STREAMING MEDIA PLAYER REVIEWS

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Kim Wilson Posted: Jan 19, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $399

At A Glance: Single-box solution • Easy setup and operation • Perfect for smaller rooms, garage, and outdoors • Integrates with existing Sonos systems • Product now called Play:5

Sonos, a leader in low-cost, wholehouse audio, has made it possible to inexpensively stream audio from a computer to multiple A/V systems using one or more of its ZonePlayers. The $399 Sonos S5, the newest ZonePlayer, is completely self-contained. It incorporates its own power supply, amplification, and internal speakers, which allows audio streaming from a wide variety of sources without a dedicated sound system. It can serve as your main (or only) ZonePlayer or as an extension of an existing Sonos system.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Oct 26, 2012 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
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: Jun 13, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $150

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Adds Google TV apps to a Sony Bravia TV
Compact dongle form factor
Integrates cable/satellite programming with streaming apps
Integrates some apps typically not available on Google TV

Minus
Google TV remote was sometimes unresponsive
Only works with specific 2013 (or newer) Bravia TVs

THE VERDICT
A solid Google TV add-on for owners of compatible Bravia TVs.

When the Sony Bravia Smart Stick was first announced, it was thought to be competition for Google’s Chromecast. But this complete Google TV-on-a-dongle is not for everyone. It is an add-on option for recent Bravia TV owners who want more than the streaming apps available on the Bravia TV platform. The Bravia stick integrates seamlessly with the TV, combining the app menu from the Bravia TV with the Google TV home screen for quick access.
Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Jul 01, 2014 32 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,635

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Quietest PC I’ve ever used
Impeccable build quality
High-end A/V gear gorgeous looks
Minus
Incredibly expensive
Still a PC, which scares some people

THE VERDICT
A stunningly silent, built-like-a-tank, ultimate HTPC.

I am a vocal supporter of the home theater PC, a computer that lives in your home theater or media room. While not for everyone, HTPCs offer an incredible access to content for your enjoyment. This includes games, of course, but also media streaming, Web pages, and personal video/audio libraries. Sure, you can get most of that through other devices, but often not as easily or well.

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.

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.

Michael Berk Posted: Jul 20, 2011 0 comments

Always looking for new ways to make good on their promise to let users stream all the music on earth in any room, Sonos today announces a new player - the Play:3 - and a new naming scheme for their product line.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Dec 29, 2011 0 comments

As entertainment options become more and more plentiful, so do the variety of ways to access and enjoy them. Even without cable, the possibilities seem practically endless. Could there be one box that takes all these options and makes it simple, easy and fun to access it all?

Al Griffin Posted: Mar 21, 2014 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Slick, speedy interface
3-TB hard disk for seemingly limitless recording
TiVo iOS app streams content in or away from home
Minus
Primitive Amazon Instant Video app

THE VERDICT
TiVo’s next-generation DVR makes TV watching a truly connected experience.

Last summer, after a nearly nine-year relationship, I showed my cable company–supplied DVR the door. Our life together had become increasingly untenable. My main gripe was that its limited-capacity hard drive put me in the constant position of having to delete old recordings to make room for new ones. It also had no connection options to link to a wired or wireless home network. These days, any component that can’t link to the Internet and communicate with computers, phones, and tablets is as good as junk. (We’ll give turntables a pass—for now.) Furthermore, my old DVR whirred and wheezed like the geezer it was, often emitting its loudest groans during music-listening sessions where I had no choice but to pull the plug.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Feb 13, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
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: 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.

uavKim Wilson Posted: Mar 13, 2009 0 comments
Online video delivery is supposed to be the Next Big Thing, leaving physical media in the dust. Among the early content providers in this brave new world is Vudu, which offers one of the best options for renting movies on-demand that I have experienced. The Vudu BX100 plays Internet-delivered movies and TV shows at resolutions up to 1080p. Most similar to Apple TV with respect to features and price, the Vudu has some clear advantages.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 02, 2008 0 comments
Fill it up with movies, not pins.

Regular readers of Home Theater might know that I also write the “Top 100 DVDs of All Time” article each year, which means that I have at least 8.3-dozen discs at home. And those discs tend to pile up. But how else is a cinephile supposed to build an impressive video library? Kaleidescape is too rich for my blood, DVD jukeboxes are too difficult to manage, and downloading movies to my computer isn’t really a living-room experience. So there’s the Apple TV, which recently began high-def movie rentals, not purchases, from major studios directly to the box. The Xbox 360 also allows paid download-to-own TV shows, some in high def, although all movies are rental only. And then there’s VUDU. The VUDU box is essentially a movie machine, a library on a hard disk drive inside a box. It’s an entertainment portal that sits quietly next to the TV until called into action.

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.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Oct 03, 2013 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $70

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent sound and picture quality
Unit powers on whole home theater and switches inputs
Easy direct-access buttons on remote for Netflix, Hulu, Vudu
Minus
No Amazon VOD app
Poorly executed Facebook app

THE VERDICT
As long as it supports all the services you use, you’ll find the WD TV Play will deliver consistently high video and audio quality and a nice user experience at a very good price.

With all the media players available to me, a Western Digital player has always been my go-to streamer. I know the quality will be good and that I can connect it and be ready to go in minutes. The newest model, the WD TV Play, offers the quality and usability of its predecessors at a lower price. Although Western Digital chose the WD TV Play name to distinguish it from earlier models, little else has changed besides the home screen, and perhaps an increase in audio and video performance.

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