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The Best Streaming Media Player

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the line-em-up dept.

Television 217

DeviceGuru writes "It's looking like 2012 will be a watershed year for cord-cutters wanting to replace expensive cable TV services with low-cost gadgets that stream movies and TV shows from the Internet via free, subscription, and pay-per-view services. Accordingly, this DeviceGuru smackdown pits five popular streaming media player devices against each other. The smackdown compares Roku, Google TV, Apple TV, the Boxee Box, and Netgear's NeoTV, tabulating their key features, functions, specs, supported multimedia formats, and other characteristics, and listing the main advantages and disadvantages of each device. Then, it provides a summary chart that attempts to quantify the whole thing, so you (theoretically) can pick the best one based on what characteristics are most important to you. Of course, the market's evolving so quickly that the entire process will need to be redone in 6 months, but what else is new."

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First post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146187)

nigger!

Raspberry (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146207)

An R-Pi is all you need for this purpose (and its launching sometime in the next few days)

Re:Raspberry (3, Interesting)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146247)

I've wondered if Raspberry Pi would be good for this or not- and had considered getting one for that exact purpose. Obviously no one has experience with R Pis as HTPCs yet- but does anyone with experience of HTPCs think the Pi would be good enough for that?

Re:Raspberry (3, Interesting)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146299)

On their blog, they do show a demo of 1080p and XBMC
GPU accellerated stuff should work fine I guess, but probably non GPU accellerated would be problematic

Re:Raspberry (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146859)

Hardware based mkv h264 decoding. Other than that most people say it wont have enough power to decode other codecs.

VP8 is like H.264 (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147597)

Can the Raspberry Pi's H.264 decoder be repurposed to decode VP8, which is essentially H.264 baseline with the patented parts carefully plucked out? Or is the hardware fixed in function to decode only H.264?

Re:Raspberry (2)

Kagato (116051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147411)

Raspberry Pi is pretty limited at the moment in terms of things it will play. That's more or less a licensing issue for them. For instance it could decode MPEG2, but since that's a $5-10 license to unlock that functionality on the SoC, it's not presently doing it. I think people are going to be able to do some really neat things with the UI via XBMC with the Pi, but as far as the number of Codecs supported the Boxee is going to be king.

What about openness? (4, Interesting)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146215)

All fine and well if you don't want updates that the manufacturer won't give you. There's a lot of cases where this comparison review lists software deficiencies, but firmware lockdowns make things worse.

Never mind the content issues that come along with these devices.

Re:What about openness? (5, Informative)

RDW (41497) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146515)

They should probably have a 'hackability' score - e.g., the tiny current version of the Apple TV is a very nice piece of hardware that's capable of much more than Apple's lockdown allows out of the box. Hack it and most of the limitations (lack of a web browser, limited media compatibility, access to non-iTunes network shares) go away:

http://www.appletvhacks.net/ [appletvhacks.net]

Re:What about openness? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146539)

The news is mostly bad on that score.

Unless I'm much mistaken, every device on that list is locked down by design. The success of that lockdown varies slightly; but they all derive their intentions from the unpleasant history of 'Conditional Access' set top box devices. There are hacks of varying completeness and difficulty for some of them; but they are all hostile by design from the bootloader up, so that's a cat-and-mouse thing at best.

On the plus side, the cost and power budget of implementing a comparatively open system(ie. a dinky Atom board has a binary BIOS; but at least its a closed firmware that is designed to boot anything a normal x86 system would, unlike the Boxee or GoogleTV, which are Atom-based but notably hostile, and a rasberry pi has a proprietary GPU firmware blob; but doesn't attempt to control user behavior) has fallen substantially in recent years; but any purpose-built system sold as supporting the various streaming services or DRM systems is going to be hostile, period.

Re:What about openness? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146947)

I've been reasonably happy with the WDTV, even though my generation didn't get Netflix, it feels adequately maintained and even upgraded on the feature front.

Re:What about openness? (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147019)

That is why I prefer good old fashioned HTPCs and so do my customers. Want to make it a DVR? Add a $30 digital/analog tuner. OS? take your pick, plenty of HTPC software for both Windows and Linux so both work well. Want to make it a media library you can access all over the house? A big fat hard drive and wireless card. No worrying about not liking the surfing or getting locked out like GoogleTV, you can use any browser. Services? netflix, Hulu, hell a dozen channels free in Win 7 WMC as well, tons of choices there. Want to game? Add a cheap powerful graphics card like an HD4850 and you can play pretty much anything you want.

So I don't see why you'd want one of these things when HTPCs have frankly never been cheaper. if you are worried about power (I find if given the choice most will choose features over power though) then simply use an E-350 based board, they have a nice barebones case and all for less than $150 and it'll do 1080p over HDMI and accelerates pretty much any of the major formats. Personally though i like to use the Phenom I of all things, you can get an E series which is the low power chip for $60 for a quad which makes it a great little transcoder, slap it in a nice little VCR style case with a couple of 2Gb sticks and a Tb hard drive and you have a nice media center that'll do a hell of a lot more than any of these boxes. With these all it takes is the box being blacklisted or not being updated and as you said you end up with a useless black box, whereas an HTPC can be used for other things.

Put up or shut up (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147599)

So what did that all cost? And how long did it take to set it all up?

Was it more than $99? And was it more than 15 minutes?

Not being a dick, but if it's all so easy to do what you say, you would be in business competing against Apple I would have bought your box instead.
If it IS that easy and you CAN give me a near $100 box and a near 15 minute setup time with hardware and SOFTWARE that beats these other devices then quit your day job and get cracking. I want to buy your system.

BUT: If it's more like $300 and as elegant as a volvo chassis with a Hemi engine and an airconditioner duct taped to the window, then I'll keep my Apple TV. Which I have not had to touch since installing a year ago.

People who prefer to buy rather than build (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147637)

So I don't see why you'd want one of these things when HTPCs have frankly never been cheaper.

Because people expect to walk into Best Buy and walk out with something. If you have to buy it as separate parts and install them all into a case, it's already a non-starter except for dedicated geeks [pineight.com] .

Re:What about openness? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147101)

Indeed. What set top box to buy? I'm a nerd, I build my own. I already don't have cable; almost everything on cable I'd want to watch is on HULU or the networks' own web sites. I have a perfectly good computer plugged into my TV, why would I want something I couldn't fiddle with? I don't see what any of these boxes do that any nerd couldn't put together himself.

I was disappointed, I thought by "players" it was going to be Winamp vs XMMS vs WiMP vs Aramok vs whatever other software media players there are.

Re:What about openness? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147165)

I agree. For my media player uses, I just have a soft-modded Wii. You could have got one for $100 last Christmas, now the only option seems to be $150 with a game I was thinking of picking up a second one just for watching streaming TV in the bedroom. You can either play videos off your network shares, or hook up a USB hard drive to it. Small, uses little power, starts up quickly, and can also play games if you want it to. Throw some emulators on there and play some classic stuff if you don't want to buy any Wii games. Compared to the price of buying a dedicated media streaming device, there's not really much of a comparison.

I like my Boxee (4, Insightful)

hey (83763) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146235)

Apps are written in Python. There are currently about 250 now.
I was shocked when I saw a friend's AppleTV... there was no web browser - stay in the garden children.

Re:I like my Boxee (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146287)

Apps are written in Python. There are currently about 250 now.
I was shocked when I saw a friend's AppleTV... there was no web browser - stay in the garden children.

There are 5 buttons on the remote, i don't want a web browser for that

Re:I like my Boxee (1, Interesting)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146291)

I have a Sony BDP-380 Streaming Blu-Ray player that appears to play anything from Disc or USB or Ethernet or computer. Lots of audio and video and photo formats. So far it has played everything that I've thrown at it. Never a problem with NetFlix or RedBox rental discs. After using this player for almost a year, I wouldn't have anything else.

Re:I like my Boxee (1, Funny)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146953)

Did you forget we are boycotting Sony here?

Re:I like my Boxee (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146969)

So far it has played everything that I've thrown at it.

I read this about most every streaming media player, probably because they all use FFmpeg at their core.

Re:I like my Boxee (1)

rikkards (98006) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146293)

Two guys I work with have Boxee and looked at this. It appears that it doesn't take into account the latest update which addresses a lot. I personally have two homebuilt XBMC boxes but if I want another I may just do Boxee.

Re:I like my Boxee (1)

blahbooboo (839709) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147207)

Boxee dropped their PC software. Switch to Plex, it kicks boxee's ass

Re:I like my Boxee (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146307)

I've been smoken in my Mystical Garden for many years.

www.mythtv.org/

Re:I like my Boxee (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146319)

good thing they have an ipad app because there is no way i can figure out what i can actually watch on this thing via the website. at least Roku has a list of apps that i can easily find on the site

Using the wrong remote (4, Informative)

microcars (708223) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146451)

Apps are written in Python. There are currently about 250 now. I was shocked when I saw a friend's AppleTV... there was no web browser - stay in the garden children.

True, if you use the simple -out-of-the-box- minimal remote that comes with the device.
But if you use your iPhone/iPad/iPad Touch as a WiFi remote (with the free Remote app from Apple), you have a really sweet remote that also does mirroring via Airplay [apple.com] . Anything visible on the screen of the i-Device shows up on the TV.

I'm always surprised at how many I-Device owners had no idea that they could use their device as a remote control and display content on their TVs.
At family gatherings we just turn on the TV, fire up the AppleTV and then everyone pulls out their iPhones and shares photos.

Re:Using the wrong remote (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146871)

Actually we considered getting the AppleTV solely to interface our iPad and iPods to the TV via AirPlay. Also streaming from my computer is a bonus. The price isn't too high for just those functions. As for Netflix and other services, those things are already provided by my HDTV, Blue-Ray, and game consoles.

Re:I like my Boxee (1)

rsmith-mac (639075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146471)

Boxee can go to hell after throwing out their PC/Mac/Linux userbase virtually overnight. Dropping support is their rightful choice, but they did it in just about the worst possible manner.

Re:I like my Boxee (3, Insightful)

rikkards (98006) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146719)

Why? Boxee is based off of XBMC. If you are not using their Box, you are better off using XBMC, Boxee is always playing catchup.

Re:I like my Boxee (0)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146797)

I was shocked when I saw a friend's AppleTV... there was no web browser - stay in the garden children.

Nice slogan, son. Of course when you're man enough to ride with the big boys you'll know you can get a Mac Mini with a tuner from someone like Elgato and do things far more than just browse the web.

With so many things that offer streaming for my television (e.g. Blue-ray player, My two game consoles, and the HDTV itself), I haven't seen the need for yet another device that does what I already have. So regardless if your an Apple hater (wall garden... what a rube) or not, articles like these are becoming irrelevant.

Re:I like my Boxee (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147471)

I also love my BoxeeBox.

I'm not sure why the review had gripes about the stability of the device - I never have any issues with mine at all. It plays damn near anything, the built-in SMB client for attached storage is wonderful, the web browser works well enough (albeit slowly).

It did have a pretty rocky start, but things are good now.

Or you could just use a normal computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146251)

Really. Why have a specialised thing for viewing video? I can understand hooking up a bigger screen, but other than that it just seems pointless.

Re:Or you could just use a normal computer (4, Insightful)

MankyD (567984) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146443)

Because reading a normal desktop's output from 15 feet away on the couch is hard. The nice thing about these is that the UI is designed for easy reading and navigation with a remote.

Re:Or you could just use a normal computer (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147013)

Because reading a normal desktop's output from 15 feet away on the couch is hard. The nice thing about these is that the UI is designed for easy reading and navigation with a remote.

http://xbmc.org/ [xbmc.org] addresses your concern, though in practice I mostly just use VLC instead.

15 ft HDMI works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147231)

I have a US$9 10ft HDMI cable that works flawlessly. I can't imagine that the 15ft $15 cable from Amazon wouldn't work perfectly too. I'm watching _A Scanner Darkly_ now as I work.

I have a WD Live HD Plus (US$80) for 100% silent 1080p steamed content from local SMB sources. The UI is not too fancy, but the playback is as good as my HTPC for much less cost. I don't worry about 3rd parties tracking everything I watch either.

Here's a better playback device table via google-docs https://spreadsheets1.google.com/ccc?key=tjY1oj6WVMRfdgjpDyPbBSg&authkey=CMWSqM8P&hl=en&authkey=CMWSqM8P#gid=0 [google.com]
It has many more options.

Cable service & ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146269)

If only my cable service would cut off some ads with the money i give them. Nope, they increase the ad time instead. I know they need ads for their revenue but sometimes the time they give they on the air is ridiculous. Too bad cause i would glady pay an extra for getting my channels instead. Nahh what i do is simple, I go on the Internet and watch my tv shows and movies...humm my own way. Ok, it's not always legit but...I'm so sick of ads...damn it.

I can't see the point of standalone media streamer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146285)

Most people are actually going to get streaming video through other devices: Games Consoles, Blu-Ray players, connected TVs and DVRs.

Re:I can't see the point of standalone media strea (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146507)

Many people who don't have kids- or arn't recently out of college will more than likely not have Game Consoles (some will- probably most slashdotters- but general population at large won't)- even those that do have kids- the Game Consoles will probably be in the kids room. Blu-Rays, Smart TVs and DVRs will all eat out of the market- but again; a lot of people already have those devices so won't be buying them new just to get online media.

Definately there are alternatives shared-purpose devices that will do some of the things these media players will do; however, they don't do it all, or as well.

I think media players like these have a limited life- in 5 or 6 years, they will be phased out (unless they can find new niches to incorporate) as TVs and BluRays steal the show. Right now though- for many in the world a standalone media player is still a good idea.

Re:I can't see the point of standalone media strea (4, Informative)

netsavior (627338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146607)

I have a PS3 and a Roku, I can tell you they both do netflix and hulu plus, and the PS3 even has a much better interface for netflix... we still use the roku more. The PS3 has to install an OS upgrade every week or so, the "controllers" or remote control system will use up the batteries completely in about 10 hours of idling, the device itself gets really hot even idling, etc. So for the roku, it is always on, the remote always works. For the PS3 we have to turn it on, wait for a firmware/OS upgrade, then remember to turn the controllers off while we watch TV. It does way too much to be an appliance. The PS3 is a game console with streaming, the Roku is an appliance, and there still is a big difference.

Re:I can't see the point of standalone media strea (3, Informative)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147187)

Exaggerate much? PS3 has upgrades semi-often(less than once a month these days) and they are NOT required to use anything other than the PlayStation Network. These upgrades add features anyways, like the native Netflix application. As far as the batteries and the heat, the original model did get hotter(not like the 360, though) than the current design that runs fairly cool, but many of those units have been phased out anyway(unless you've replaced the laser by now) and the batteries last plenty long and are rechargeable anyways. If you use the ps3 bluray remote, you can use rechargeable AAs or just turn the remote off during the shows(is it really that hard?).

From a standalone device perspective, the PS3 is hard to beat in functionality outside of a dedicated PC. As with all multifunction devices, it has it's shortcomings, but some of those that you mentioned aren't true or aren't really shortcomings(takes longer for my stereo to turn on and load an HD signal than it does for my PS3 to turn on)

Re:I can't see the point of standalone media strea (1)

marcop (205587) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147311)

Portability. I have the WDTV Live Streaming device talked about in another thread. This and some of the ones in the parent article are REALLY small. You can have a bunch of ripped movies on a small thumb drive and plug the device into your car's TV. Without an in-car entertainment system you can still pick up a 7"-10" portable LCD and use it with one of these devices in a car. It's a far better system than anything you can buy. Also, having a dozen or so movies on a thumbdrive in Xvid format (or some other format) is way more convenient than DVD's.

Frame rate sync (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146295)

I'm yet to see a review that takes under account the ability of the media player to re-negotiate HDMI mode to match the frame rate of the source material.

Most players are guilty of either a single frame rate (atv2, I'm looking at you) or having to manually change modes (great user experience, right?).

Of all players I know, only the Popcorn Hour ones have the ability to configure which modes you want it to auto-select. This results in silky-smooth playback.

Otherwise, try playing 24000/1001 fps on 25fps display or 25fps material on 30000/1001 fps display. It's always jerky and fugly.

But I guess it's more important that the thing plays protected content or that you can watch cats on youtube.

Pfft, get off my lawn.

(captcha: bashing)

Re:Frame rate sync (1)

rikkards (98006) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146745)

XBMC has a check box that lets you change the source framerate. With that checked, the main menu is running at 60hz but TV shows flips to 24hz,

Re:Frame rate sync (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146817)

not on all platforms (atv2 cannot do it)

MOD PARENT UP! (2)

GrumpyOldMan (140072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146781)

I agree that this is a very important feature, and very rare outside of full-on PC based media centers.

My current box (SageTV HD300 media extender) does this. It is very sad that SageTV was purchased by Google, and you can no longer purchase this hardware. This is the exact same Sigma tango3 hardware as the WDTV Live Plus (and probably a few others), so we know that low-end STB hardware is capable of it.

Re:Frame rate sync (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147197)

Of all players I know, only the Popcorn Hour ones have the ability to configure which modes you want it to auto-select. This results in silky-smooth playback.

Otherwise, try playing 24000/1001 fps on 25fps display or 25fps material on 30000/1001 fps display. It's always jerky and fugly.

But I guess it's more important that the thing plays protected content or that you can watch cats on youtube.

I'm having trouble following. So the Popcorn Hour boxes won't play protected content?

I'm tired of treating DVDs like precious artifacts instead of obsolete media. I want all of my DVD (and BluRay) content on my media server. I was looking at a Popcorn Hour box.

This will save money for how long? (5, Insightful)

StoutFiles (2471680) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146381)

In most areas, the cable and internet come from the same provider who has a monopoly. If enough people cut cable, they will just raise internet prices to keep the same profits. Hell, they're going to raise internet prices for everyone regardless because we all use too much bandwidth in their opinion.

Re:This will save money for how long? (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146789)

Cable companies have to pay for the right to broadcast the channels, some channels are much more expensive than others. (I have heard from friends that ESPN charges cable companies about $12/month per subscriber!!!) So yes, cable is expensive, and there is a fair amount of profit, but the companies could probably raise internet costs by only a few dollars a month, and still maintain the same margins. Not to mention, they can use the fact people are leaving in droves to force lower licensing costs from the content producers... (Of course, if your cable company OWNs a content producer, like http://www.kabletown.com/ [kabletown.com] , then yes, you should panic)

Sage TV (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146383)

And what will become of Sage TV?
They are owned by Google now.

Are they going to dump that now that they own the
motorola set top boxs?

Its still a great product.

There is no "best" (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146391)

Different people and different scenarios lead to different requirements and to different "best" solutions. Do not start that stupidity of identifying a global "best" here as well!

US centric ? (3, Insightful)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146403)

I want the same question asked worldwide, otherwise the Pirate Bay stays the only option for many.

Re:US centric ? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146711)

Yes, it is very US centric.
While the US is asking the question France (of all countries) has had the answer for some time now.
In France the operator Free has been pushing price down and the technical advances up...
My Freebox is not only cheap AND pretty and designed by Monsior Stark,
it is an ADSL modem AND a Blueray/DVD player, Wifi hotspot, TV reception, both via Free and TNT(digital tv) , VOD, Videorecorder, DECT Telephone base, NAS, Multimedia streaming, Bittorrent client, Clock(!), internetradio, webbrowser...
Even the bloody remote has a Wii like accerolometer thingy inside and their is a collection of games.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db4mXb7LbKI
Did I mention it runs linux...
Being a ADSL provider makes it possible to do good Quality Of Service for the TV and the telephone.
More info: http://www.free.fr/adsl/multimedia.html
Google and Apple should just skip trying to patch the TV.
Why should I buy a videoplayer when my ADSL box can do all this and more?

Re:US centric ? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147105)

If you go with worldwide, then the iTunes Store [wikipedia.org] is probably your only option. I don't know of anyone else offering legal downloadable media in so many countries.

Even Canada, which is so close to the USA in so many ways, doesn't have access to things like Hulu, etc. They're all USA-only services.

I have SmartTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146405)

It does all that stuff and came built-in to my TV and also my blue-ray player.
If I want to stream something else I can get the TV to hook up to my computer via Nero Mediahome which came bundled with the TV.

These streaming devices would of been cool 10 years ago, but they are already antiquated now.

WD Live (5, Informative)

zeronitro (937642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146417)

I got my WD Live for $80 about a year or so ago. Plays 1080p mkv flawlessly off of a samba share from a linux server. It just works.

Looks different and a little more expensive then mine, but probably still worth getting: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136997 [newegg.com]

Re:WD Live (1)

marcop (205587) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146455)

Yeah, not sure why they didn't include this. The 2011 version is much better over the previous models and it plays anything you throw at it. The 2011 versions has a MUCH better UI, remote control, and has WiFi. Here is one review:

http://youtu.be/gjteOdHkAHQ [youtu.be]

Note on how the looks are different from previous models. Don't bother with the older models since the UI is that much better.

I plug this into my car's DVD player, put a dozen or so kids movies on a flash drive, and let the kids watch what they want on long trips. No more fumbling for DVD's.

Looking at the specs of the others I don't know why this isn't included.

Re:WD Live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147329)

What's the exact model number of the 2011 version, or how do you know you have one?

Re:WD Live (1)

jomcty (806483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146553)

I'd like to second this recommendation. The main omission from this device is the lack of Amazon Prime streaming support. Also, there is a problem with switching audio in a mp4/m4v file sends video racing ahead [goo.gl] , however, strangely enough, mkv's work fine. No sub-$250 device I'm aware of does it all perfectly, but overall, I recommend the WDTV Live it and would buy again.

Re:WD Live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146615)

WDTV LIve is still awesome. It's best feature? It plays EVERYTHING with no complaints. No transcoding, no remuxing, it just plays. Flash the stock box with b-rad firmware and you add dozens of extra features and the ability to run it as a mini linux server. Best $80 bux you can spend.

Re:WD Live (1)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146743)

I've got an older one, but I still like it fine. I don't need anything too fancy. Used to have it hardwired, now I have a wifi adapter. Works great for what I want to do with it.

Re:WD Live (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147027)

I've got an older one, but I still like it fine. I don't need anything too fancy. Used to have it hardwired, now I have a wifi adapter. Works great for what I want to do with it.

x2

WD Live HD Plus (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147063)

The GUI is a little simplistic, but the WD Live HD Plus playback is flawless for 1080p content over a 100base-t wired connection.

I have XBMC on a dual core Atom netbook too, but it can't handle any HD content at all without massive skipping. For SD content it is nice enough, but more and more recorded TV shows are 1080i here.
The WD Live HD Plus plays pretty much any content (no RM) - perfectly, with multiple audio tracks and multiple subtitles - all flawlessly.

None of the apple solutions handle 1080p or even 1080i. They only output 720p video at best. That is unacceptable to me - plus they cost 20% more.

Are you buying the device for playback ability or a pretty interface? I care about the actual playback of the content more.

Re:WD Live (1)

berashith (222128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147103)

thanks... i had been looking into this device, and was happy to see a comparison article, until I noticed that this wasnt in it. It just seems "good".

Re:WD Live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147109)

My WD TV Live Plus is by fare better then any of these listed specifically for the MKV files. I like roku interface, but until it can play MKV's as well as WDTV from my NAS, its not my cup of tea.

Re:WD Live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147145)

ps3 + mediatomb
with transcoding, works for everything, including youtube.

Another WD TV owner (3, Informative)

mu51c10rd (187182) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147453)

Glad to see I wasn't the only one wondering why they left out the WD line. WD has the best hybrid of local playback and online apps. I have yet to have a file format thrown at it that it can't handles. It also can play from SMB shares, uPnP media servers, and lots of online apps. How did the reviewer fail to add that to their queue? The newest model even has the builtin wifi. I tend to recommend the WD line to people over the Roku, Boxee, Apple TV, or Google TV.

Re:WD Live (1)

s7uar7 (746699) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147641)

I have the newer version. It's great for streaming from a NAS, and BBC iPlayer is great, but the Netflix app forces a re-auth every couple of days. 'Typing' an email address and password using the remote is not fun.

Apple TV (2)

Daas (620469) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146447)

An Apple TV by itself is almost useless. It's a good Netflix box but other then that : meh. Where is shines is AirPlay, you can stream your stuff from pretty much any website or App on the iPad (or iPhone) and most of the time the quality is pretty great.

If you want to transform it into an amazing machine : jailbreak it and put XBMC on it, you'll have the best of both Apple and the Open Source world. The only remaining issue is that it doesn't do 1080p, but then what kind of streaming content can you get in 1080p?

Re:Apple TV (3, Informative)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146505)

The older Apple TV does if you put an expansion card into its PCI slot (you have to remove the wireless card to do this though), then it will support 1080p quite happily in XBMC with the exception of some of the more silly encode settings.

It's been a while since I looked at it. Crystal HD or something?

Re:Apple TV (2)

human spam filter (994463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147071)

Yep, a Crystal HD decoder should work. I put one into the mini-PCI slot of my 5 year old laptop recently. The decoder is about $20 on ebay.

Re:Apple TV (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147043)

An Apple TV by itself is almost useless. It's a good Netflix box but other then that : meh.

Funny, I feel the same way about our PS3.

Here's what I want: (2)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146465)

Here's what I want:

Someone to bundle an Acer Aspire Revo 3700 with an appropriate IR receiver and remote (ie: Noah Company MediaGate GP-IR02BK Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate MCE Remote Control).

Load it up with OpenElec and a couple of the standard repositories (bluecop, etc.).

And just sell that as a media center.

I did it myself, but it took some trial and error to get the right stuff together. But now that I have it's it's easy to duplicate for the family.

They missed one. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146489)

By far the best player I have come across is Seagate's GoFlex TV http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/home_entertainment/hd-media-player

It does everything. It has played everything that I tried. It does windows networking very well. It does YouTube, Netflix, MediaFly, Pandora and a number of others. It does 1080p has outputs for composite, RGB, and HDMI. It also has an optical output and will send out a raw optical stream that my audio receiver can process.

I have a DirecTv HD DVR with the whole house option and the GoFlex Player recognizes it as a media streaming device. I came across that feature by accident and contacted Seagate about it. They said that they had been working on it and it was only in the last release of the BIOS which if you have the box connected to the internet, it updates automatically.

If you can rip a dvd or bluray it will play it. I store all my audio CD's in FLAC and this media player plays very well through the optical port. It also runs on 5 volts so I bought a car cell phone charger and cut off the cord and attached the cord of the player to it and installed it in the SUV and plays movies for the kids off of 4 microSD cards connected via a USB hub all in the center console of the vehicle.

This Seagate also can do wireless networking via usb. When on the road we pull into a McDonald's, click on network and watch current news.

I have nothing to do with Seagate but I have done extensive testing and research and you won't find a better one for the price.

my Roku experience for the hackers out there (4, Insightful)

netsavior (627338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146511)

One thing the reviews leave out is scriptability/hackability.

Roku actually has a pretty easy and open-ish api.
Roku channels can be written in a scripting language called Brightscript (feels mostly like VBScript). The SDK also comes with C header files if you'd rather write something low level. I wrote a basic channel that takes reads an XML manifest file from my webserver and lets you pick from any of my home videos (or backups of my DVDs or infringed video) and streams it on the TV. I did this in about 15 minutes of coding on the roku side, including a "cover flow" style menu. (Of course, you aren't going to escape the need to transcode your video files, unless you are doing it hot on the webserver)

later when they upgraded the OS (without breaking any compatibility) I was able to write a page to run on my webserver that allows me to go to a browser from any of the computers on my network and select any movie (accessible by http) and directly launch it on the roku from the browser (which is very helpful for when I want to watch a horror/pr0n movie with the wife after the kids go to bed, but I don't want the kids to have access to it during the day)
I wrote an HTML/AJAX remote control app to run on our tablets/iphone/laptops to control the roku if we misplace the remote, which was also really simple, due to the easy/open API
I have tried many set top solutions, and THIS is the one my 3 year-old and my grandmother can use, but that I can still force it to do what I want.

PS3? (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146521)

My PS3 does ok for movies and pictures. Plus it plays games and DVD / BluRay. And Netflix.

Why do I need one of these additional boxes? What am I missing out on?

Re:PS3? (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146821)

The PS3 makes a lousy appliance. It overheats if it is always on, the controllers run down the battery while they idle, it has very frequent software patches. Idle to movie is about 3 seconds on a Roku, from "off" to movie is about 5 minutes-30 minutes on a PS3, (boot, login, - possibly patch - netflix, play). I have both and the PS3 really can't compare to a "cable box" like a roku ca, even though it's video capabilities are similar or better.

Re:PS3? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147111)

My PS3 is on 24/7; I bought the logitech remote adapter, cake to watch anything now.
If your PS3 is overheating it may be time to blow out the dust in it, or move it.

Bittorrent client? (4, Interesting)

jaymzter (452402) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146565)

They seemed to have missed a bittorrent client in the list of features. How about letting me load up what *I* want to watch from the device, instead of what *you* want me to watch. Plus, if they can't mount shares, how can you connect the one upstairs with the one downstairs? These things can't stream to each other?

On another note, it seems odd my old PCH A110 can still "out feature" some of these newer players on the market. It plays from samba, nfs, or upnp shares, includes a bittorrent client, and of course handles almost any format you can throw at it. Of course, it's also very long in the tooth by now.

xbmc (2)

doronbc (1434117) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146589)

will ALWAYS outperform any other player. people can continue to ignore it, but xbmc running on any device is better than anything else out there imo.

Re:xbmc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147221)

will ALWAYS outperform any other player. people can continue to ignore it, but xbmc running on any device is better than anything else out there imo.

The Boxee Box runs xbmc, FYI.

WD TV Live (1)

yodleboy (982200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146609)

I love this little box, have a couple of them and there's not much it won't do. Plays just about any video format including mkv, vob and iso images. Connects to Netflix and 10 or so other services (the glaring omission here being Amazon). Can connect via DLNA, directly to a linux or windows share or you can plug a USB drive into it play media from that as well. It's a very capable device and @ $99 it's a relative bargain. Did i mention the interface is easy and intuitive with lots of options, you can customize several buttons on the remote and there's a remote control app for Android and iPhone?

Sorry to sound like a shill, but I've been really happy with these players.

Re:WD TV Live (1)

rikkards (98006) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147025)

One word: Bookmarks.
That was enough to turn me off. Also I found video support was a bit less forgiving than my XBMC box. Granted the price is good and for my dad who isn't using networking it works well but too many clicks for my taste

fi8sT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146673)

Qubaareled on blue, rubber schemes. Frankly as one of the

Separate box? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39146699)

Why do I need another box sitting next to my TV? Why isn't PS3 or XBOX on this list....
At least I get digital audio outta my PS3

Why was Sony's media player left out? (1)

Nexusone1984 (1813608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146709)

I have a Sony Streaming Media player I picked up from Best Buy for $50.

It has Wifi, USB port, HDMI output, Network drive support.

I love its support of Divix and most common media formats, not a bad device and uses Open source linux software.

What integrates well with MythTV? (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146779)

I already have a box dedicated to MythTV, and am willing to invest the time to add stuff to it, but I'm not likely to buy another box and have another ^&#$%%@! remote for something that insists it's the only game in town (;-))

--dave

Re:What integrates well with MythTV? (2)

doronbc (1434117) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147011)

for the love of god, have you been living under a rock? xbmc not only has pvr specific builds, but you can just add mythtv source to any xbmc build, i have live tv thru xbmc on my win 7 laptop, ubuntu htpc, and apple tv 1 running xbmc on crystalbuntu http://wiki.xbmc.org/?title=MythTV#Setup_in_XBMC [xbmc.org]

Re:What integrates well with MythTV? (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147161)

Excellent, thanks, all! --dave

Plex client (1)

blahbooboo (839709) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146803)

I was thinking this was a good review until I saw they didn't even know that Roku has a Plex client app. The plex client lets you play media stored on your computer, which is the functionality the review said was lacking...

Re:Plex client (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147157)

Hope it works better than it did mid-2011, since the client turned out to be DOA with the box I bought. I gave up after a month and sold it. I use a JB appleTV now, though since we all have iDevices, we could have just used the plex client and streamed. (Oh, why doesn't apple open up the TV to apps?)

Re:Plex client (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147617)

I have a Roku 2 XS and plea works fine

providers lock out the content (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147047)

Being on the dumb side technology speaking, I ask this question. I have new TV, samsung, that has built in web browser. So I want to watch a rerun on Hulu. But hulu, CBS, fox, etc. can tell that it is a TV and wont stream the media. Since I am cheap I don't to pay the monthly cost of netflex, or hulu plus or both. How can I get these TV's to display a HD quality picture, at the lowest overall cost.

Re:providers lock out the content (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147123)

low overall cost: connect it to your computer with an HDMI cable. Otherwise you are looking at subscriber services.

I swear by (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147139)

I swear by the "Prodigi pd-100n hd multimedia player" (google that) but I definitely want to do an XBMC box, maybe on an r-pi, maybe not. The Prodigi is great. Streams from samba shares, plays anything you throw at it, turns a usb drive into a NAS. It lacks XBMC's pretty interfaces though. I'm buying another Prodigi and TV for my wife to watch Tyler Perry on. Heh.

My Vote (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147199)

If you haven't had the pleasure of checking out the HDI Dune series of Media streams/players, I would highly suggest you do.
I've had mine for the better half of a year now and I have absolutely no complaints. It just works and supports everything I throw at it, with vigor! Supports very high bitrates (which helps when loading my Bluray ISO's from SMB share on my HP Proliant MicroServer, servering Windows Home Server 2011 & MyMovies Add-in service)
It's absolutely the best setup I've every had, extremely amazing interface and pretty quick to boot.
Check it out
http://dune-hd.com/index.php?do=players
http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/me/en/sm/WF06b/15351-15351-4237916-4237917-4237917-4248009-5153477.html?dnr=1
Windows Home Server 2011 (Easy enough to find) $50 !
http://www.mymovies.dk/

Re:My Vote (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147299)

Very similar to the Prodigi, but this has more features. I wonder how they compare on format handling.

Re:My Vote (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147325)

I think the Dune will be my next box.

Tried to use their comments, but fail..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39147369)

Nice job making the data fit your conclusions. You've managed to adjust the scoring to make the Apple TV be lowest scoring device in your list. You conveniently don't mention that an iPhone or iPad can be used as an RF remote and as a keyboard for the AppleTV, two of your gripes about it.

You also give over 25% of your "advanced" rating points to being able to plug-in a USB stick to the device itself, something I never do and is made totally obsolete by AirPlay. Another 25% of your "advanced" points are also for playing from Windows shares, etc. Really? 25% of the "advanced" score is lost because I have to configure iTunes to autorun on my media server? Big deal.

Most Versatile is Roku & Xbox 360 (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147429)

For the price and size, the Roku IMO is the best streaming box you can get. It has probably the most content providers and it's easy to use. It may like UPnP or DLNA but you can use channles like RoksBox and stream movies from a simple Web Server or NAS drive. I also think XBOX 360 is a great for streaming because it's simple to use, and provides some advanced capabilities like Voice commands (with kinect).

Current Boxee and Current Google TV Dead Ends (3, Informative)

Kagato (116051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147501)

Boxee and the Current crop of Google TVs have the same problem. They threw their lot in with Intel for the the System on Chip family (CE4X00 series). A ton of things are provided by Intel from Video, Flash, The problem is Intel has dropped this business line. It's basically has a skeleton crew of developers for upkeep, but it's pretty obvious from the bugs that have stuck around that Intel is phoning it in until their contractual obligations end.

Google has already announced a new hardware platform, it's not clear what boxee is going to do.

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