Price: $100 At A Glance: Adds Vudu and more apps to SMP-N100 • Smooth streaming performance • Controlled by other HDMI CEC remotes • Xross menu displays only 10 files at a glance
Testing the Sony SMP-N200 made me consider how far network media players have come in the past few years. Sony’s base model, an upgraded version of its first player, the SMP-N100, handles most of the basic media streaming options with ease. It plays nicely with others, easily finding connections to DLNA servers, computers, tablet media controllers, and smartphone apps. It plays a wide variety of file formats. And it does it all for $100.
It was a steadily growing progression. The more I streamed movies and music to my media players and home theater, the more movies and music I downloaded. My movie folder was stuffed with high-definition videos. There were more songs than I could listen to in a month. My media libraries had grown to hundreds of gigabytes and were slowing down my computer.
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.
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, Pakistanand perhaps even if you haveyou 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.
Watching the Olympics on TV was always a frustrating experience for me. Along with the frequent commercial interruptions, I had to sit through hours of weightlifting and shot-putting to see synchronized swimming. (I know, you were sitting through the synchronized swimming to see the shot-put.) But that problem has been solved for the 2012 London Olympics. NBC has created a website and an app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices that will show live coverage of every sport and match from start to finish.
For those who stream video from online sources, the speed at which data can be sent into their home is critical. If your connection isn't fast enough, streaming video can sometimes stall as it fills the buffer in the receiving device, or the content provider might send a lower-quality stream because it senses that your available speed can't handle anything more. So how much speed do you need?
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.