NOTE: The product entries for Network Media Players and Media Streamers are updated on a continuous basis with new units and reviews to keep them current.
1. Roku Streaming Media Players
The Roku Streaming Media Player (aka Roku Box) is a compact unit that allows you to stream audio and video content (including TV shows and movies) from the internet from a variety of content providers (up to 1,000 as of 2014), including Netflix, Amazon Video-on-Demand, MLB TV and more. All you do is connect the Roku Box to the internet via your home network and then connect it to your TV.
There are several Roku models available, most of which can connect to any TV with at least composite video inputs. However, the Roku 3 does require a TV with an HDMI input exclusively. Roku also offers both wired and wireless internet connection options, depending on the model. However, although the Roku box connects to the internet via a home network, it does not access content stored on your PC or MAC, or portable USB devices. For more details on the features and operation of the Roku players, check out the Official Roku Product Page.
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2. The Roku Streaming Stick
How would you like all the functionality of a Roku Box, without the box? If so, then the Roku Streaming Stick might be just what you are looking for.
The Roku Streaming Stick incorporates all of the features and internet streaming access of a Roku box (over 700 content channels), on a flash drive size device that can plug into select TVs, Blu-ray Disc Players, Home Theater Receivers, and Video Projectors that are equipped with an MHL-enabled HDMI port (List of compatible devices - more coming soon).
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3. Google Chromecast
The Google Chromecast is creating quite a buzz, and deservedly so. The Chromecast is an audio/video internet streaming device about the size of the USB flash drive, except that it has an HDMI connector, rather than a USB connector. If you plug this device into a free HDMI input on your TV (USB port or AC Adapter also required for power - provided with Chromecast package), have access to the internet via WiFi, and iOS or Android phone or tablet, you have everything you need to get started.
Using your iOS or Android device you can access services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play, as well as select content accessible via the Google Chrome browser (new apps and content services are expected to be added on a periodic basis). You send the content to your TV via the Chromecast and then also use your portable device to navigate through content features as well as playback control functions.
The Google Chromecast is a great way to add internet streaming capability to any TV that does not have it built-in already without having add a another external box and cable clutter than goes along with it.
4. Western Digital WD TV Live Streaming Media Player
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5. AppleTVThe iPod may be the most successful portable entertainment device ever, including the creation of a whole industry just devoted to iPod accessories, but that isn't all that Steve Jobs has up his entertainment sleeve. AppleTV is definitely a serious contender world of network media players. The AppleTV allows you either wired or wireless connection to your home network, access to iTunes music and both SD and HD video content directly from the internet. You can also store purchased content in the Apple iCloud for later viewing. For all the details, check out the AppleTV Product and Specifications pages.
6. Netgear NeoTV NTV200 Media Streamer
The Netgear NeoTV NTV200 is a very compact and affordable media streamer, that can connect to the internet via Ethernet or WiFi (make sure your router also has this option). To connect NeoTV NTV200 TV you must have an HDMI connection.
Some of the content providers available with the Netgear NeoTV NTV200 include CinemaNow, HuluPlus,Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Pandora, Picasa, Facebook, and Twitter. However, the NTV200 does not have the ability to access content stored on your PC or other devices connected within your home network.
7. D-Link MovieNite DSM-310 Media Streamer
8. Sony NSZ-GS8 Internet Player with Google TV
The NSZ-GS8 is the latest media player from Sony to feature the Google TV operating system ( featuring the Google Chrome browser), which enables users to search and organiz internet-based content. This player provides easy connection to a home network and the internet by either wired Ethernet or WiFi options. The NSZ-GS8 can access an abundance of internet-based audio and video content including Netflix, Hulus Plus, Pandora, Sony Entertainment Network, and more, deliverying them to your TV or home theater system. You can add even more content sources via the Google Play Apps Store.
In addition, the NSZ-G8 also has 2 USB ports for accessing content stored on compatible devices, such as Flash Drives.
1080p and 3D video output capability via HDMI are provided, but keep in mind that the NSZ-GS8 only provides an HDMI connection for a TV, so you can't use it with older non-HDMI equipped TVs. On the other hand audio can be access via the HDMI or Digital Optical connection options.
The NSZ-GS8 comes with a wireless keyboard remote that also provides Voice Control capabiity. The NSZ-GS8 can also be controlled by either an iOS or Android device. In addition, DLNA compatibility is provided which allows the NSZ-GS8 to access content from your PC or other compatible devices.
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9. Western Digital WD TV Play Network Media Player
The WD TV Play is a budget-priced addition to its Western Digital's line of media players that doesn't off quite as many features, but more than enough for most consumers.
Priced at $69, the unit is very small (measuring about 4x4-inches square and only about 1 inch high) but provides access to a lot of streaming and network-based content.
For connection to your TV and home theater system, the WD TV Player features an HDMI output (1080p resolution is supported), as well as a standard resolution composite video output (combined with analog audio outputs). A USB connection for accessing content stored on USB flash drives and other compatible devices is also provided.
10. Vizio Co-Star LT Media Streamer
If you are looking for an add-on to your TV and hoe theater setup that can provide hours of entertainment enjoyment, consider the new Vizio Co-Star LT. The Co-Star LT is a compact media streamer that connects to the internet, via your internet router (either via built-in Wifi opr wired using optional USB/ethernet adapter), and to any TV that has an HDMI input connection.
Once connected to users can stream a host of movies and TV content from services such as, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, CrackleTV, Hulu Plus, and more from the Vizio Internet Apps platform as well as portable USB devices.
However, there two additional features that are very practical. One is the inclusion of an HDMI input that not only allows you pass through signals coming from an HD cable or satellite box through to your TV, but also allows you to navigate through the various internet apps while you are watching TV.
The second additional feature is the incorporation of "second screen" functionality, which allows users to transfer content between portable iOS and Android devices and the LT Media Streamer. Photo provided by Vizio.