WOF: Do you use a dedicated media streaming box?

By on August 31, 2012, 6:30 PM

Nowadays there are more ways than ever to get online video on your TV, with a streaming media box war brewing between companies such as Apple, Boxee, Roku, Western Digital, a handful of Google TV partners. Each of them has its own strengths and weaknesses, and for those that just can’t compromise, there’s still the option of building a dedicated HTPC.

Lately I’ve been on the fence about getting an Apple TV. Its video sources are rather limited, but its Airplay mirroring feature is quite tempting, especially if you already own other Apple gear. And frankly at $99 it doesn’t feel like a huge investment.

In the meantime, however, I just whip out a long HDMI cable and hook up my desktop to my HDTV whenever I want to watch a movie or TV show. What about you? Are you using a dedicated media streamer? Tell us about your setup.




User Comments: 47

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mevans336 mevans336 said:

I do, I use an AppleTV v3. Works great, even for the <I>occasional</B> download.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

My Samsung LED TV has Internet access for several "services", but I prefer the WD Live TV adapter.

See this for the rationale.

Randomthom Randomthom said:

I have a boxee connected to my NAS where I store all my dvds & blue rays as ripped iso files. Never have to get up off my arse to find the disc!

Still annoyed that Netflix on Boxee STILL isn't supported in the UK though... FAIL!

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

I swear by my Boxee, though to be honest it's still far from perfect and I wish it had more active support as it once did.

mevans336 mevans336 said:

I swear by my Boxee, though to be honest it's still far from perfect and I wish it had more active support as it once did.

Have you seen the Boxee app in the iPad? Freaking awesome.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

For years I used a PS3 to stream into the living room but they added cinavia drm and now I'm in the market for one. A comparison of the most popular models would be a nice article.

mrtraver said:

I've been using a Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ for a couple of years now, mainly streaming Netflix and Youtube, and movies from a drive hooked up to a pogoplug.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

I use my 360 for netflix and a HTPC with XBMC for the rest of my media viewing.

Guest said:

I use my PS3. Works great connected fully to my network with Cat6 cables. Cinavia is a real pain in the a$$ though so I may build a cheap custom PC for streaming.

My buddy has a popcorn hour and it's alright...

mevans336 mevans336 said:

The AppleTV v3, as far as I know, doesn't care about Cinavia.

Tgard said:

I find the easiest thing in my household is to drop files on a usb stick and plug it into the front of my blu-ray player. It plays .mp4's .avi's .mpg's .mkv's as well as dvds and blu-rays. All of these formats play with subtitles and my blu-ray player is already connected to surround sound etc.

I have the option to use my xbox with a dvd, usb stick, external drive or over the network, and I keep my pc connected to my bigscreen all the time with a long hdmi cable, but only use it to stream if I have a pesky media file that doesn't seem to want to play regardless of the format or conversion, or to stream the occasional sports program. It's also good to use my tv as a second monitor on some occasions to share things instead of everyone crowding around the pc.

Tgard

1 person liked this |
Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

@mevans336, I haven't. I will try it over the weekend, though the main use I give the Boxee Box is to stream from my PC/home network to my TV or Cinema screen seamlessly.

From what I've read only the most recent Roku/WD devices come close to the Boxee and the Apple TV is only as good when hacked. On the other hand, the Boxee Box is a tad more expensive.

MilwaukeeMike said:

I just have my PC within a wire's range of my TV and receiver. Have a TV tuner card in there and my logitech harmony even works with media center (and mysteriously worked with VLC media player with no setup). It's a bit of a hassle to drag media center over to the TV as the TV is basically just a 3rd monitor on my computer. And it's a hassle to have to switch sound output from the computer speakers to the receiver via the control panel. But it sure beats Directv's $90/month.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I was considering on buying something like the current generation Mac Mini to handle ALL of my media needs. Specifically the Mac Mini because of the space constraints I have in my entertainment center as well as the power one of those little buggers can have. I ended up going the extra long HDMI cable route. At least the cable is mostly out of the way and has been run to minimize interference with foot traffic.

Even after the effort I watch a a lot of things on my main screen, go figure.

mevans336 mevans336 said:

@mevans336, I haven't. I will try it over the weekend, though the main use I give the Boxee Box is to stream from my PC/home network to my TV or Cinema screen seamlessly.

From what I've read only the most recent Roku/WD devices come close to the Boxee and the Apple TV is only as good when hacked. On the other hand, the Boxee Box is a tad more expensive.

The Boxee App doesn't need a Boxee box.

Adhmuz Adhmuz, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Use my PS3, if that can't play it I just switch to my PC directly hooked up to my TV, the PS3 is more of a convenience than anything else. Also use another i7 system to stream in other rooms of the house. And a third PC for the living-room/kitchen. The whole house can be connected to any PC at any time so media streamers aren't a necessity really.

Jibberish18 said:

At the moment my Bravia has built in Netflix support along with some other stuff such as Pandora BUT if it were up to me, I would have bought a television that did absolutely NOTHING but displays channels and display them well. I'd rather have a Media Streaming Box that specializes in streaming media do it for me properly rather than my TV do it a bit half assed, which it does.

WaveZero said:

There is no way I would buy a dedicated media centre, unless it was one of those open source android ones where I can customise. I have a dedicated HTPC for my HDTV, I have a dedicated remote or I could use my tablet as a remote as well, works very good with XBMC.

From what I can understand, a media box isn't all that great since as soon as a new format comes out you would have to start re-encoding your TV shows, while for a computer you still have the power for software decoding. For example, I haven't seen a dedicated media box that supports 10bit, since in fact there isn't hardware decoding for 10bit videos yet. So only software is possible.

rvnwlfdroid said:

I've opted for the HTPC. Mostly because I had enough parts laying around to build a decent set-up.

Outlaw88 said:

We got rid of our satellite TV nearly 2 years ago and have been using Roku and a HD antennae for television and have been very happy to watch shows when we want it. Took some getting used to though I might add. And occasionally will stream videos from my laptop to the TV. The only thing we really miss is watching sports. If anyone knows of any good sports channels that has NFL and college football, please post here.

m4a4 m4a4 said:

I don't bother. I have an expensive sound system that plugs into my laptop. And then I just use my laptop for media as I do not need to worry about sharing atm

Lionvibez said:

Dedicated htpc with xbmc plus harmony one remote.

I had my Opteron 170 collecting dust after I went to a i7 chip so perfect use for it.

Guest said:

Since I'm on an almost inexistent budget, I'm planning on getting a raspberry pi with xbmc; I can run a network cable from the router since they're not too far from each other and pull the files from a WD My Book WE II. Put a bluetooth dongle and control the box from my smartphone.

I'm a linux illiterate, but I hope this won't be THAT hard to achieve

CrisisDog said:

I have multiple Zotac ZBox systems using a modified PVR copy of XBMC. Don't do a lot of Internet streaming, but they all link into a MediaPortal live TV server that also has around 400 movies that I ripped from my Blu-Ray and DVD collection. Works very well for me and keeps the kids from scratching up all my physical media.

tonylukac said:

Most people here don't use cable. We use OTA mostly, and I have a pc attached to an HDTV to use for online streaming.

j05hh j05hh said:

360 and Roku for Netflixs

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

My LG blu-ray player has many streaming options, but I rarely use them. What I have been doing though is ripping my blu-rays to external HD's, getting rid of all the FBI warnings, previews, etc, during the rip, then playing the movies using a Patriot media player. It's one of the few players I know that will play iso files.

Guest said:

I have a stripped down Win7 dedicated HTPC that only runs XBMC/Splash Pro, WMC and IE for Netflix. It has 6TB local storage for those 10-40GB HD videos. Then, it connects to a server that is also running Win7 (Win7, so that I can have WMC running 24/7 and record TV shows with HDHomerun Prime) to access the rest of my non-HD content, which wont be that much stressfull on my gigabit network.

I can also access Netflix through my smart TV or my Samsung BD player. I used to have a cheap Sony BD player, which sucked a lot, compared to my Samsung, in terms of how fast it connects to Netflix and the overall performance.

John Pombrio John Pombrio said:

I bought a half a dozen generic media player boxes that could handle 1080P HDMI, a 2TB hard drive, 5.1 surround sound, and streaming across a network as well as being a standalone box. It handles movies and TV shows that have been ripped filling the entire drive. A huge amount of entertainment in a very small package in a easy to carry form factor. I wish I could find a replacement these days.

vandrade89 said:

I actually had an idea just the other day regarding and HTPC. I have an Nintendo GameCube the is just collecting Dust. I hate to see it laying around dong nothing, so I though I would Modifie its inners to a nice to and Intel Core I w/ a SSD, >4GB RAM, and a blueray DVD optical reader. This is a project that I am very exited about and it is still work in progress. However it is coming out nicely.

Chuck Cortes Chuck Cortes said:

I have a Roku, a WDTV Live, a PS3 and a Logitech Revue plus my 47 in Vizio TV has Internet apps as well. I also have a PC and an Acer Iconia A200 tablet, all of it networked to play music, videos and display pictures and also to browse the Internet.

My favorite is the GoogleTV box Revue because it has all the features of Android including a web browser which displayed on a big screen TV in HD is beautiful. However I have to admit the Revue is limited which is why I will be replacing it with the Co-Star which is a perfect match for my 47 HDTV.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I built myself a dvr couple years back. Run SageTv on it recording Tv and managing any videos I have stored on my hard drive. Run Netflicks on it just through FF. I keep a wireless mouse and keyboard attached to it.

customcarvin customcarvin said:

Running 2 Raspberry Pi's with OpenELEC beta 7 (XBMC) on them...

So far, I haven't had too many issues, and it plays back all my media from my NAS flawlessly! You can tell the software is still in its infancy, things such as video not scaling the way you tell it to (example: if you want to stretch 4:3 encoded video to 16:9), and a lot of add-ons aren't working... but, you can also tell that it has huge potential, and once everything is ironed out it will be an awesome media player for 35 bones!

I ran into a snag with my bedroom tv, its a older sony 720p lcd. the pi didn't know what to do with the sound output... I had video with my mkv's, but no audio. It was driving me nuts, because the same pi with the same hdmi cable etc, etc, worked on my panny plasma with out issue. Then I searched the pi forums and found that I needed to "force" the hdmi output mode via a simple command in a txt file located on the root of the sd card, and voila, it worked perfectly.

Oh, I also tried Raspbmc, and as of this writing.... OpenELEC is better IMHO.

Guest said:

I use a raspberry pi which works ok. A little sluggish but what do u expect for $35. I was using XBMC but switched to Openelec on the pi. I also use VLC which streams all my shows constantly. I set it up to stream on 10 channels. For example I have all 5 seasons of Big Bang Theory streaming on channel 1 and Red Dwarf series streaming on channel 2, and my favorite music videos on channel 3, etc... Works just like a tv without the commercials so there is always something on. I don't have to click click click through menus to pick a show to watch which is a real pain. For lazy people like me it works great.

Coodu Coodu said:

Currently using an Apple TV2 with the FireCore aTV flash black custom firmware, works a fine treat indeed.

killeriii said:

I was in the market for a media box for my second TV. I picked up an Apple TV v3, but was disappointed in the support. So I picked up a WD Live TV because it seems to support EVERY format available. I've been very happy with it for the past few months. The Apple TV looks nice where it sits, but I never use it.

I use my PS3 on my main TV for streaming.

John Freiman John Freiman said:

No, only an Xbox 360 connected to most of the streaming services plus a Media Center PC. I'm getting too old to keep track of either multiple remote controls or large clunky ones where they have more buttons than my keyboard has keys. :)

Plus, before you judge me for having a Media Center PC, I must add that if you haven't used a cable tuner from Ceton Corp, then you can't judge me. Also, I now have one PC and one Xbox 360 (plus phones etc) which I can share and stream my content around the home or via the internet without running lots of crazy programs.

Simplicity at last.

Tanstar said:

Both my Tivo and my PS3 do this fine, why pay for something that ONLY streams? $100 seems a lot to pay when a decent Blu-ray player probably does this and they only cost around $60.

John Freiman John Freiman said:

Both my Tivo and my PS3 do this fine, why pay for something that ONLY streams? $100 seems a lot to pay when a decent Blu-ray player probably does this and they only cost around $60.

The "decent" Blu-ray player will likely stream content, but have you used one? It takes as long to load the Netflix app as it does to watch a TV show -- those "smart" players are really more of a nuisance than anything else.

If you already have the Tivo (do they still require a monthly fee?) a PS3 and you likely also have a Cable box/DVR. That's all great, but if you have one Xbox 360 and already have a PC with a 2GHz processor or better, you can just add a $180 Ceton card and have a quad HDTV CableLabs certified tuner in your PC.

Stream and control your "TV" through Xbox Media Center Extender. Not only do you remove all the clutter around your TV, but you also will save on your DVR and cable box monthly fees, share TV from your PC all around the home -- and less energy used because you only have one device.

Sure, you don't have Blu-ray with the Xbox, but honestly, most things don't need HD 1080p video and those that do are easily rentable via the Xbox Video app.

My 79 yo mother has switched to Media Center Extender via Xbox and she became a DVR, video, slideshow, Netflix maven in about 2 days. Much quicker than learning the PS3, the HD DVR and/or the Tivo.

John Freiman John Freiman said:

I was in the market for a media box for my second TV. I picked up an Apple TV v3, but was disappointed in the support. So I picked up a WD Live TV because it seems to support EVERY format available. I've been very happy with it for the past few months. The Apple TV looks nice where it sits, but I never use it.

I use my PS3 on my main TV for streaming.

No disrespect to the Western Digital, or Sony, but you should return them all and replace them with an InfiniTV PCIe or USB 4xTuner card, add Extenders (MCX) or Xboxes around your home and save about $40 a month on your cable bill.

DanUK DanUK said:

No.. just use an xbox 360

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I used to have a dedicated media player, which I didn't use for streaming in large part because wifi reception near my TV is pretty bad. It broke down, however, and now I have an HTPC.

killeriii said:

I was in the market for a media box for my second TV. I picked up an Apple TV v3, but was disappointed in the support. So I picked up a WD Live TV because it seems to support EVERY format available. I've been very happy with it for the past few months. The Apple TV looks nice where it sits, but I never use it.

I use my PS3 on my main TV for streaming.

No disrespect to the Western Digital, or Sony, but you should return them all and replace them with an InfiniTV PCIe or USB 4xTuner card, add Extenders (MCX) or Xboxes around your home and save about $40 a month on your cable bill.

lol, I cancelled my cable years ago. I use a WHS (w/6TB storage) as a media jukebox.

Also, I couldn't get rid of my PS3, I enjoy watching blu-rays too much. (I have a couple hundred of em now) Although, I might start doing what "TomSEA" does.

stbecker said:

Roku channels like Plex make all the difference. I can stream online or stuff from my WMC PC. PlayOn is another good one.

I also have a small Foxconn nettop with a D510 Atom processor/HDMI-out. It barely sips power so it can stay online (uTorrent) and WMC looks nice on my TV. The WMC content is actually pulled from another PC that has more oomph to record 2 HD streams simultaneously from a SiliconDust HDHomeRun tuner.

There's some overlap in services between HTPC and Roku so I have one hooked up to my bedroom TV and the other on my larger living room TV.

Tanstar said:

If you already have the Tivo (do they still require a monthly fee?) a PS3 and you likely also have a Cable box/DVR. That's all great, but if you have one Xbox 360 and already have a PC with a 2GHz processor or better, you can just add a $180 Ceton card and have a quad HDTV CableLabs certified tuner in your PC.

I don't have a cable box, actually. Tivo HD can handle that for itself. Tivo does charge for the service but it does so much more than any other DVR including a PC media server. Based on the shows I tell it to record it records tons of other shows (which I can mark with 1-3 thumbs up or down to further refine its understanding of what I like) each day that I can scroll through and watch. These shows get deleted after about 1.5 weeks (sooner if I can tons of stuff recorded that I asked for) and give me a chance to try new shows or provide me with entertainment I know I like but that aren't important enough to instruct it to record (old episodes of The Simpsons for instance). I don't have an XBox 360 and certainly won't be buying one so I can "only" pay another $180 to be able to record TV on my computer :P

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

I have a PC that only runs Plex in my TV room and a Logitech Revue w/Plex in the guest bedroom. My central fileserver also runs a Plex Media Server for all my Plex instances. All the Windows and Mac computers in the house have Plex installed.

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