mezzmo etc.) Of course, I don't expect Anandtech to become the technical support of my player - just pointing out an issue for you. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    papaki,

    Thanks for the pointers.

    I have personally played around with the LG-BD390, and while it may not be the best media streamer, its feature set when considering that it is a Blu Ray player, is indeed very good.

    We will try to review the LG-BD570, but no guarantees :)
    Reply
  • wiak - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    AMD 780G aka Radeon HD 3200 was the FIRST chipset that had hardware acceleration of Blu-Ray Disc codecs in full 1080p and is still a good chipset, 2 years after its release

    and ION is basicly a renamed Geforce 9300 chipset for atom
    Reply
  • wiak - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    AMD 780G: Preview of the Best Current IGP Solution
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2475

    oooh the irony
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Ion is a renamed GeForce 9400 ; It is not a IGP per-se ;

    The 3200 is a very good IGP, but it simply lacks a lot of hardware acceleration modes that Nvidia users take for granted. [ http://imouto.my/watching-h264-videos-using-dxva/ ]

    This is why I would personally recommend the Ion over the 3200 IGP right now. Maybe, in 2008 (when the Anandtech article you have cited below was posted), HD 3200 was the best IGP in the market, but not any more.
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I'd highly recommend comparing available features (in your list) to how much the device costs. Usually people are willing to settle and remove a feature if it means a significantly lower cost.

    It also might be worthwhile to compare a custom HTPC, maybe with your own list of components to try and compete. That concept might possibly even become something completely different.. evaluations of available software for HTPCs. I know I've had quite a hellish time working with Windows Media Center and videos of certain sizes. Awhile back, I simply gave up and just used the normal Explorer GUI with Media Player Classic, because at least it didn't crop videos making me unable to read the subtitles.
    Reply
  • 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
  • Handi P - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Can you please add some comments about these new toys that you are going to line-up, about their ability to handle picture scaling modes for use with a projector and an anamorphic lens?
    Also can you keep an eye if there's any feature on it that can manipulate subtitles location in terms of the use of an anamorphic lens ?

    rgds,
    Handi P.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Handi, Thanks for your feedback. We will note the following points for future reviews:

    (1) Picture scaling modes test
    (2) Subtitle location / size modification ability
    Reply
  • daskino - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I would still say that K.I.S.S: Technology was the first company to make media players.

    they launched a player back in 2002 based on the early Sigma processor the 8620

    http://www.industryconvergence.com/home/the-evolut...
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    daskino, Thanks for the excellent information.

    I would have to say, I didn't pay much attention to KiSS's players since I always had the impression that they were just fancy DVD players :) Also, since their products are long discontinued, I couldn't dig up much information on their specs during market research.

    Thanks again for the eye opener. Just goes to show how much Sigma Designs has been dominating this market in the last 8 years or so!
    Reply
  • The0ne - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Haven't read it yet but I'm thankful this has finally come out. Much appreciated! Reply
  • The0ne - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    doh, only a small preview :( Reply
  • DieterBSD - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    > 2. Video codecs (H264 / VC-1 / Real Media / VP8 etc.)

    Don't forget mpeg2.

    > 4. Multiple subtitle formats

    And closed captions (e.g. from recorded broadcast TV) support.
    If you can't make out a word when someone mumbles, how easy is
    it to rewind a few seconds, switch closed captions on, read
    the word, then switch closed captions off again? This could be
    a real pain if buried deep in a menu system. Is it possible to
    put the subtitle/captions in the letterbox black band area
    rather than blocking the picture?

    Quality of interlacing and de-interlacing. Since sources
    come in both interlaced and progressive formats, and AFAIK all
    displays are fundamentally one or the other, everyone has to deal
    with this. Poor quality interlacing/de-interlacing is really
    painful to watch. Add in pull-down and some of the bizzare
    things being broadcast and it is a mess.

    Ability to keep audio and video in sync.

    > What is the use of 1080p without HDMI?

    > Any media streamer worth its salt interfaces with the rest of
    > the AV components using HDMI.

    All the world is not HDMI. Ever hear of DVI or Displayport?
    IIRC component can do 1080. Many people have TVs or monitors
    that they are very happy with that don't have HDMI.
    How is the quality of the output on component, s-video, composite?
    I would love a device that can output s-video with more
    than the DV standard 720 pixels horizontally.

    Measured specs such as signal/noise, distortion, etc. would be nice.

    Quality of scaling, both up and down. I've read that many
    HDTVs have poor quality scalers.

    Ability to seek to a specific spot, skip forward/backward,
    freeze frame, step through frame by frame forward/backward,
    playing slow/fast at various speeds. I've read numerous
    complaints about boxes that do poorly at these things and
    are only good at normal playing.

    Ability to zoom in/out easily (mainly to deal 4:3 vs 16:9
    issues). Ability to compensate for source material that is
    squeezed or stretched. (Amazing how much they get wrong...)

    When you say "local media" do you mean "stored on a computer
    (or NAS) on the local network", or "stored on a device
    (e.g. an e-SATA/firewire/USB disk) connected directly to the media streamer"?
    Perhaps scrap the term "local" and using:

    internet
    LAN
    attached (e-SATA, firewire, USB, ...)
    internal (inside the box: hard drive, CD/DVD drive, ...)

    How well do these streamers deal with the variety of
    computers, protocols, filesystems, found on LANs? (FreeBSD,
    OS-X, Plan-9, Linux, ...)

    Network: wired 100 Mbps Ethernet is more than fast enough for
    a single stream of compressed 1080 or less. If you have a
    lot of stuff happening on your network you'll want a gigabit
    switch and probably gigabit ports on the computers. The
    wireless stuff is problematic, I'd advise against it. A cat6
    cable is dirt cheap and far more reliable, As far as I'm
    concerned, wireless built into a video streamer is a *negative*
    feature. Runs up the cost just to pollute the airways.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    DieterBSD, Thanks for your extensive comment.

    We will keep your points in mind. Ability to keep A/V sync is a really important feature which many streamers fail at.

    While I agree with almost all of your points, I beg to differ with respect to HDMI. DVI and DisplayPort are not aimed at the multimedia market. DVI is unable to carry audio signals, while DisplayPort connectors are not present on TVs / AV receivers which are common parts of a home theater system. Like it or not, home theater enthusiasts seem to be stuck with the HDMI standard rather than the royalty free DisplayPort :|
    Reply
  • UltimateKitchenUtensil - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    "the main advantage viz a viz the freedom to tinker around"

    "Viz." is an abreviation for the latin videlicet. It means "that is to say". The French expression meaning "relative to" is "vis à vis".
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Thanks for bringing this to my notice :) Reply
  • Stokestack - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    An oft-ignored product category is that which streams content FROM your cable or satellite box TO your computer. I don't really care about watching crap-quality compressed video on my big TV, but I would like to watch shows from my cable box on a laptop in my kitchen or home office.

    Please include products that perform this task too. Thanks!
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Stokestack, yes, we are working on covering these devices too, but in a separate series of articles in this very section. Do you have any particular devices in this category that you would like us to review? Reply
  • Stokestack - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the response.

    The first product that comes to mind is Slingbox, and that might even be overkill for just viewing stuff around the house. I don't really care about transmitting stuff over the Internet to watch remotely.

    Another appears to be the HAVA Platinum HD TV Device.

    And, uh... those were the only ones I could find. I guess this could be a very series.
    Reply
  • Stokestack - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    SHORT series, that is. Reply
  • Hubble70 - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Hauppauge HD-PVR over component up to 1080i / digital audio
    Blackmagic over component and HDMI up to 1080p
    Avermedia over component up to 1080i / analog audio
    Reply
  • nexox - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    I've got a Popcorn Hour A-110, and I'm nearly entirely impressed with it. All it really needs is a much better menu system. I'm hoping that the Popbox fixes that, if it ever comes out.

    I'd like to point out one of my main concerns with these sorts of devices, which the PCH series handles, and which many others don't: NFS.

    I understand that lots of people use Windows with the built in CIFS file sharing, or even UPNP/DNLA, but honestly those protocols are pretty weak when compared with NFS (especially over UDP on wired ethernet.) Since I don't use Windows, NFS is the natrual choice, but I've found little information on whether most of the current generation of media renderers support NFS well or at all.

    And lots more people than just Linux users would potentially benefit from NFS - many of those little NAS boxes people like so much can do much higher performance with NFS than CIFS or UPNP, which means higher bitrate video, less skipping, and better wifi performance.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Yes, NFS is one of the best network sharing protocols. The WDTV Live also supports it in the custom firmware. We will add this to our testing methodology for reviews:

    (1) Network / Local file system and communication protocol support.
    Reply
  • daskino - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    however it is only the original WDTV that supports NFS the the Live and the live plus and the next gen wdtv oes not support true NFS olny by CIFF interceptor Reply
  • Modeverything - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    This looked like a really nice streamer for only $88.

    http://www.brite-view.com/cinematube.php
    Reply
  • DieterBSD - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    ganeshts writes,
    > DVI and DisplayPort are not aimed at the multimedia market. DVI is unable
    > to carry audio signals, while DisplayPort connectors are not present on
    > TVs / AV receivers which are common parts of a home theater system. Like
    > it or not, home theater enthusiasts seem to be stuck with the HDMI
    > standard rather than the royalty free DisplayPort

    My point is that many people already have a TV/monitor/display/projector
    that does not have HDMI, so they might not care if a streamer has HDMI
    or not. I've read plenty of complaints about HDMI, apparently the
    connector likes to fall off. What counts is if the streamer has the
    outputs the user wants/needs. Unfortunately there are quite a few
    these days: RF, composite, s-video, component, DVI, HDMI, displayport.
    A computer monitor might require the so-called VGA, and there are
    at least three varieties: separate H & V sync, composite sync, and
    sync-on-green. Streamers aren't just useful for the main TV, people
    might want to use one with an older TV in another room.

    Then there is DiiVA:
    http://www.brightsideofnews.com/news/2009/4/22/eth...
    http://admin.virtualpressoffice.com/SupportingDocC...
    Unfortunately I haven't heard of any products with DiiVA. :-(

    Stokestack writes,
    > An oft-ignored product category is that which streams content FROM your
    > cable or satellite box TO your computer. I don't really care about watching
    > crap-quality compressed video on my big TV, but I would like to watch shows
    > from my cable box on a laptop in my kitchen or home office. Please include
    > products that perform this task too. Thanks!

    An excellent idea, although I would suggest making these a separate article.

    nexox writes,
    > I understand that lots of people use Windows with the built in CIFS file
    > sharing, or even UPNP/DNLA, but honestly those protocols are pretty weak
    > when compared with NFS (especially over UDP on wired ethernet.)

    And do the boxes support NFS over TCP? (Older implementations of NFS
    were UDP only.) Personally I'd like to see something better than NFS.
    Too bad that popularity seems to be inversely related to quality.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Modeverything, We are aware of the good reviews of Brite View on other channels and good user feedback too on AVS Forums. We will try to get reviews up for their upcoming product(s), but no guarantees :) Reply
  • Mumrik - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Crap! When I read the headline I anticipated a roundup-style review. Not an overview of the field :-/ Reply
  • Montrey - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    I was a little surprised that the Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ (emphasis on the "+") was not mentioned in the article. I purchased one about 2 months ago after a fair amount of research on products that fit my needs. I have been extremely pleased with it so far. With it you can:

    Directly plug in a Seagate FreeAgent portable drive for hidden storage or transport
    Use the USB port on the back for another storage device
    Stream media over your home network (minor registry fix in Win7 to make it work)
    Access YouTube, Netflix, and a variety of other streaming media that I never use, but Netflix works great

    The main selling point for me at the time of purchase was that it can handle pretty much any kind of video file you can throw at it. I have yet to find anything it cannot read. You can even play a ripped DVD folder just as if it were a DVD. In fact, you can share a DVD drive on a networked computer, and play a DVD from that, eliminating a stand alone DVD player.

    Best of all, for a 1080p USB and streaming media player, it is fairly cheap. I bought mine on NewEgg for $90 shipped.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    Montrey,

    The Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ also uses a Realtek chipset (similar to what is on Xtreamer). The platform is covered, but the product in particular may be investigated in detail in a future review.
    Reply
  • shuck76 - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    A couple additional features for your comparison list would be:

    ISO playback ability for DVD and Blu-ray
    Blu-ray menu support
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    shuck76,

    Thanks! Will add the following to the test suite:

    (1) DVD / Blu Ray ISO Support
    (2) DVD / Blu Ray Menu Support
    Reply
  • fzzzt - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    Please consider adding ISO images to your list of containers. Myself and others I know simply use images to play discs, getting all the features without any hassle. Reply
  • ruzveh - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    Apart from flawless 1080p support for all files and codec we also want some more hardware support incl. Bluetooth 3 + HDMI 1.4 + 7.1ch support + better graphics and audio components and capacitors Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    ruzveh,

    We will probably see many features that you want in the next gen products.

    7.1 channel support already exists on most players support HDMI 1.3 ; We will keep an eye out for the graphics capabilities.
    Reply
  • ruzveh - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    I also believe that todays media players should also support next level IPv6. And support all major online video and radio sites. What else can we ask in a media streamer.. ummmm??

    Maybe capability to add more accessories :D
    Reply
  • ruzveh - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    I forgot to mention USB3 & SATA3 support along with bluetooth3 & new giga connection Reply
  • batmanuel - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    I found the PS3 a little to easily dismissed in this discussion. Yes, the power draw is much higher than a pure media streaming product, but for me the convenience of having one device for games, Blu-Rays, Netflix, and local file streaming outweighs the extra little hit on my power bill. I've also found the PS3 Media Streamer software to greatly increase the usefulness of the PS3 for streaming, since on a reasonably up-to-date computer it can transcode just about any file format, including 1080p MKVs, into a stream the PS3 can decode.

    Similarly, not mentioning the Media Center Extender capabilities of the 360 also does it a great disservice. It seems like a power drain was used as too big a criteria, when it honestly doesn't cross my mind when selecting home theater equipment. I'm fairly sure the power drain of my PS3 isn't quite that big when you compare it to the drain of the HDTV,surround receiver, and TiVo (withe external hard drive) combined.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    Both PS3 and XBox are good media players, and PS3 has some great features such as bitstreaming.

    However, the intent of the article was not to cover all-in-one platforms in great detail.

    In our gaming platform reviews, we will also touch upon the media capabilities.
    Reply
  • ruzveh - Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - link

    My friend PS3 is good but it lacks file format support by way big margin and todays codec r suppose to accelerate power from cpu and graphics card for better smoother experience. but still PS3 has many things lacking..

    I forgot to mention that media streamers can come equipped with some game emulators to play on our HDTV like this product "multimedia-mp6-player-sound-system-and-game-console" on chinavasionDotCom
    Reply
  • balancebox - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    max reframe rate for 1080p h.264/x264 mkv playback should be tested

    I purchased an asus o player air recently it plays 720p fine even with 10 reframes but for 1080p it is having problems with 10 reframes, 5 reframes plays fine

    its probably do to hardware memory limitation. I would like to confirm if the WD TV Live can play 1080p with 16 reframes with video "planet earth from pole to pole 1080p"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQdSLOhrVMc#t=4m19s <--- this video says it can but being youtube it isn't reliable

    also WD TV have a larger linux modding community than asus o player =(
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    balancebox,

    This is definitely a part of our test suite (The 16 reframe video is one of the files). That said, almost all modern chipsets can handle 16 reframe (32 reframe for interlaced H264).

    Personally, I can confirm for you that WDTV Live indeed plays the 16 reframe Planet Earth sample, but only if it is off the local hard disk connected to USB. It doesn't play well over wired ethernet.

    I will include the following in our reviews:

    (1) Homebrew firmware / community development support
    Reply
  • NeBlackCat - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Excellent article and follow up, once again showing why AT is in a class of it's own. Really looking forward to the next instalment!

    One major (imho) omission though, and it's very important to many people - the extent to which software is open and has active third party development. This keeps the bug count down and feature count up, promotes choice and innovation, makes your investment go further, and gives you a whole new way to have fun if you're a hacker. Ask Dreambox owners.

    For example, you could categorise each as:

    Closed: runs manufacturer software only, or perhaps semi-FLOSS (eg. Linux plus a proprietary manufacturer SDK that is closed, buggy and feature limited - are you listening Realtek/Sigma?).

    Customisable: mainly closed, but has been hacked in a limited way, allowing some end user customisation (eg. NMTs and their plugins and customisable UIs)

    Hackable: not fully open, but has been hacked enough to make most things possible, even complete firmware replacements.

    Open: anything goes - IONs, Dreamboxes, etc.
    Reply
  • NeBlackCat - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    > (1) Homebrew firmware / community development support

    Bah, that'll teach me to not hit the post button quick enough!
    Reply
  • Colin1497 - Saturday, June 19, 2010 - link

    Seems like a pretty big oversight. I stream from my PC and Netflix on my S3 TiVo quite a lot. Reply
  • scJohn - Saturday, June 19, 2010 - link

    I found this site useful for audio test clips: http://www.demo-world.eu/trailers/high-definition-... . Scroll down to see the Dolby, DTD and THX sections. I used the audio clips to see what audio the WD Live would pass thru to my A/V receiver.

    When testing a wired/wireless connection a lot of times a short clip (< 3-minutes) will play fine but when you try and stream a 2 hour movie all kinds of problems seem to crop up. I guess I'm recommending that your test suite have a good selection of run times.

    Another area that needs to be addressed is filmware updates. Does the company have a good history on updates? Not sure how one would about assigning a grade to a company in this matter. Also, what problems, uprgades, etc. can a company do on it's own and what a company is dependent upon the chip manufacturer's SDK.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    scJohn,

    Thanks for the link. We already have 2 files from that link which are L4.1 compliant H264, but fail on the WDTV as well as the WDTV Live.

    We will pick up more files from that site, as you have suggested.

    Points from your comments for our reviews:

    (1) Add long clips to test suite
    (2) Frequency of firmware updates (assign grades to company)
    (3) Difference between reference platform from chip manufacturer and the product platform ; Missing / Additional features between chip manufacturer's SDK and product platform's firmware base.
    Reply
  • darkeyes909 - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    Before anyone else there was Avel Link, a Philips dvd that played divx etc. and a Plextor unit that played various media files. Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    I just want to know what product is the best for videos with high bit rates. Right now I have a Popcorn Hour A-110 and it has worked pretty good for the last year and a half or so. I've never really stressed it though with a super high bit rate movie though. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    gigahertz20,

    Off a local drive mounted on USB, there is probably no difference between different products based on the same chipset. As of now, both Sigma and Realtek are comparable as far as high bit rate videos are concerned (Both can play Blu Ray compliant clips easily). I think your A-110 will probably not have any trouble with high bit rate movies, and if it does have, it probably fails on current generation chipsets too.

    As long as you stay away from the Chips & Media IP products like the HDX Bone (which are mainly for PMPs), you should be fine :)
    Reply
  • stormcrow216 - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    Something that matters a lot to me in a streaming box and that I'm not seeing a lot about in your articles, is the ability to display web content. I don't mean youtube or netflix, I mean random web pages without video attached. Do all of these devices support this? None of them? A true HTPC would do this of course, and that's kind of my default circumstance right now. But I'd rather have something more streamlined. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    stormcrow216,

    This is something many people would like, but it blurs the distinction between HTPCs and media streamers. As embedded processors become more and more powerful, we will see improvements on media streamers such as Tegra 2 based Boxee TV. Right now, they are in a 'neither here - nor there' situation, as they supposedly don't support Blu Ray compliant clips and also don't have a full featured web browser. A year or so down the line, I am sure things will improve to where we want them to be right now!
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    stormcrow216,

    Do peruse this link: http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2010/05/03/

    It looks like we may get web browsing on Realtek based products in the near future (However, I am sure it is going to be severely crippled by the lack of horsepower, since all it has is a MIPS processor inside, clocked pretty low compared to the traditional HTPC).
    Reply
  • daskino - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    Ganesh T S do you happen to have a email i can contact you on? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    daskino,

    You can contact me at: ganeshDOTfilesATgmail
    Reply
  • Modelworks - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    A few bits of information about the Live. WD has a new version called the WDTV Live Plus. This version uses similar hardware but uses the sigma chip with macrovision support . It was necessary to support netflix. The pricing seems to be about $120 so not much different from the earlier one.

    The WDTV Live has custom firmware available. The box runs linux and with the curstom firmware users can access it just like any other linux system. People have added torrent, web services, OSD mods, and more . You can run things in the background like torrents, ftp and more and it doesn't effect the video performance thanks to the offloading of the decoding to the hardware. On board ram is 512MB, with about 180MB for user programs. Changing firmware is as easy as using a usb flash drive and you can change it back to retail easily if you want.

    The plus version of the box does not have custom firmware yet.

    This forum has more info:

    http://forum.wdlxtv.com/wdtv-live.php
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    Modelworks,

    Thanks for the info. WDTV Live Plus is currently in our labs, and a review will be up soon :)
    Reply
  • DieterBSD - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    > WDTV Live indeed plays the 16 reframe Planet Earth sample,
    > but only if it is off the local hard disk connected to USB.
    > It doesn't play well over wired ethernet.

    That's too bad, since the whole point of a media streamer is
    to get the noisy disk away from the TV/stereo. A conspiracy
    theorist might say that WD wants you to buy a disk.

    Two more things to test: (1) How well do these boxes deal with
    input that is less than perfect? Some mpeg decoders crash.
    (low quality programming) An easy way to generate a less
    than perfect test file is to record some OTA TV using a
    lame indoor antenna. Using the file allows testing all the
    boxes with the same input, so that the test is fair.

    (2) Also, closed captions crash some of the CECBs:
    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=99...
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    DieterBSD,

    Thanks for the link.

    Is it possible for you to link us to some 'faulty' OTA TV recorded videos? We can add them to the test suite.

    Currently we have no plans for testing converter boxes with our test suite, as the requirements for those vary greatly from that of the media streamers that we are trying to cover in this particular section.
    Reply
  • DieterBSD - Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - link

    > Is it possible for you to link us to some 'faulty'
    > OTA TV recorded videos? We can add them to the test suite.

    I am not aware of any available online. Thus my suggestion
    that it is easy to generate a test file by recording some
    OTA TV using a lame indoor antenna. Or add attenuation
    until the signal/noise drops low enough. This assumes you
    have a computer connected TV tuner card/box available.

    fixed attenuator (available in a variety of values)
    http://www.provantage.com/steren-electronics-201-4...

    variable attenuator (knob):
    http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?mc=03&p=1...\
    %20Variators&sku=853748001293

    variable attenuator (switches (thus repeatable, but more expensive)):
    http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?mc=05&p=S... Equipment&sku=

    These are just examples, not recommendations for these specific products.

    A two-way splitter adds about 3.5 dB of attenuation, a four-way about 7.4 dB, ...

    The harder way would be to start with a good mpeg2 file
    and corrupt it with a binary editor.

    > Currently we have no plans for testing converter boxes

    Sorry, I wasn't clear. Since some CECBs crash attempting
    to decode and display closed captions, perhaps the media
    streamers have similar bugs.

    You could set up a tuner card/box with a multicast/broadcast
    to the media streamers with closed captions on and let them
    run overnight. For completeness both the "analog" and "digital"
    captions should be tested.
    Reply
  • average_joe - Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - link

    The last time I looked at this product class, I believe I liked the Netgear EVA9150 for it's extensive media support, including DVD ISO. At the time, IIRC, almost nothing could read Bluray ISO, including the EVA9150, which would have made it perfect. Can you include this device in you evaluations?

    My long term goal is to have a media player that can pull from my home NAS and the internet seemlessly, without the need of an additional server (HTPC).
    Reply
  • ruzveh - Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - link

    Todays media players are also lacking built in tv tune capability. I understand we have different device for the same but still its a good thing to have.

    And i personally dont own a media player of my own but would like to know does the following file format which is shown on the catalog works for file copied on CD's, DVD's, BD Disk Drive via USB or directly via pen drive?

    I would like to connect my Blu Ray drive to media player via usb and has it play all the collection that i have stored on my cd, dvd & blu rays
    Reply
  • LuxZg - Wednesday, July 07, 2010 - link

    I'd have one addition for testing - PLEASE test the non-English character support in the subtitles. For example "accented" characters in different European languages.

    As for the other things, which have already been listed, do make sure you test the MTS/M2TS container format, and 1080/60p playback. If you'll need "heavy duty" 60p samples, just look for "raw" Panasonic HDC-TM700 videos (MTS, 50p/60p, 1080, H.264, with 5.1 surround).It chokes most software players, so I'm personally very interested in how these stream players support it :) Besides, it's future BluRay spec (well, 60p/1080/H.264 part at least)
    Reply
  • johnlannock - Saturday, September 25, 2010 - link

    When will you start posting reviews of different streamers so that I can purchase my next few?

    I have one patriot and am not happy with it.

    What do you think of the Argosy products?

    I need 5 of these devices in the near future and do not want to get fooled again.

    I rely on Anandtech to steer me in my purchasing decisions so that I do not suffer from "buyers remorse"

    Thank you
    Reply
  • turbobeta - Thursday, January 27, 2011 - link

    In regards to the 360 and PS3, you stated:

    "However, such power consumption numbers put these devices beyond my criteria for a media streamer (their original intent was to act as a game console after all), and I will not discuss them any further in this article."

    I think that's a terrible reason to exclude them. These two devices are the most widely available, have modern av hookups, have modern internet connectivity, and have the largest install base.

    Its as if you were stating something ludicrous like "I'm not including pencils in my roundup of greatest writing utensils of all time, because they need to be sharpened, and I will not discuss them any further in this article."
    Reply
  • dpbrick - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    I'm really impressed by your approach in this article: looking at product capabilities and limitations on the basis of their chipsets. This is the first article of its kind I have seen of its kind. Unfortunately, it is over a year old at this point. Has any progress been made in updating it? Reply

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