Our networked media system is regularly becoming more diverse, as I keep experimenting with different media players. We presently have six different media players scattered throughout the house.
For the benefit of my two loyal readers I thought I’d summarize my experiences with these devices. So here, then, is a quick comparison of each player, their cost and any pros or cons that spring to mind.
Egreat R1 Media Player – $90 CDN +/-
The Egreat R1 was the first dedicated media player we acquired. It deals with almost every media format, allows you to view local and remote network shares or UPnP/DLNA media servers.
The interface is rather utilitarian, but allows previews of video files, 32x speed fast forward and “time seek” options. This player will also automatically move on to the next file in the directory when finished viewing the current one (nice if you’re watching a series).
Newer versions have attempted to add internet functionality to these units (youtube and other online services) but these features on the unit I tested just plain didn’t work.
Includes both HDMI and composite outputs and so will work on new and old TVs alike.
This media player is inexpensive, tough as nails and readily available.
Western Digital HD TV Live – $110 CDN +/-
A Recent acquisition the selling point of the WD HD TV Live Media Player (aside for the catchy multi-letter name) is that in addition to streaming video from network shares of UPnP/DLNA sources is that it allows netflix access.
We did encounter some problems with this unit when we began using it, but after rolling back the firmware one version those problems disappeared.
The interface is a little prettier than the Egreat unit, but essentially the same. The unit DOES NOT allow time search or skipping ahead in videos, and has a 16x fast forward.
Netflix is a nice touch, and at the cost made this the preferred media player for a short time. The firmware issue is of some concern, but is resolved by rolling it back (or may even have been resolved by Western Digital as I write this).
HDMI only, if your TV requires composite or coaxial inputs you are SOL.
A good balance of cost and functionality.
Patriot Box Office Media Player – $120 CDN +/-
The Patriot Box Office Media Player looks like a clone of the Egreat Unit both in physical appearance and user interface. The only down side is that the supplied remote died one month after I acquired the unit, and a replacement turned out to be nearly impossible.
This Unit remains in use in our network, but only for online viewing (in conjunction with my Slingbox as it provides its own “remote”).
HDMI and composite outputs.
Not recommended. The Egreat unit is identical and less expensive, and the WD HD TV Live has more features and still costs less.
Boxee Box – $210 CDN +/-
The most recent acquisition, the first unit bricked itself immediately after automatically downloading an up to date firmware. The replacement unit functioned as advertised, and took approximately 6 hours to index and then “associate” our media collection.
Once this process is completed it presents your collection as a series of thumbnails along with IMDB cast and synopsis information.
The Boxee Box includes Netflix, and a collection of online media (tv episodes available free online, usually “ad sponsored” – a commercial every 6-10 minutes).
I’m both pleased and impressed with the second boxee box, but this unit has the distinction of being the ONLY media player to Brick following a routine firmware upgrade, and this has me questioning the dependability of the Boxee Box.
Remote control includes a qwerty keyboard, but can be a little hard to use in the dark.
HDMI output only, composite audio out.
I’d recommend this with a little reluctance, at least until it’s proven itself. Also, at this price it might be more economical to spend a few extra dollars and buy a PS3.
Playstation 3 – $250 CDN +/-
This is where it all started for us. Watching movies on the PS3. The PS3 is a UPnP/DLNA media player, and while it will not recognize network shares, it will stream movies from a DLNA server (how this is organized is entirely dependant on the server, rather than the PS3).
Netflix is also available for the PS3 along with internet browsing etc, which makes it the most expensive option on this list.
If you already have a PS3 however, don’t spend the money on a media player, you’ve already got one (and if you have an Xbox 360 don’t ask me how to stream movies, I still haven’t figured that out – must be a windows thing).
Recommended, but obviously expensive.