STREAMING MEDIA PLAYER REVIEWS

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Barb Gonzalez Posted: Mar 08, 2013 1 comments
Performance
Features
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Value
Price: $300 At a Glance: Stream 1080p live TV and recordings from your DVR • Complete control of your set-top box from any device • Displays photos and videos from smartphone on TV

While cable and satellite companies often tout their ability to let you start watching a recording in one room and finish it in another, you can forgo the cost of these multiroom systems with a Slingbox. The original TV place-shifter, Slingbox allows you to access your cable or satellite set-top box and all of its content from mobile devices, media players, and computers— from across the house or across the country—by using the SlingPlayer app. Hoping to save some money in box rentals, I was happy to test Sling Media’s first new consumer model in four years, the Slingbox 500 HD. There are a number of ways to watch TV on computers and mobile devices, but Slingbox is unique in providing remote access and control of your set-top box.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Feb 13, 2013 0 comments
Performance
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Price: Included with Toshiba HDTVs At a Glance: Netflix, Vudu, Cinema Now apps stream most available TV shows and movies • Complete Web browser

At first, it seemed like the Toshiba 47L7200U smart TV I sampled to check out its streaming options offered only the bare bones. When I opened the ePortal app home page, there were only the basic media streaming apps like Netflix and Vudu. Unlike Samsung or LG, Toshiba doesn’t have an app store. Also, it can only play a few basic digital file formats. But its Web browser goes beyond the basics.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Dec 31, 2012 1 comments
Barb Gonzalez uses and abuses the Smart Hub streaming platform Samsung builds into many of its TVs and Blu-ray players. Just how smart is this hub and is it all that it's cracked up to be?
John Sciacca Posted: Nov 20, 2012 0 comments

Casa means “home” or “house” in Spanish and Italian. So a casa full of tunes — or housewide audio — is a pretty sweet thing. Of course, housewide audio is nothing new, but accomplishing it in the past has meant a rack full of sources, amplifiers, and control gear, with wiring spider-webbed out to various rooms, control pads, and speakers.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Oct 26, 2012 1 comments

Performance
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Price: $200 At A Glance: Bluetooth and IR universal remote control • Lighted extended keyboard • Access live TV and streaming sources in one place • Global search includes live TV

When I decided to review two Google TV media streamers back to back, I thought there would be little difference between them. After all, Google TVs run on an Android platform, and both the Sony Internet Player with Google TV and Vizio’s Co-Star would have most of the same apps— pre-loaded apps or those available through the Google Play Android Market. I was surprised to find that there was more difference than I had expected. Sony knows home theater, and as with its other media streaming devices, low-quality video appears nicely cleaned up for viewing on a big screen. I’ve been unable to get a straight answer from Sony on what’s under the hood that improves the picture. Still, picture quality of identical content is noticeably better with the NSZ-GS7 than its competition.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Oct 19, 2012 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Price: $100 At A Glance: Bluetooth-enabled for pairing with remote control and headphones • Access live TV and streaming sources in one place • Global search includes live TV • Universal remote with touchpad mouse and QWERTY keyboard

Two years ago, the initial launch of Google TV on the Sony TV and Logitech Revue media streamers was a real disappointment. I was excited to try out the first of the new generation of Google TV devices, but found them plagued by a preponderance of blocked content and haphazard navigation. Vizio's Co-Star media streamer is among a couple of products (along with Sony’s NSG-GS7) now taking the lead as the Google TV platform inches closer to Google's goal of pulling together content from online, home media libraries, and live TV in a single device.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Aug 30, 2012 1 comments

Performance
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Price: $180 At A Glance: Includes Web browser • Connect to Slingbox via the Slingbox app • Direct access to movies from the Web, Vudu, or your own digital collection

The Boxee Box is unlike any other media streamer or media player. From its cockeyed box shape that’s missing a corner and its froglike logo, to its menu organization and social video-sharing features, it’s easy to see that Boxee stands out.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Jul 30, 2012 2 comments

Performance
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Price: $300-$400 At a Glance: Streams from online providers and networked home computers • Kinect voice and gesture command work well • Excellent video and audio quality

Unless you've been living in an isolated compound in Abadabad, Pakistan—and perhaps even if you have—you know that the Microsoft Xbox 360 is a top-ranked video-game console. However, you might not know that it's also a media streamer with access to oodles of online content. In fact, with all the streaming devices, TVs, and connected Blu-ray players I have in my house at any given time, my first go-to player is the Xbox 360. Not only does it have all my favorite streaming services, its Kinect voice and gesture control appeals to my tendency to be lazy.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Jul 12, 2012 2 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $99 At A Glance: Great picture and sound quality • Wi-Fi-enabled • Clean, easy-to-use menus • Variety of streaming content services • Quirky difficulties with file indexing

The WD TV Live streaming media player has much in common with its predecessor, the WD TV Live Hub. When the WD TV Live Hub came out, I thought it was the best network media player and streamer on the market. It has a clean menu system; can play movies, music, and photos on my home network, and simply works.

John Sciacca Posted: Jun 05, 2012 0 comments

Elite is Pioneer’s premier home audio line, much like Lexus is to Toyota. That means you can expect better build quality, a longer warranty, step-up features, and premium performance. New to Elite this year are two network audio players, the N-30 and N-50, that stream audio (including high-rez files up to 192-kHz/24-bit) from a computer, play Internet radio, and use Apple’s AirPlay for easy wireless networking with iOS devices. When it comes to basic features, the two are essentially the same. But there are several key performance differences between the players that make it easy to argue the case for the N-50’s $200 price premium.

Daniel Kumin Posted: May 22, 2012 0 comments

Who wouldn’t want to play their growing horde of audio files – the same ones that feed the iPod and iTunes — on the “big” system, with big-system volume, quality, and impact?

Nobody, that’s who.

Kim Wilson Posted: May 09, 2012 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $50 At a Glance: Streams a wide variety of content from various paid and free services • Easy setup • Built-in Wi-Fi • Small, compact form factor • Control device with free iPhone or Android app

With so many TVs and BD players offering streaming services these days, I didn’t think there would be a lot of demand for standalone units; yet, they keep coming, presumably for those still watching older equipment without this feature. When evaluating these units, the most important aspects are the services and channels provided, along with the user interface. The actual streaming quality is dependent on your Internet connection (which Netgear suggests should be no less than 3-4 Mbps for 720p, though I’d say 6 Mbps is safe for 1080p).

Michael Berk Posted: Feb 29, 2012 0 comments

If you're a Boxee Box owner, you probably noticed the revamped and streamlined main menu in the latest iteration of the OS, Boxee 1.5. The company's new USB stick goes that one better, adding live TV to the do-it-all streamer's ever-expanding repertoire.

John Sciacca Posted: Jan 30, 2012 0 comments

First impressions can be a dangerous thing, especially for an A/V equipment reviewer. Allowing yourself to become predisposed to thinking that one company’s component will be this and another company’s component will be that can cloud a review and allow for the praising of some unworthy products while subjecting others to unfair criticism.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Jan 29, 2012 0 comments

As an unabashed fan of the Kindle Fire, anything that adds to its usefulness I'm instantly interested in. 

Already available for iOS, Android, and other devices, the $30 SlingPlayer app for Fire is the second part of the Slingbox system. 

How well does it work? I was as interested as you. . .

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