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The year's best... TV media players

What's top for set-tops?

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TVs join the stream

Boasting support for an impressive range of codecs – including Flac and Ogg – and a compact case that’s not much larger than the Apple TV, the Viewsonic VMP74 offers 1080p output, with support for SMB as well as UPnP media access. As well as the commonplace USB port for local storage, it supports eSata too. Since our original review, firmware that provides access to BBC iPlayer has been released, and for those who have a large collection of media in different formats, it’s a great value choice.

Viewsonic VMP74

Viewsonic VMP74

When it comes to providing online video services for UK users, it’s very often been the TV itself that has set the pace, rather than the makers of media streamers. Thanks perhaps to the requirements of Freeview HD, some of the best media players this year are TV receivers that also offer IPTV and DLNA functionality.

Samsung LE40C650

Samsung LE40C650

Samsung’s LE40C650 was one of the standout sets Reg Hardware looked at this year, offering great picture quality and superb connectivity. It has very wide ranging format support, and failed only with some DRM-encumbered WMV video files. With both iPlayer and Lovefilm available through Samsung’s Internet@TV interface plus Freeview HD tuners, the set packs in everything that most users will need. If you’re in the market for a new TV, then you certainly won’t need to add a separate media player to this one.

The LG 42LE5900 also has great network media support, but falls down when it comes to IPTV – a situation reversed by this year's new Sony Bravias - such as the 32in KDL-EX703 - which are far better at online TV than they are at network streaming.

Humax HD-Fox T2

Humax HD-Fox T2

If you already have an HD Ready TV, the current street price of the Humax HD Fox T2 Freeview HD receiver places it firmly among the dedicated media players. Though format support isn't as extensive as some other boxes – MKV in particular is patchy – from early next year an online TV portal will add access to BBC iPlayer and Sky Player. Meanwhile, you’ll also get Freeview HD with USB recording, though it has to be said that the media playback interface isn’t as slick as those of some dedicated streamers.

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