March 4, 2008

Video Download Battle Royal: Xbox 360 vs Vudu vs AppleTV

We here at Networking Audio Video have always been about finding the best way to stream media around your house. We love the idea that you can load all of your Videos, Pictures and Music onto a server and play them anywhere in your house. While we always will love the idea of owning content we can't help but see the writing on the wall and realize that renting content or subscribing to content on the web is probably going to be the next step for many people. Devices like the Vudu haven't really interested us much since they only allow you to view/buy content that they have on their servers. Well we realize that we may have to get with the times and accept that content in the cloud is probably going to be the media streaming choice of the future.

The god people over at gizmodo have done a nice round up of 3 of the best known devices that allow you to rent/buy content from the web: the Xbox 360, the Vudu and the AppleTV. They end up leaning towards the Vudu as the overall winner, but they had a lot of good points as to why the Xbox 360 and AppleTV should be considered right up there with them. They did a fairly thorough review of the three units and we think it seems like a great resource for anyone trying to figure out which device is best suited for them. You can check out their review here.

We would love to hear any of your feedback or comments on their findings. We haven't had first hand experience with the Vudu yet so we don't know what that service is like. Anyone want to give us their impressions?

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

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 28, 2008

Stage6 Closes its Doors Today

Well a sad day has now come upon us, Stage6 has officially closed its doors. Stage6 was one of the better HD video sites on the Internet. After a few days watching videos on Stage6 it made YouTube look very crass and unrefined( not that YouTube needs much help in that department ). We loved the awesome content that they provided and we are very sad to see them go. They wrote an letter to their users explaining that the shutdown was due to the tremendous cost of maintaining the site.I guess they tried to shop it around, but in the end no one was willing to buy it.

One reason this makes us so sad is that Stage6 was an integral part of the new DivX Connected platform. The new D-Link 330 is the first device to be sold using this new framework and Stage6( which is a DivX corp spin-off ) was a major part of the online experience that they bundled. We are in the middle of collecting our notes for our hands on review of the DSM-330 and the web content aspect of it was a big part of it. Looks like once the DSM-330 lands state side in a few months people will never know how cool it was to kick back on the couch and stream HD content off the web and have it feel like it was local media. Oh well, bye bye Stage6, we hardly knew ya. Of course we are the eternal optimists around here so we are holding onto hope that someone will pick up the scraps and re-open Stage6 in some form. It is far too great of a site with such an active userbase to just let die like this.
David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (2) | 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.

ArrowContinue reading: "Mediagate MH-450HD Media Streamer Gets Mixed Reviews"

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.

ArrowContinue reading: "Hands On With the Networked Media Tank From Popcorn Hour"

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.

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

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 13, 2008

Apple TV Take 2 - HD Movie Rentals with the Apple TV


The new update for Apple TV is out, and now you can download and rent a movie in HD (high definition). We thought we'd go through the update for all you Apple TV owners, and then see how easy it is to rent a movie in HD on the Apple TV.

This is the old interface. We need to check to see if there's an update.
ArrowContinue reading: "Apple TV Take 2 - HD Movie Rentals with the Apple TV"

Jay Brewer at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

February 12, 2008

Gefen HDMI Switcher: Open Up the Possiblities

gefen_hdmi_switcher.jpg With so many cool new streaming products coming out and most of them supporting HDMI you will quickly find yourself running out of ports to hook up everything. Well one of our favorite companies has come to the rescue for those of you that need a better option then buying a new receiver or having to switch cables constantly. Gefen has come out with a very cool little device to solve your problem. The Gefen TV Switcher will allow you to hook up 4 HDMI 1.3 sources and then you can switch between them. It also has some built in intelligence to automatically switch to the appropriate device when it detects a new power on. This could be a great little device to add to your entertainment center as it will prevent you from having to replace some of your older equipment that was not prepared for the HDMI onslaught that has occurred. Thanks to our sister site, TV Snob for the information. If you are looking for the final piece to your entertainment center, TV Snob is a great resource for what is the latest and greatest in TVs these days, go check them out.
David Ficocello at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

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