Best media-centre streamers

About The Author

CNET Editor

Nic Healey can usually be found on a couch muttering about aspect ratios and 7.1 channel sound - which is helpful given that he's the home entertainment guy at CNET.

Many years ago, a "media centre" was a PC that sat in your lounge room and served up video and music files. Luckily, you no longer need to pay for a bulky, noisy and expensive computer to watch your media on your TV.

In fact, even the dedicated media-streaming device is slowly on the wane, with many of its network functions slowly being incorporated into Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and even the TV itself, thanks to the ever-improving world of smart television.

Conversely, media streamers are edging into smart TV territory, with — for example — the WD TV Live Hub having apps for accessing Spotify, YouTube and even ABC iView.

A dedicated streamer will sometimes have a built-in drive (though that will add to the cost), but will nearly always have USB ports and the ability to play files directly from the ports, as well as network access, be it wired or wireless. The big advantage is that media streamers tend to have a broader range of support for file formats such as MKV, VOB, FLV, FLAC and others. They also tend to have good support for files with subtitles.

The joy of networked devices, however, is the chance for manufacturers to supply regular firmware updates, and the list of functionality on any of these devices stands a good chance of regularly growing. FetchTV, for example, is listed below, because a recent update gave it network-streaming capabilities for the first time ever.

Whether you do use a dedicated streamer or one of the other devices really depends on your home set-up, but, either way, a media streamer should be a core component of any home-theatre set-up.

(Note that, of course, the Sonos, Marantz and Pure don't support video, as they are audio only, but are perfect if high-quality music streaming is your main concern.)

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AdamS4 posted a comment   

1 for the boxee box!


Schneider posted a comment   

It's Boxxe Box all the way... have never seen a problem with it. Works great even for the technophobs


Sam-R posted a comment   

Personally I found the AC Ryan PlayonDVRHD works the best. It took me a long time to find but now that I have it I also bought the PlayonHD and PlayonHD MINI. Best thing of all is that they work wirelesly.


Early Grayce posted a comment   

I feel that the X-Box 360 is a good device for streaming media.
I have 2 at home and a PC with twin dual tuners so can watch a different show on each TV while still recording another. There are also other software that will automatically recode the recorded TV shows into many different formats so they take much less space while still being available for streaming to my 360s. The only thing lacking is a Blue Ray player which is a shame since if it had one it would be the ultimate single device for each of my TVs.


Hyden posted a reply   

Xbox 360 slim...not the old one..
hardware problem not recommended


Ayden posted a comment   

Yeah my popcorn hour rules.
Surprised it wasn't reviewed

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