A media streamer will let you use your big-screen TV to show off photos taken with your digital camera, play your MP3 collection and display downloaded videos. Media streamers can generally access files from USB drives, and often they will let you use the files stored on your PC or laptop if they are connected to your home network. We've rounded up five of the best media streamers we've tested recently.
The Popcorn Hour A-110 ‘networked media tank’ is a favourite among tech-savvy types for its diverse video file support and customisable back-end. This gives it tremendous power if you’ve got a large collection of standard-definition and high-definition video files, but if you’re a novice user the huge number of options might be unwanted.
Video formats supported: XviD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV9, H.264, HP, VC-1, MKV, MOV, AVI
What’s Hot: Abundant connectivity, third-party applications, extensive file format support
What’s Not: Can be difficult to use, no Wi-Fi, won't always respond to remote control
Star rating: 3.75 / 5
DVICO's TViX R-3300 is a media streamer that includes a digital television tuner and an internal hard drive that will let you record TV shows. We liked its streaming and playback capabilities, but found the electronic program guide difficult to navigate.
Video formats supported: XviD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DIVX, MOV, AVI
What’s Hot: Stylish (arguably, anyway), excellent streaming and media playback, records TV broadcasts well, all necessary cables included
What’s Not: No hard drive included, awkward EPG, limited network access
Star rating: 4 / 5
The Compro T1000W is heaven for media streamer fans, with three USB 2.0 ports to connect flash drives and external hard drives. It also offers 54Mbps wireless networking (802.11g), an HD digital television tuner and a space for an internal 3.5in desktop hard drive. The display leaves a little to be desired, though.
Video formats supported: XviD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, WMV9, VC-1, AVCHD, MKV, MOV, AVI
What’s Hot: Stylish, good build quality, inbuilt wireless, 1080p and MKV support
What’s Not: No front mounted USB ports, no FLAC audio support, front display isn't comprehensive
Star rating: 4.25 / 5
The Western Digital WD TV provides two USB ports that let you play back video content. The interface is a breeze to use, and the WD TV supports a wide range of codecs.
Video formats supported: XviD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, WMV9, MKV, MOV, AVI
What’s Hot: Hassle-free set up, user-friendly interface, extensive file support, tailor-made for HD TVs
What’s Not: HDMI audio occasionally out of sync with video, sluggish and tiny remote
Star rating: 4 / 5
Video formats supported: MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, XVID, H.264, H.263, WMV9, VC1, MKV
What’s Hot: Snappy GUI, backup features, good codec support and playback
What’s Not: Network write speeds not fantastic, poor remote control
Star rating: 3.5 / 5
Out of all of these media streamers in this round-up, we'd probably take the Compro T1000W. It doesn’t have FLAC support, however. Our other choice would be the Popcorn Hour, but the lack of Wi-Fi is a turn-off.
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