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Best Network Media Players and Media Streamers

Great Products That Let You Stream or Download from the Internet to Your TV

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As a result of increased convergence of the PC and Home Theater, a type of product has emerged, the Network Media Player, Media Extender, Media Streamer. These products allow access to PC media content or the streaming/downloading of audio, video, and still image content directly from the internet that can be played on your TV or home theater system. In addition to standalone devices, Media Player/Extender capability is also being built into other products, such as Blu-ray Disc players and even TVs. For a look at Media Player/Extender/Streamers that might work well with your home theater, check out my top picks.

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

Roku 3 Front View and Rear Views with Remote and Earphones
Image provided by Roku

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.
Compare Prices on the complete selection of Roku Boxes.

2. The Roku Streaming Stick

Roku Streaming Stick
Image © Roku

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).
Official Product Page - Compare Prices.

Also available beginning March 2014 - New Version Roku Streaming Stick that does not require MHL-compatibility (Suggested Price: $49.99).
Read Report - Official Product/Ordering/Purchase Page.

 

3. Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast
Image © Google

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.

All About Google Chromecast (About.com Google) - Official Product Page - Compare Prices

4. WD TV Live Hub by Western Digital

WD TV Live Hub and Box
Photo (c) Barb Gonzalez - Licensed to About.com
It's about time that we have a network media player to rival the picture and sound quality of a Blu-ray Disc. The WD TV Live Hub is a stunning performer that comes close. The newest media player in Western Digital's WD TV Live line has been named the Live "Hub" because it is more than a network media player. It is also a media server with an internal 1TB hard drive. You can use the WD TV Live Hub as a dumping ground to store media, rather than using network attached storage (NAS) or an external hard drive for your network's central media library.
Read Review

5. Western Digital WD TV Live Streaming Media Player

WD TV Live Streaming Media Player - Photo of Front View with Included Accessories
Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The Western Digital WD TV Live is a network media player that provides a great way stream both online and network-based digital content to you TV and home theater system. The WD TV Live, via either wired or WiFi connection, provides convenient access to HuluPlus, Netflix, Spotify, Blockbuster On Demand, CinemaNow, and Pandora, as well as to digital media content stored on PCs and media servers. The WD TV Live also provides 1080p video output resolution via HDMI connection.
Read Full Review - Photo Profile - Compare Prices

6. AppleTV

The 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.
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7. Vizio Co-Star with Google TV Stream Player

Video Co-Star Streaming Player with Google TV - Photo of Front View with Included Accessories
Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The Vizio Co-Star is a media streaming player that provides an easy way to find, organize, and access content for viewing on your TV and home theater system. The Co-Star, via either wired or WiFi connection, provides convenient access to Netflix, Pandora, and many other internet streaming services. The Co-Star also provides 1080p video output resolution via its HDMI output.
Review - Photo Profile - Buy Direct.

8. Netgear NeoTV NTV200 Media Streamer

Netgear NeoTV NTV200 Media Streamer
Photo (c) Netgear

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.

The NTV200 has the ability to output up to1080p video resolution and also Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus audio format compatible.


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A wireless remote is also included as well as access to free downloadable remote control apps for iPhone or Android phones.

9. D-Link MovieNite DSM-310 Media Streamer

D-Link MovieNite DSM-310 Media Streamer
Image (c) D-Link
The D-Link MovieNite DSM-310 is a basic media streamer, similar to the Roku box, that provides access Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, and Pandora, as well as access to photo sharing via Picasa.

The DSM-310 features both Ethernet and WiFi connectivity options, and also has HDMI and AV (3.5mm) outputs for connection to both HDTVs and older analog TVs.

DSM-310 is priced at $59 and is available through Walmart (compare prices). For more details, check out the Official D-Link DSM-310 product page.

10. 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.
Compare Prices - Official Product Page

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