Media Server Reviews

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Geoffrey Morrison  |  Jul 01, 2014  |  33 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.

Mike Mettler  |  Aug 19, 2014  |  16 comments
Does Pono deliver on its promise of providing high-res digital music that best reflects how the artist intended you to hear it? I listened to a number of FLAC files at 192/24, 176.4/24, and 96/24 on a yellow PonoPlayer through Sennheiser HD-650 headphones during an exclusive listening session in New York City, and—spoiler alert—the answer is a most emphatic yes.
Michael Antonoff  |  May 26, 2016  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300 (500 GB), $400 (1 TB)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
One-touch leapfrogging of any size commercial block
Four tuners
Can play shows 30 percent faster
Mobile device transfer
Integrated search functions
4K UHD compatible
Minus
On-demand cable may not be available
No component video output
No clock on front panel

THE VERDICT
TiVo Bolt is an indispensable tool for TV-obsessed viewers who hate commercials and value the ease of managing all their cable, online, and local-network-stored entertainment from one smartly designed receiver/recorder.

With 412 scripted TV series originating on broadcast, cable, and online channels last year, viewers face the twin challenges of finding shows that appeal to them and having enough waking hours to watch them. TiVo’s new flagship digital video recorder, Bolt, purports to help solve both problems. An admitted TV addict, I bolted for a Bolt to see if it could rekindle the excitement I felt when TiVo debuted in 1999.

Michael Antonoff  |  Mar 01, 2018  |  6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $200-$500 plus service plan

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Voice-assisted search and channel changes
Skip button for vaulting commercials
QuickView feature
Minus
Voice control adds little to program navigation
New Experience interface is sometimes cluttered and confusing

THE VERDICT
Finding cable, streamed, and recorded content through the voice remote is much faster and more fun than using an onscreen keyboard. But the joined-at-the-hip New Experience interface may frustrate TiVo veterans until they get the hang of it.

With folks chatting up their smart speakers and smart TVs, TiVo owners may have felt like they were living in the silent era of cinema. Being behind the tech ball was especially galling for the TiVo community, which, not unlike the Apple fanbase, is willing to pay more for superior technology. In late 2017, TiVo, a name synonymous with the DVR, finally responded with a new remote and interface that recognize the value of voice recognition—especially when a viewer is searching for something to watch from among innumerable over-the-air, cable, streaming, and recorded-program options.

David Vaughn  |  Mar 04, 2020  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400 + service fees (varies by plan)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Supports 4K/HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
Voice-activated search
Terrific program guide
Minus
High up-front cost
No Disney+ or Apple TV+ support
TiVo+ Network is a work in progress

THE VERDICT
TiVo's next-gen DVR is a timely update that adds support for Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound, along with a more sophisticated voice search feature.

When TiVo burst on the scene in 1999, it changed the way millions of people watched TV. Gone were the days of manually setting up a recording on your VCR and then having to wait for a program to finish. Now, by using TiVo's DVR, you could not just record but pause Live TV in order to answer a phone call or take a bathroom break.

John Higgins  |  Apr 27, 2008  |  0 comments
The one HTPC to rule them all.

A couple of years ago, home theater personal computers were on the cusp of being the next big thing. Everyone wanted to make them to get in on the market, and why not? The ability to put all of your home theater media in one box is incredible. No more getting up to sift through CDs or DVDs only to find that the one movie you want to watch is missing. Instead, you can store movies on a hard drive and access them by remote.

Chris Chiarella  |  Apr 18, 2006  |  First Published: Apr 19, 2006  |  0 comments
READY or not, here comes another PC for the HT.

PCs and home theaters have long posed the old square-peg/round-hole quandary to consumers, as the fundamental incongruities have slowed the adoption of potentially sophisticated, versatile computer gear into the living room. Expanded functionality brings with it an increased level of complexity that more proactive, simplified operating systems like Microsoft's Windows Media Center Edition have only begun to address. Of course, the hardware itself needs to be powerful enough to provide a glitch-free user experience, as well.

Chris Chiarella  |  Jun 20, 2007  |  0 comments
How Intel works with Windows Vista to create the "Ultimate" HTPC

Over in the June issue of the Home Theater print magazine, I wrote about the wonders of the Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate, the most highly-featured version of their new operating system, and how its many features make it a great match for the latest HTPCs. Which begs the question, "What are home theater PCs wearing in the Vista age?" And to help answer my query, Intel sent over a test machine custom-built around their Intel Core 2 Duo processor, specifically designed for audio/video applications, running Windows Vista Ultimate.

Kris Deering  |  Dec 11, 2019  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,739 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy setup and installation
Sleek, attractive user interface
Scalable—can add other rooms as needed
Minus
Does not retain HDR metadata
No Dolby Vision or HDR10+ Support
Requires wired network for best results

THE VERDICT
An easy to use digital ecosystem with a sleek interface that lets you rip your entire music and movie disc library and access it from any room in the house.

With today's streamers and smart TVs offering myriad apps to watch movies from, one thing has become painfully obvious about discs: they're clunky. While I'm a firm believer in pre-recorded media due to its superior technical merits, I'll admit that shelves overflowing with discs can get overwhelming. Also, let's face it: case spines aren't nearly as sexy as a slick onscreen interface. From early Windows Media solutions to the latest apps like Kodi, I've seen numerous solutions crop up over the last decade to bring pre-recorded media to a modern playback environment.

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