The year's best... TV media players
What's top for set-tops?
2010: it's a wrap
Networkable media players aren’t new, but in 2010 the addition of BBC iPlayer and similar services to set-top boxes and TVs made more consumers aware of the possibilities of online entertainment pumped straight into the living room, while Windows 7 made it simpler to stream content from your PC’s hard drive.
For those who are dipping their toe in the water with media streaming, the latest version of the Apple TV is one of the more eye-catching devices. Priced at the magic £99 mark, its compact size and the ease of use for which Apple is renowned will put it high on the list for many people wanting to take their first steps. But just how well does it compare to the alternatives?
It certainly boasts a slick and straightforward interface which puts the offerings of many other boxes to shame, though the remote is perhaps a little too pared down for some tastes, and paid-for HD content is only 720p, though it will output 1080p material if you have it.
With both wired and wireless networking built in, the Apple TV should be at home on any network – as long as you have computers running iTunes, from which content is streamed, or you're willing to rent films and TV shows from Apple's online store. And unless you’re happy to convert files to the few formats supported by Apple and iTunes, or jailbreak the device, you’re limited by the content available. There’s a reasonable selection online in iTunes, but UK services like LoveFilm and BBC iPlayer are absent.
Another media player that got plenty of publicity this year, the Boxee Box. Unlike the Apple TV, it does provide access to BBC iPlayer and other UK catch-up services, together with good support for network media playback. But at £200, and with much of its other online content not actually available in the UK, it’s perhaps not one to buy just yet.
The Boxee Box
One of the media players that we’ve rated highly in the past is Western Digital's WD TV Live, and this year’s update added an internal hard drive to make it the WD TV Live Hub. With a clean interface, good format support and 1TB of storage for those who don’t have a Nas media server or want a computer on while watching TV, it’s great for playing your own content but, so far, has only a limited range of online content available for UK viewers, and again no BBC iPlayer support.
Next page: TVs join the stream
360? I wish.
Let me fire up my 360.
Ok where is Netflix...nope.
Ok Where is iPlayer....nope.
Any tv streaming other than Sky? nope.
A large range of movies to watch in the Zune movies section? nope.
My 360 fails at anything media wise other than playing movie files off a NAS box.
The 360 isnt a media center. Its a console trying to be a media center. Whereas the PS3 is a media center trying to be a console.
360 for me...
Not wanting to start a war....
I use an X-Box 360 as a media centre and games machine, streaming from a Win7 PC, works really well. Have a PS3 as well, and never really got round to setting it up for media as the 360 is so good. (For my purposes anyway!)
No mention for the Asus O!Play???
I have an Asus O!Play HD 1080p HDP-R1, which retails around £65 now. There is a wireless version and a R3 wireless N version. The menus are clunky and the built-in streaming features are rubbish (mainly asian and religious channels, when they work!) but it plays just about any media format and supports UPnP so you can stream from a media server. I even managed to get Sopcast streams to work with the help of TVersity. We have a Virgin Media contract so we get a lot of catch up services through our VM STB anyway so the O!Play does everything I need.