Frequent visitors to Media Server Reviews will have noticed a couple of new categories are appearing on our site.
The old categories of Basic, Mid-Range and Premium were just not useful enough when looking for the right devices for your needs.
The important thing to consider is not how much money a product costs, though that is obviously important, it is about finding the product that matches your requirements – what you want it to do and what needs it will meet. Will it be used as a single place to store all your movies, music and photos? Will it be connected to a TV or Projector? Or will you have other devices playing the media and connecting to your server over the home network?
We have started to break down the reviews into the following categories:
Media Centers – these are the units that run the interface you use to select and play media, they will typically be directly connected to either a TV or AV Receiver. This is where this site has historically placed most attention, these are otherwise known as Media Hubs, Media Players etc.
NAS Media Servers – NAS (Network Attached Storage) Devices are popular as they have all the ‘grunt’ of a fully fledged server, but they are ‘appliances’ – that is they are built for the single purpose, in this case storing and sharing your data – movies, music etc over the network. Many NAS devices have built in Media Services and will integrate with iTunes, Squeezebox and other services, reducing the need to have a computer turned on to stream your media around the house and over the internet.
These are also in the same league as the HTPC, the Home Theatre PC, and are for people who enjoy fully customizing their setup.
Some of the reviews coming will be for the amazing Synology DiskStation range, as well as Home Servers, Media Server Software and more.
I really hope you find the new classification useful as you look for the reviews and information you need, we really appreciate your feedback so if you would like to comment below or email email@example.com
NAS devices make great Media Servers. The best NAS storage devices such as the excellent Synology DiskStation and NETGEAR ReadyNAS Ultra 2 Plus have built in media streaming software and are DLNA compatible, meaning you can stream your media to many different devices such as ipad, iphone, android, mobile, xbox, playstation, TV and many more.
Network Attached Storage devices will have some or all of the following characteristics:
Support fast network – 100Mb or 1Gb Ethernet
RAID protection against Hard Drive failure (at least 2 hard drives required)
Support streaming to multiple devices
Support streaming media to remote devices over the internet
Hot-Swappable drives so you can replace drives without turning the NAS off.
Easy to use, intuitive interface
The Home NAS is the best home network storage solution as it will be plug and play, and will not require the installation of media server software that many high end dedicated media servers require.
It is also a huge advancement on the single disk media players and media centers, as it enables hardware RAID protection against data loss should there be a hard drive failure.
This section will provide reviews of the best Network Attached Storage devices available from some of the leading manufacturers such as Synology and QNAP.
Apple have announced the new Apple TV will sport a new user interface as well as supporting 1080p.
The Apple TV MD199LL/A will have 1080p HD programming, including iTunes movies and TV shows, Netflix, Vimeo, photos and more in full HD.
It will be able to support the usual web media sources such as netflix, as well as streaming movies from iCloud and from your other apple devices using AirPlay.The new interface will have icons, apps and coverflow similar to iPad and iPhone.
Being released next week for $99, it will be interesting to see what happens to the existing Apple TV price on Amazon over the next few days..
Rumors abound that Microsoft will announce a TV service for the XBox tomorrow at E3. Winrumors is saying it will be called Xbox LIVE Diamond TV. Like Google TV it is more than just TV. In addition to featuring Microsoft partners Hulu, ESPN, and Netflix it is rumored to integrate with a music subscription service from Zune. This is of course added onto all the existing XBox Live services.
Unfortunately it still a ways away with predictions for XBox LIVE Diamond TV to go live this November. Also the subscription will not be free, but I haven’t seen any guesses on the cost. For those with an XBox all of these factors will need to be considered when buying a media server.
Each year the smart boxes which manage our home entertainment for us are getting smarter.
The home media server which not that long ago struggled just to find a movie on the Internet now bristles with all sorts of Apps, can play virtually any type of video or audio thrown at it, and happily makes personalized viewing suggestions.
The recent announcement that Syabas is providing 3D capability for its popular Popcorn Hour and PopBox streaming media players highlights the fact that the Internet is in the lounge room for the long haul, and the list of exciting entertainment options will only get longer.
In technical terms, Syabas has embraced the Matroska 3D video format (known as .mk3d). Matroska is fast becoming the standard for multimedia container formats and is an open source project. All of this means that as the industry lines up behind an independent standard maker, it will only be a matter of time before other media server manufacturers embrace 3D too.
For a short while at least, Syabas has a market edge as they alone are providing this 3D capability. However it is probably only a small advantage because to take advantage of this 3D-ness, of course you need a 3D television set. The number of 3D TVs is growing strongly but comes off a very small installed base.
The Syabas 3D initiative is even more interesting because it can be delivered to existing owners of Popcorn Hour and PopBox products via a firmware upgrade, and it is being provided without charge.
If the sale of Popcorn products suddenly goes through the roof, then naturally other makers of smart media boxes will jump on board.
But to be first is a good move by Syabas. It is obviously about market positioning and with an eye firmly to the future. So at this very moment, with the right set up, you can enjoy playback of 3D movies in both “Side by Side” and “Top and Bottom” stereoscopic modes. The only problem is you may have a challenge finding much material just yet in .mk3d format.
For the consumer, 3D means another smart thing that a smart media server can do. However for a while at least until more 3D content is widely available, it may be a smart thing to behold rather than a smart thing to enjoy.
But there is a lot more to it than just movies and TV shows!
The media server can organize and play your favorite music, video and pictures, whether they are stored locally on your home network or somewhere on the Internet. You can search for online media content (say from YouTube) and download it for instant or later viewing. And much, much more.
To help clarify how you can take advantage of the biggest change to home entertainment since the introduction of color TV in the 1950s, we have produced a 20 page, information-packed e-booklet for you to download, for free!
The long heralded arrival of online media content in the lounge room (in the form of Internet TV and more) has seen another arrival in the form of the smart media server, or streaming media player.
These are the boxes which link the Internet to your existing home entertainment system and with over fifty manufacturers now providing media server devices, there are both plenty of options to choose from and plenty of reasons to get confused.
To overcome the confusion, we have prepared a short video which aims to clear up the question of what a media server is and what it does.
If you prefer to read rather than watch, a transcript of the video is also below.
What is a Media Server? – Video Transcript
Hi, this is Peter from MediaServerReviews.com.
In this short video I want to try and clarify exactly what is a media server, and provide a simple explanation of what a media server does.
I also want to clear up some of the confusion about the terminology which describes the various types of products known as media servers.
The simplest definition I could come up with is this: a media server is a smart box which serves up (online) media content to your home entertainment system.
Let’s just dissect that briefly.
The term “smart” box is familiar to us now – we have smart phones, smart homes, smart cars so a smart box in our lounge room presents no shock.
Some techies may not be happy with my use of the word “serves” but I can live with that.
I have put “online” in brackets because the media which you enjoy viewing or listening to in your lounge room may not necessarily come directly from the Internet. More about that shortly.
And media content can be anything we like to watch or listen to – movies, TV shows, music clips, photos, home videos and so on.
Here’s a simple picture to go with a simple definition.
The Entertainment System shown here could be made up of a High Definition TV receiver, a surround sound system perhaps, a CD and MP3 player, a DVD or Blu-ray player, a cable set top box, and other components too.
Now, in order to bring a new dimension to your home entertainment we add another box, the media server.
The media server is typically connected to your TV set with a single High Definition Multimedia Interface cable, otherwise known as an HDMI cable which carries both high quality video and sound.
Some media servers available today already perform some of the roles of existing boxes; for example some media servers have Blu-ray players built in.
But the important thing about the media server (indicated by those wavy blue lines) is its ability to connect to the Internet and stream media content directly, or download it and save it for later playing.
This is where the terminology confusion comes in that I mentioned earlier.
At some time you will hear a media server described by any of these terms – network media streamer, media streamer, streaming media box, media player, streaming media player, media tank, networked media tank, digital media receiver, digital multimedia receiver, media bridge, network multimedia player, media receiver, home theater PC plus a lot more.
The confusion becomes greater when the names of some of the better known manufacturer’s products become some sort of standard in the market, and so they get referred to in a generic way.
There are currently over 50 manufacturers of media server devices, and many manufacturers have a number of different models in their range so there is lots to choose from.
This is where we start to fine tune the various functions of different media servers.
By expanding the earlier diagram we can now see the types of other devices which can connect to a media server, and be managed by the media server for the purposes of providing other entertainment options.
So we can see the possibility of photos and videos coming from our still and movie cameras, or from a PC, or an attached disk storage device. And movies and music coming from the Internet or stored locally somewhere on our home network.
Devices can be connected to the media server by USB or other high speed connections, so there is great flexibility for getting media content into our lounge room.
But the bottom line is that the media server technology delivers more enjoyment to your lounge room, for all the family.
At MediaServerReviews.com we have a lot of information to help you understand better what a media server can do for you, and reviews to help you choose the media server product best suited to your needs and budget.
Thanks for watching this video and look out for others in this series.
Bye for now.
It wasn’t all that long ago really but in Internet terms it was at least a couple of light years since the Browser Wars. Remember it?
A brief bit of history for the sake of interest and nostalgia then. The Netscape browser kicked off the commercial Internet as we know it today in 1994 and at one stage had over 90% of the market. Such a monopoly upset Microsoft (what a surprise) which responded with their Internet Explorer browser being bundled with the Windows operating system.
What followed was the Microsoft anti-trust trial (another story) which effectively killed off Netscape, although that slow death took until 2007 at which time it had less than 1% of market share. In the halcyon late 1990s, AOL thought Netscape was such a good thing that they paid over $4 billion for it and still owned it when Netscape was finally read the last rites.
Anyway, back to today and what are the similarities, if any, and what learning can we apply to this next generation of Internet expansion?
Boxee software has been free for download for the past few years, and many people have it installed on their PCs as a means to enjoy online media content.
It has been a great success but with the limitation that you either watch a movie on your poky PC screen or cart the PC to the lounge room and connect it to your TV. Clumsy and a bit messy really.
This great little box sits on your home network and connects to your TV set and becomes a part of your home entertainment system. Now you can watch and listen to whatever you want, in comfort and with quality high definition video and audio.
The opposing contender in this battle for Internet turf in the lounge room is Google TV. Google TV has similarities to Boxee in that both make it easy to bring the Internet to your lounge using Apps, browsing and search capabilities.
Whereas Boxee has only the single product at this stage, Google has initially chosen two manufacturers to get the Google TV bandwagon moving. In direct competition with the Boxee Box is the Logitech Revue Box with Google TV which also sits between an existing TV set and the Internet.
However Google has gone a step further with the release of Sony Internet TV with Google TV. Here we have a Sony high definition TV receiver with Google TV built in, plus the necessary home network connections. It looks like Google TV has both components of the market covered – those who don’t want to buy a new TV and those who do.
Let’s hope for the sake of competitiveness and consumer choice that both Google TV and Boxee are successful and are able to further develop their respective products.
It would be a tragedy if one fell by the wayside for any reason. We certainly do not want an extended period of uncertainty and second rate products as happened during and immediately following the Browser Wars.
Google is looking to forge a new frontier by finally bringing the Internet into the lounge room.
In the last couple of years, there has been an explosion in the number of products which have tried (or are trying) to bridge the gap between the home network and the home entertainment system. One of the most eagerly awaited products in this regard is the Boxee Box, due for shipping in November 2010.
Based on the media hype and pre-orders, the Boxee Box is shaping as a winner so the burning question is what will happen when Google TV arrives?
First up, a little about Google TV. Google is planning to utilize the Android operating system which has been hugely popular with mobile phones and couple it with the Chrome web browser and the Flash video player to create an open platform for TV related devices. This approach has the advantage over other offerings of using established products with a ring of familiarity about them.
However, the Boxee Box uses the very popular (and free) Boxee software which has been available for a few years and runs on your PC. Boxee utilizes Apps (as does Android), so enticing developers to build Apps will be a critical component in the battle for Internet in the lounge room supremacy.
You may be pondering what it is you can do with Google TV while sitting in your armchair with a favorite beverage at hand?
The interface will certainly make it easy to search, find, record and play TV content plus Internet media too. A picture-in-picture facility means you can watch some live action while checking some related information at the same time (like game statistics if watching sport).
Other features include being able to view pictures from your networked PC, listen to music from a variety of networked sources and enjoy whatever goodies the Apps developers come up with. And you can have a custom home page on your TV making it quick and simple to get straight to your favorite content.
So what is Google doing about physical products? Well, it has teamed up with Sony who on 12 October 2010 (or thereabouts) will show their new Sony Internet enabled TV, running Google TV of course.
Another partner is Logitech who will produce a box called Logitech Revue with Google TV which will sit between your home network and your TV, just like Boxee Box.
Logitech is targeting the existing 60 million HDTV owners who will not want to buy a new Internet TV but who will see the Internet lounge room experience as compelling.
Whether Google can redefine the home entertainment market with its approach remains to be seen and it will be an interesting show to watch in itself. The competition for networked home entertainment products is becoming intense and the big players are starting to get seriously involved.
However Google’s involvement via Google TV will raise awareness for all Internet users – the lounge room will never be the same again in terms of what (and how) we watch and listen.
The recent announcement by Netflix (the online streaming people) of sharp profit growth and a total of over 15 million subscribers must have the cable people getting very nervous. The success of Netflix and other providers of streaming content (movies, TV, music) show that the consumer has gone beyond the “try it” phase and is grasping the online streaming reality with enthusiasm.
It is not just a matter of economics either, although the providers of streaming content certainly provide a more cost effective way of getting your video fix. The going subscription rate of around $10 per month compares favorably to what it often costs to upgrade just one channel on a cable pay TV subscription.
The cost of getting the media content physically to your TV screen can vary from a little to a lot, depending on your tastes, budget and existing home entertainment system. A very basic streaming media player (like the Roku) will only set you back about $100. If you want a high quality audio and visual experience with full connection to your home entertainment system, a built-in digital video recorder and an internal disk drive, then a streaming home media server will cost somewhat more.
The content itself being provided by the media streaming companies is quality stuff with exclusive deals for TV and movie content becoming more regular. Of course if you prefer the “pay as you go” model, then the video on demand services provided by Amazon and the like also utilize the streaming media approach.
It should not really be a surprise that the home entertainment market is heading towards a streaming world where consumers can pick and choose what they want to watch, and when, and for what cost. A similar model has existed for some years now in the music industry where downloads and a cost per track model has counter balanced the decline in CD sales.
More recently we have seen an extension of this approach with the e-reader phenomenon. The Kindle has redefined the entire process of finding a book to read, buying it, getting it home and reading it. The same goes for magazines and newspapers although there will probably always be some sort of romantic role for the humble newspaper to play.
As the technology for video streaming has improved and Internet speeds have increased, so has the sheer convenience of a choice driven, home viewing experience. Consumers love it (as they do in the music and reading worlds) and it is only a matter of time before all our video content is delivered in this way. Before then, we have a difficult decision to make – when to cancel the cable contract.