March 3, 2008

ISTAR Mini: Another Media Player Using the Networked Media Tank Software

After just reviewing the new Popcorn Hour product we came across this other device that uses the same middleware stack: the ISTAR Mini Networked Media Tank Player. A company called syabas writes the middleware and sells it to device manufacturers to install in their device. This is a pretty standard deal these days as more and more of these products that we come across use 3rd party middleware.

The ISTAR( their caps not mine ) has a better looking case in my opinion then the Popcorn Hour. It is sporting a different connection scheme on the back then the Popcorn Hour though. The ISTAR has an HDMI port along with VGA and composite while the Popcorn Hour has HDMI, composite, component and S-Video. Another difference between the two devices is that unlike the Popcorn Hour this can use a SATA drive for its internal HD. But I have to say that after looking at their site it just reeks of something that was slapped together to get a product out the door. The site sports all the buzzwords that is so common with media streamers today. With the Popcorn Hour you get the sense that while they did use another companies middleware to power their device they really want to create a great product for their customers. We could be totally off base here and the ISTAR could be a great device, but since we had never head of it before and there is no real 'meat' on the site letting us know anything special about the device we figure it is just a slap together.

If anyone owns one of these, knows someone who owns one or even works at the company making these wants to correct us we are all ears. We would love to be wrong and welcome another top notch media streamer to the party, but our guess is that this guy won't be invited.
David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

February 27, 2008

Mediagate MH-450HD Media Streamer Gets Mixed Reviews

Well Mediagate has launched another media streamer and it looks like they have been building on their past successes and making their latest unit one of their best looking one to date. The 450HD is in that class of streamers that allow you to either add an internal hard drive, connect a USB disk to it or have it stream from your network. We like the idea of having the internal drive as long as getting content to and from it is easy. We like to keep all of our media central so we would never store it all on the internal drive, but we like the idea of putting a few things there if we wanted to take it with us.

From looking over the specs it is fairly limited in the way in which it will connect up to your entertainment center. It only has Component, Composite and S-Video for video which might make some people unhappy. If you are going to put HD in your product name people are going to expect HDMI these days. Here is the weird thing though, we went and looked at probably a dozen online reviews of this thing and they all mention that it has HDMI, even a press release we read said this. Yet when we go to the companies site and read the specs HDMI is not listed and the picture they show of the device does not have a HDMI port on it. So either the companies site is out of date or everyone just read the press release and assumed it had it. Who knows, all we know is that someone is right and someone is wrong and we have no idea who it is.

Anyway, onto what this can do and not what it may or may not be missing. There is a very well down hands on review over at PC World Australia that basically concludes that while this has some nice features there are plenty of warts to make you want to move on to another product. Even though it is billed as a high def player they say that the menu system was designed with a standard def TV in mind since when they had it on a HDTV the menus looked horrible. They also had some big complaints about the wireless setup being a nightmare.

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David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

February 26, 2008

Celrun TV: Another Cool Media Streamer Only in Korea

Well another reason why it sucks not to live in Korea is the upcoming release of a very cool new media streamer, the Celrun TV. Once again some of the coolest gear is only in Korea. One of these days we are just going to have to go there and bask in the glory of all of their great hi-tech gadgets. The Celrun TV sports an internal 320GB hard drive, the ability to connect to your network via either Ethernet or Wireless, two USB ports to allow the addition of either external drives or MP3 players. There is a built in digital TV tuner so you can have it act as a PVR for you. It will output video over either HDMI, Component, Composite or S-Video and output audio via Optical, Coax or Analog. It also supports a bevy of formats including:
  • AVI
  • MPEG1/2/4
  • DivX
  • ASF
  • XviD
  • OFF
  • FLAC
  • WAV
  • H.264
  • WMV
There is no word on release date, but not that it matters since we doubt this will see the light of day in the States, but for you people over in Korea send us some information when it is released.

via engadget
David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

February 25, 2008

Hands On With the Networked Media Tank From Popcorn Hour

We have had the Networked Media Tank( NMT ) from Popcorn hour in the office for about a month now and we wanted to share with you our findings. We have been waiting for this device to become available for a long time now and we can't tell you how excited we are to finally have it at the office. So after about a month of testing we can say that this is one of the better streamers we have had the opportunity to test out. One of the main draws of the NMT is its ability to playback just about any format you can throw at it. Other then a few audio formats it played back everything that we tried. To many streamers focus on a few formats and leave out so many of the really popular ones. The people at Popcorn Hour must have realized that there really weren't that many streamers that could just play everything so they threw it all in the NMT.

Another huge feature where the NMT rises above the crowd is its ability to grab media in so many different ways. You can add an internal hard drive and just playback from that, or you can connect to devices on your network via Samba or NFS. Additionally it will pick up UPnP and HTTP media servers. This is probably the most full featured streamer we have come across to date in terms of how it can access your media. It just packs so many options in there that it has been hard for us to figure out something else we would want.

Check out after the jump for our detailed look into how this beast of a media streamer performs when we put it to the test.

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David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (26) | social bookmarking

February 18, 2008

D-Link DSM-320 Network Media Streamer: Hands on Review

dsm-320.jpg We have had the D-Link DSM-320 in the office for far too long without doing an in depth review, so we thought it was time to just gather all of our information and share with you our thoughts. How does it stack up to the rest of the market? How does it handle all the new media types? These are questions we have been playing around with and hopeful we will answer them to you satisfaction. We knew going into this that the device had been out for awhile so it wasn't going to be as cutting edge as some of the devices we have seen recently. The DSM-320 is one of D-Links first attempts at a full featured media streamer and for a first attempt they got a lot right. We have been toying with this device for awhile now and if we'll share our thoughts after the jump.

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David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

February 14, 2008

D-Link DSM 330 First Impressions

Front of 330.jpg We have had the D-Link 330 Divx Connected device in the office for about a week now and we just wanted to post something quick to let you know our initial thoughts. We had been reading about this device for about 6 months now as rumors of its existence started to surface. Well now that we have started to kick the tires we can tell you that this is the future of media streaming in the home. The interface is intuitive and slick and works so nicely. We find ourselves fighting with so many of these devices, battling the afterthought that is the menu system. Well the Divx guys and D-Link have really thought this out and produced a fluid interface that makes sense. The overall design of all of the screens are top notch, some of the best we have seen in a media streamer to date.

The 330 does all of the basic things you would expect: video, music and photo. But it also can do so much more. The Divx Connected platform was designed with the expectation that the community would develop plug-ins to extend the functionality of the device. They have designed the system so that not only is this possible, but very easy. There is a very active community over at the labs section of the Divx site.

The one area that this device might let people down is that it only plays Divx and Xvid files currently. You can't load an ISO or play WMV files. This is the initial design and the thought was that this is an evolving platform that will add features over time in new devices. The 330 is just the first device that has the Divx Connected software installed. If you can get past the fact that you need to covert your media to one of these two formats then you are setup to have a fully functioning media streamer that will blow you away. Everything about this device is quick and responsive. Loading up our huge collection of photos or music took seconds and scrolling through them showed no lag. They have really worked on the server side of this to ensure the fast response, something many of the other streamers should do as well.

So after a week of playing with this we are thinking of doing something we never thought we would do. We are going to encode all of our ISO's into Divx. We really think this is going to be a HUGE hit when it lands in the States in a few months. The only real downside that we have seen so far is that it requires a windows machine to run the server. This is a deal breaker for some that either don't have a Windows machine or would rather not have a PC running all the time. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed down the road, but as for now you need a PC on and running Windows.

We will have another post soon with our more in depth review, but we just had to say something quickly and let people know that there is a great new media streamer on the horizon. Oh and just wait till we tell you about the cool plug-ins that we have been playing with, so cool! Stay tuned.

UPDATE: We just got word from the good people over at Divx that the 330 does indeed playback WMV/WMA as long as they do not contain DRM. Looks like we must have had some crappy test files. So there ya go, one more format to add to the list. And if you check out the community sites you can find out all sorts of cool ways to add support for a ton of more formats.
David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

February 8, 2008

D-Link DSM-330: Unboxing in the USA

DSM-330.jpg We were extremely lucky to score a yet to be released product in States the other day: the DSM-330 from D-Link. This is an extremely cool device that has had rumors of its release circulating the Internet for a long time. Well as the US release approaches we were given one of the European models to do a demo with. We have only played with it for a few days and we are already very impressed. One thing that we immediately fell in love with was the openness of the product. They are actively encouraging their users to develop plug-ins for the 330 to bring even more features that were not thought up before the launch, they even have a website for it.

While we still have plenty of work to do before we can give you our full review of the device we wanted to share the standard uboxing photos that some of you love and others hate. So sit back and enjoy the 330 being unboxed in the US.

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David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

January 31, 2008

EZFetch Media Streamer: Hands On Review


We have had the EZ-Fetch Networked Media Streamer for almost a month now and we have had time to run it through our paces and see what it had to offer. We tested it out with a variety of different types of media to see what it could handle. We wanted to see if this little streamer had what it took to be ranked with the more seasoned companies and the products that they had produced. Check out what are thoughts are after the jump.

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David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

January 23, 2008

QNAP TS-409: The Only Backup Server You Will Ever Need


For those wanting a secure way to save all their files and at the same time have a fully robust media server look no further then the QNAP TS-409. This four bay RAID NAS server has all the great qualities that would expect out of a QNAP product. With 4 hard drive bays you can chose from just about any RAID format you want or just go with a JBOD and have one massive disk. This system is a great solution for those wanting to secure their data while at the same time looking for a low power, low noise server for hosting all of their media.

We complain all the time that requiring a PC to be running in order to stream your media is just wrong. We love that there are more and more embedded devices that are coming out that are bundling media streaming software. The TS-409 comes with TwonkyMedia, which is basically the de facto media streaming server out there. The 409 also bundles an iTunes Server as well so no matter what your needs are you are basically covered with this storage unit. Years ago storage units were just storage units. These days companies realize they need to offer more to the consumer to attract them.

We have played with the TS-209 which is their 2 bay offering and we can tell you first hand that it is an amazing product. It couldn't be more simple to set it up and within minutes of turning it on you not only have a secure way to backup your data, but you have a very robust media server. The 409 will stream to just about any device capable of dealing with UPnP including the PS3, Xbox 360, PSP, and the Nokia N95. We're sure there will be more added to this list in time.

If you don't have a good system for backing up your data and/or you need a quiet, low power, secure way to stream your media look no further, you just have seen the holy grail of storage solutions.


David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

January 22, 2008

DivX Connected: Coming to the States Soon


We have been reading about the DSM-330 from back when it was called the DivX GejBox. Well now that it has been released in Europe we have read a ton of really high praise for it and we have been drooling. Check out this great review over at They point out that while there are some minor flaws, the need for server software for instance, they come to the conclusion that is leagues above the rest of the market. We have been hearing rumors that Q2 of this year we should see this in the States. With the sad state of media streamers on the market currently we can't wait to give this a whirl. We are in the middle of doing our Popcorn Hour Networked Media Tank evaluation and while it seems better then most of the devices we have tried out, and we have reviewed a ton, there are still some basic issues that make us hope that the DSM-330 is all that and a bag of chips.

We'll let you know when we hear of a firm date for the DSM-330's launch, but I'm sure you could just keep your window open and listen for our screams of excitement.
David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

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