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.
Media renderer is another Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) certification that is part of the home network streaming experience. It can play videos, photos and music that are sent to it from a media controller. I know of no devices that are exclusively media renderers. Typically the ability to accept media files is a feature of media streaming device.
Streaming high-quality video with multichannel audio requires a fast connection. For Vudu, Hulu, and other online streaming sites, you must have fast Internet speeds. To stream huge, high-definition files from your media server to your smart TV or media player, you must have a fast connection within your home network.
In the world of digital media, there’s no doubt that you have downloaded movies and/or music, and saved digital photos to your computer. Now you want to watch them on your TV and home theater. Before you can stream the movies, music or photos from your computer, networked external hard drive, or network attached storage (NAS) drive, the media player must first find the sources—“see” the device where you have saved your media files. The computer or device where your files are saved is called a “media server.”
Media streamers and Smart TVs are only as good as the content they can provide. Yes, it's important to have good picture quality, but often the determination of which player you buy comes down to what you can stream to it? If you like TV shows, you want Hulu Plus. For movies make sure you have Netflix or Vudu. Beyond the big-named online streaming services, there is a plethora of special interest websites that stream short-form videos. Thanks to app publisher, Flingo, many of those channels are becoming available on media players and Smart TVs. The Flingo Queue adds the possibility of watching any video you find on the web on TV.
As Netflix's exclusive deal with EPIX has expired, Amazon jumped at the opportunity to enter into a new multi-year licensing agreement with the cable channel content provider. The deal brings EPIX movies and original programming to Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming.
A media controller is not a device or a physical remote control. You can’t go to the store and buy a media controller. "Media Controller" is a DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certification. Part of a home network streaming media solution, the media controller finds photos, music and movies on connected media servers, and sends (pushes) the media file to an enabled media player, Smart TV or other streaming device. Typically you’ll find that a media controller is an app on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
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.