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Discussion Starter #1
Choice of Media Players

Hi there,

I'm new to the forum and would like help picking out a Media Player. First, is there a difference between a media player and a media extender? The terminology is confusing.

As to the choice, I'm looking for something that has the following:
1. play my media files (music, videos, movies stored on my pc - formats are a secondary concern)
2. support for netflix
3. possibility to pvr shows from tv.

I was able to find the WD TV Live Hub, but there is no mention of a pvr capacity despite 1 TB hard drive.

Any suggestions or pointers are welcome. And sorry if this has been asked before.
 

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A Media Extender is a device that works with a media server to play content that is streamed by a media server. This often refers to devices that work with Windows Media Center. See Windows Media Center Extender for a more detailed explanation.

A Media Player is simply a device that can play local or networked content, usually from hard disk. Many devices have both extender and player capabilities.

A Home Theatre Personal Computer (HTPC) can also provide extender, player and/or server functions. Versions of Windows that have Windows Media Center included (Win7 Premium, WinXP MCE) can act as both server and extender/player. Many inexpensive media extenders are available that work with Windows Media Center. There are also third party options, such as SageTV.
 

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Hello,
I am curious for people's opinion on what the best current media streamer is available on the market.

I currently have a WD TV Live HD and PS3 on another TV for streaming.
The WD works great, just that the interface is as plain as a white table and the PS3 goes through PS3mediasever, which works great, but again, plain.
I'm running a NAS as well for storage of my movie files, family videos etc.

I'm looking for something a little more eye appealing and that can handle 1080p.

WD Media Hub with the 1T - quite impressed with the media info it gathers from the web. Has Netflix (potentially in Canada i assume) and some other neat little additions.

Apple TV 2 - Netflix, iTunes (good for my MacPro). However, even with jailbreaking and hearing that 1080p files stutter at times and still filtered to 720p a little disappointing. Addition of being able to add XBMC is a huge plus (as I run Plex on the Mac and am addicted to it).

HTPC - good option, but want to keep it under $500 and small. Desktop size not an option.

Boxee Box - People hate it or love it. Internet feeds are ok to have, but not holding my breathe for great stuff while the CTRC runs everything in Canada.

So just throwing it out there for everyones opinion.
Thanks.
 

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I have the WDTV-live as well and love it.

But like you, I wish the UI was a little nicer to look at and use.

I'm also looking at the Hub and the Boxee. I really like the media art/info magic that they do.

I'm leaning more toward the Boxee because I like the idea of typing a movie/TV show and getting results from numerous online sources. This would especially appeal to my wife.
But I feel the Boxee would only really work if you set it up with a VPN to allow US content.
I'm also waiting to see if they can get Netflix/Hulu added.

Until then, I'm on the fence.
 

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What do you want to do with your streamer? Stream online shows? Watch downloaded movies? Listen to music? Have access to a whole-house PVR solution?

I have several SageTV extenders. The unique thing about them is that they allow you to connect to a SageTV PVR software that gives you full and very sophisticated PVR functionality. I have one server that records all of the TV that I want to watch and then I can watch this content from anywhere in my house, or even over the internet. These extenders also work as standalone media streamers. They play pretty much every type of media file.

The downside is that they don't have integrated Netflix/Hulu although you can use Playon ($40 purchase + $20 per year) to stream to the device although it is SD only.

The problem with HTPCs is that (as far as i Know) there is no good UI for Netflix that will work in an MC setting for a 10 foot interface. Using your mouse with a web browser from your couch is not the ideal solutoin for Netflix and the Netflix addin for Windows Media Center does not work for Netflix Canada.
 

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I guess it depends on what the best means to you? What features are most important to you?

I have the Asus HDP-R1. The support seems to have dwindled down in favour of their newer units, but there are third party modified firmware updates out on the net.

It is pretty plain feature wise straight out of the box, but it plays everything I have thrown at it so far. I have even streamed a blu-ray from a shared BD drive in my HTPC to the unit with no problems.

The modded firmwares have options for torrents, web gui management, configuring internet streams (radio, tv, rss, ect).

You can get them for $60 -70 on sale.
 

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I'd like to have mostly streaming of my movies at home and playing music.
A nice GUI would be nice as i mentioned with the WD Hub or something along the lines of XBMC or Plex of sorts.
Internet streaming is a 'want' not a 'need' currently. Even with Hotspot Shield i have a hard time getting regular tv shows on my computer as is, nevermind streaming to a media streaming box.
The Sage TV sounds interesting though, will look into that one.
 

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Yep, if there could be a stand alone box than can run a UI that is similar to Plex, where you can have your movies, tv shows, ect... all sorted and with nice visual background and plot info....

Like to original poster, most of my video files are on the NAS, same with music, so streaming would be a nice feature only...

I'm monitoring the Apple TV 2 jailbreak community, hopfully they will be able to give us this type of UI, XBMC was a good start.
 

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@ Sleemo.
Does it stream your 1080p files smoothly (wired through LAN)?
I do like the interface on it as it pulls the art work for the movies one has stored nicely.
I can't complain about the WD TV I have. It plays everything very smoothly, MKV files and all. I just don't want to lose quality for the prettiness of the display.
Thanks for your input.
 

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I have a few 20-30GB 1080p MKV files. Haven't had a problem playing them back over my wired CAT6 network. After the second firmware update, I haven't really had any problems with any of my files. I initially, along with many others, had stuttering problems playing back HD Xvid files but that was resolved with the update.

That's why I picked the BB, the automatic video scraping and video wall. Not all videos will get picked up by the scraping, some have to be manually entered but if IMDB can't find that video, it'll be flagged as unknown. They'll be fixing that in an upcoming update. You can still playback any unknown file but you have to manually navigate through your shares to get it. About 95% of my stuff was automatically picked up.

I tried my friend's WDTV and I really didn't see any difference in video quality.
 

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I recently upgraded to a Boxee Box from a Gen 1 WDTV. I was getting frustrated with a lack of firmware upgrades on the WDTV and I felt that month-by-month I was falling behind in the codec support.

The BB seems great so far. I like being able to stream youtube videos and easily getting content that is available from most of the major networks web feeds. I have it hardwired with Cat5e.

I am still getting used to things. I wish there was a couple of extra dedicated buttons on the remote for easier navigation. I haven't identified movie or tv folders so I haven't experienced the fancy UI for my local files. I have been using the explorer style interface to date.

The only major hiccup to date was the inability to stream any episode of a certain TV program stored on a NAS device. I don't know what the problem is yet. I dumped the files onto a USB drive and they played with no problems. Other 1080p files have streamed without issue.

I do wish it wasn't an RF remote because I have a Harmony remote that I can't load it onto. However, the iPhone app is dead simple to use and turns your iPhone into a remote (via wifi).
 

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I have the BB as well and I agree about the remote, it is a pain I can't use my Logitech. I use mine in the bedroom because I don't think the GUI very fancy.
If you want the fan art you get from XBMC/Plex you'll be disappointed with the BB.

You could consider one of the Dune HD unit's with Zappiti this will give you a nice GUI.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the explanations, ScaryBob. I've read some of the other threads and investigated the issue a bit, and the choices are confusing, to say the least.

I phoned Netflix, and it seems that the only devices they support in Canada are the gaming consoles (Wii, etc.), the Toshiba BDX3000 Blu-Ray player and the Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-Ray player (and a few other Samsung models). That's not much.

Not sure if others have tried it, but some media players (like the Argosy HV335T) claim to being able to stream Netflix directly from my networked PC using Playon. Does that include Netflix Canada? If not, would it be possible to hide behind a US IP (using StrongVPN) to stream Netflix to the media player?
 

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As I see it, anything which can wor with Playon, can do Netflix Canada, if Playon can do Netflix Canada, since the device is only interacting with the Playon server running on the PC, the server interacting with the content service.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
That's the million dollar question. Anyone has experience with Playon and Netflix Canada?

Here's a screenshot of the Netflix account entry in Playon. It looks like it's for the US only:
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Contacted Playon with this question: Does Playon provide support for "Netflix Canada" (NOT Netflix US)?

Answer from their support people:
Yes, PlayOn does support Netflix Canada. Right at the moment, we have an issue that is preventing it from working properly with PlayOn in Canada, but we are diligently working on it, and expect to have it fixed soon.
 

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I can confirm that Playon has worked with Netflix Canada but it seems there's an issue in the last week stopping it.

Generally Playon has been good about fixing things when problems occur.

If Netflix is your main concern though, I would consider sticking with a TV or Player that has built-in Netflix Canada support since you won't need to run the computer all the time and for stability.

I have found that the many Playon updates/features invariably cause a new issue for every few they solve.

Also, Playon is not HD and Netflix looks far nicer from my Samsung BD than it does from my WDTV/Playon.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks for the info, Vango.

Is there anything else out there that plays HD (other than PlayOn)? I'm thinking of signing up for Netflix US, so there's a wide support for media players.

What's the best combination of media server software/media streamer out there?
 

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1. play my media files (music, videos, movies stored on my pc - formats are a secondary concern)
2. support for netflix
3. possibility to pvr shows from tv.
The only device I'm aware of that does those things that isn't a HTPC is a XBOX 360 used as a Media Center Extender.

The main thing in your requirements list that narrows down your device selection is the PVR functionality. Many devices will do the first two items.

If you're looking for a device that will effectively bring in web content from various geographical locations, a HTPC is the best option. Nothing is as adept at both getting web content (that is sometimes blocked from devices like "free" Hulu) or getting past GeoIP checks with VPN connections.

Wayne said:
The problem with HTPCs is that (as far as i Know) there is no good UI for Netflix that will work in an MC setting for a 10 foot interface. Using your mouse with a web browser from your couch is not the ideal solutoin for Netflix and the Netflix addin for Windows Media Center does not work for Netflix Canada.
As I pointed out in an earlier post (that Wayne seems to have forgotten about) is that there is a solution for this. A HTPC optimized browser called Kylo and a peripheral called "The Loop" that is an excellent "air mouse" device. The combination is a very effective way of using web based content 10 feet away from a HDTV.

The main selling point of a HTPC is that there are many organizations that are starting to setup their own streaming video sites (often done by local TV stations). These sites aren't going to be available on your game console anytime in the near future, but a HTPC will be able to access that content on day one.
 
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