MEDIA SERVER REVIEWS

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 28, 2005 0 comments
Programming delivered fresh from the Internet to your set-top box.

Not to date myself, but I'm old enough to remember when video on demand was one of those coming technologies that made the hip groovesters at the malt shop say, "Neat-O!" even if they had no idea how it would actually work. But video on demand has been a fact of life for some time now, and everyone I know who actually uses it simply adores the power and convenience.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 07, 2004 Published: Nov 01, 2004 0 comments
No, really: It's a computer!

Savvy readers might be familiar with Alienware. Their built-to-order gaming PCs are as famous as their functional and distinctive cases that prevent dust and birds from nesting between the circuit boards. Taking those two strengths into the living room, Alienware has introduced a Media Center Edition PC like no other, the DHS-321 Digital Home System. This box, which approximates the look of a consumer electronics component in black-anodized, brushed aluminum, runs the Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 operating system.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Mar 24, 2008 0 comments
It’s like a UFO landed between your sofa and TV.

You’ve seen me write in these pages about the allure of the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system for PC, with its integrated Media Center application for serious next-generation living rooms. And you probably have one or more techy friends who extol the virtues of their multimedia PC, with its countless hours of stored music and video, TV recording, and the benefits of Internet access. But beyond custom-building your own rig or buying a traditional tower to stand next to your stylish A/V rack, how can you introduce a home-theater-friendly computer to your HDTV? Several manufacturers offer PCs with a form factor in the realm of traditional consumer electronics, namely a horizontal box with a remote control and a front-panel readout. The release of Alienware’s first such machine, the DHS-321, kicked off an evolution from that “digital home system” to their new high-definition entertainment center, code-named Hangar18.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 24, 2006 0 comments
The fruit takes root in the living room.

A while back, we Home Theater drones were all on Macs, and life was good. Then, one day, the powers that be told us that the bulk of us were switching to PC, and that was that. I had a few annoying differences to work through, but I eventually forgot my first real computer. And then the Mac mini showed up for review in its pretty white cardboard box, and it reminded me of the experience of bumping into a friend from the old neighborhood: familiar, sure, but with a lot of catching up to do.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 25, 2006 0 comments
Four Jeeveses, serving music.

Let's fantasize a bit. Let's run wild. Let's say your hunger for music has genetically transmitted itself to your kids. Now let's postulate that every member of the family has different musical tastes. Fortunately, your McMansion is big enough to let everyone blast away with impunity. Now all you've got to do is serve up, say, four audio feeds. In your designer home, local systems would be a recurring eyesore—you want your multizone system to do the serving. All you've got to do is find an audio server that'll satisfy four mutually incompatible music lovers in four separate zones at once.

Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 14, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,995 At A Glance: Upload and download content from Internet services • Excellent user interface • Designed to integrate with a variety of home-automation systems

There are some days when you’re just not sure it’s a good idea to get out of bed in the morning. Enjoy a few days like that, and you’ve made a week that’s rotten enough to justify drowning your sorrows in a pool of bourbon and absinthe. Now put a couple of those disastrous weeks on your calendar, and you’ll lay off the bourbon and go straight for the absinthe.

Kris Deering Posted: Jun 12, 2014 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Handpicked parts and proprietary audiophile touches
Nearly plug and play
Supports all high-resolution formats
Reference level audio and video quality
Minus
Needs a tablet for easiest interface
Still only as good as what you plug it into

THE VERDICT
A no brainer if you seek audiophile performance from a media server without a lot of homework and trial and error. Customer support is exceptional and takes the IT guesswork out of the equation.

We have recently come to an enormous crossroad in entertainment. Physical media as a whole is withering on the vine and everything is moving to either streaming playback or file downloads. While I’m all about the convenience that this offers I hate the idea (and reality) of the compromise this situation can create in the quality of the content. We’ve already seen the music industry destroy the quality of music recordings to appease the iPod generation, and regardless of the convenience provided by Netflix and a host of other video streaming services, they cannot match the quality of Blu-ray video playback. So what do you do if you want to enjoy instantaneous access to your media but don’t want to compromise the quality of the material? Baetis Audio may have a few answers for you.
Filed under
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 23, 2014 Published: May 22, 2014 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,396 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Support for multiple high-rez codecs
No computer needed
Up to 32 players
$449 system entry price
Minus
No AirPlay support
Limited access to some popular streaming Internet services

THE VERDICT
Bluesound’s audio system takes the pain out of being an audiophile in a streaming digital music era.

Bluesound, as I found out, has nothing to do with the mythical brown note. (Go Google it.) Instead, this is how John Banks, Bluesound’s chief brand officer, described to me the who, what, and why of the new company—a splinter of the Lenbrook family responsible for the NAD and PSB brands—and its high-resolution, 24-bit native, pure-digital streaming music system: “Bluesound is an exciting alliance of audiophiles. We are designers, engineers, and passionate music lovers who have spent our lives in the audio industry. NAD and PSB, who you know well, pioneered hi-fi in the ’70s; clearly, innovation and the pursuit of perfection in audio runs deep in our collective DNA.”

Filed under
Chris Chiarella Posted: Mar 12, 2004 Published: Feb 01, 2004 0 comments
We glimpse the shape of things to come.

Last fall, the editors of Home Theater beat a path to our industry's CEDIA Expo to see and be seen, as we do every year. This time around, we were surprised by the opportunity to witness the bona fide evolution of entertainment gear. We learned the names of three manufacturers (and so will you) whose creations—each multizone-friendly and high-end in its own fashion—bring next-generation features to the home theater and beyond. At press time, these products were still too new for a full hands-on review, so we'll share what we do know thus far.

Filed under
Joshua Zyber Posted: Nov 24, 2008 0 comments
It’s like a Blu-ray and a half?
Filed under
Chris Chiarella Posted: Feb 28, 2006 0 comments
Dual-core and other Intel technologies are a boon to heavy users of multimedia PCs.

One wife, two kids, and one cat later, it hit me: There are just not enough hours in the day. My leisure hours, like work, have become a matter of multitasking—watching a DVD in one window as I write a review in the other, downloading photos, and sending e-mails. I can no longer use the "I'm already busy" excuse since, frankly, I'm expected to walk and chew gum at the same time around here. And what of my poor PC, which is charged with performing all of the above and more? At least I know I'm not alone, here at wit's end, as the fundamental usage model has evolved and one-thing-at-a-timers have gone the way of the Timex Sinclair.

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Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Dec 14, 2004 Published: Dec 15, 2004 0 comments
Can you say IP?

At this year's CEDIA Expo, two technologies ruled the day: A/V servers and Internet Protocol (IP). It's safe to say that convergence really has invaded every part of the home theater arena. If your eyes tend to gloss over when your computer-savvy friends toss around words like IP, network, and Ethernet, I've got some bad news for you: You can run, but you can't hide. First, the computers took over our offices; now they're invading our entertainment space. Someday, they'll kill us all—but hey, we'll probably be gone by then, so let's talk about how IP can enhance your home theater experience.

Filed under
Barb Gonzalez Posted: May 01, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $35

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Streams full-screen videos from Netflix and YouTube
Mirrors Websites
Control videos from computer or mobile device
Minus
Must go to Chromecast Website to learn when new apps become compatible
No central control panel or app
Clumsy to pause video streaming from a phone when a call comes in

THE VERDICT
For $35 and a little practice, this is the best streaming solution available to date.

The Google Chromecast was an instant hit when it came on the tech scene, selling out before its release date last August. At $35, it’s the least expensive way to stream movies and music to your TV and view photos from online. Unique in its approach to streaming media, the Chromecast dongle can stream from a Chrome Web browser (PC or Mac) and from certain apps on iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets.

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Kevin James Posted: Sep 25, 2012 0 comments

There's no use pretending that Google TV wasn't a dud when the first products shipped back in late 2010. In fact, sales of Logitech's $300 Revue player were was so bad the company ran screaming from the settop-box market entirely, never to return. But now, like the Backstreet Boys and collateralized mortgages, Google TV is getting another shot, fueled by some much-needed upgrades to the software, including a more streamlined interface, improved search capabilities, and the ability (finally) to access the Android market, now called Google Play.

Filed under
Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 04, 2006 Published: Nov 04, 2006 0 comments
New streaming and networking options for the home and beyond.

Sling Media
I bet our founding fathers came to this same conclusion: One of the obstacles to true freedom is the necessity of wrapping your mind around the new benefits that await you. Take the Slingbox. It's a revolutionary piece of hardware, if you can grasp the relationship between audio, video, and networking. It takes the signal from any standard home entertainment device and streams it to a computer elsewhere in your house—or via the Internet to a laptop, desktop, and even certain phones. The best source component to use with the Slingbox is a DVR, as it combines live TV with stored content and recording capability, all of which you can control remotely.

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