Archive for the ‘ Media Server Set top boxes ’ Category

One month with AppleTV 2.0

Yes, I pre-ordered the new AppleTV and have been using it for the past two months.

I cancelled my Verizon FIOs TV Service two weeks ago.

I really like the new look of the AppleTV. That small little box looks really cool on my entertainment system furniture.

Setup was too easy, plug it in and plug the HDMI cable to my AVR. I think adding it to my Logitech One remote was more difficult. The UI for entering your username password for Netflix etc was not clean. The typical letters in keyboard layout but only move to the left or right with the remote makes for a slow process. But quicker than I found with my Samsung 3D Blu-ray player. (More about that in another post)

Once all the username/password has been entered you are good to go.

My wife, Franziska, was a little hesitant to cancel our TV service, but I assured her that while not every show is free, or every thing you can watch on TV is available, in the not to distant future that will change. Now she loves AppleTV, and had vowed to not pay for a single show, rental or not. Instead she says that she has way more than enough content to watch through Netflix and Podcasts. She is focused on Suze Orman show for now.

I really like the UI and watching shows too, but I am still waiting for the ability to load iOS apps. That is when AppleTV will really stick out.

I like GoogleTV too and think they have a bit more at this moment that makes it a better choice for now. That logitech keyboard is really cool. Wish they included a blu-ray player in it like Sony’s standalone player. A stand alone player is great for those that don’t want to buy a new Sony TV to get Google TV.

But for only $99 for AppleTV, it is a great deal, I might get both. I saved over $1000 a year on cancelling my cable, so there is some money left over to get both.

Sezmi

Sezmi at Best Buy – in store review

I just visited Best Buy and they had a Sezmi all setup that you can see a demo and even try it out.

I was impressed by this service/device.

However, please note that as of right now, they are just testing things out. The service is only available in certain cities.

Check if Sezmi is available in your area

Here is what you get

  1. TV Service. There are two packages and both are extremely cheap. For $4.95 a month you can get your standard network channels like ABC, NBC, etc. For $19.95 they include some cool cable channels, like my favorite SyFy. Pricing PackagesI have heard that they are also working on a sports package. Because we need those live sporting events which are difficult to find streaming live over the internet.
  2. DVR You can record all that you watch through their services. However, you cannot take these programs off of the device. I would assume this is because of the TV service. Just like a cable companies DVR where you can’t remove the programs you record because of the law. Whereas, Tivo, since they don’t provide the content they can have programs transferred to your computer or mobile device.
  3. On Demand Movies and TV shows. You can rent movies and TV shows from .99 cents to 4.99. You can also purchase movies for around $14.95. But remember if you purchase them, they stay on the internal HD (see below) and you cannot take them off the device.
  4. 1TB Internal Hard Drive. For you to store hours of SD and HD content.
  5. USB port to add an external Hard Drive
  6. Network connectivity So you can access your media from a server, NAS drive or computer connected to your network
  7. Internet streaming. You can watch YouTube, Podcasts, Crackle. That is all for right now. If you have a Tivo, it is the same stuff you can get from YouTube and Internet On Demand stuff. As long as I can get my DiggNation, I am a happy camper.
  8. Built in UI. The UI was pretty easy to navigate, but for each selection you might wait a couple of seconds for it to show you results.
    • A Big plus is the ability to continue to watch whatever is currently playing while you search for other media.
    • You can have multiple users, meaning you can hide some of your media from your kids. (You know which media I mean)
    • A decent search, for the times you know exactly what you want to watch, but don’t want to waddle through the menus and take time for each to load.

Total Cost is $299 for all the components, plus your monthly fees.

It looks like I could only find it at Best Buy. Here is a link to Best Buy to order it online*.

*This is not an affiliate link at this point.

Some first ideas of options

OK, After looking at some nice threads on AVSForum and Google Searches here are some of the possible solutions.

Network Routers – Wired and Wireless

1) If you are going to do any streaming via the internet, get a Wireless-N Gigabit router.

The best solution will have you connect the router to your AV room via wires. That is right, if you want the full monty. That is streaming BluRay ISOs, then the best throughput will be via that Gigabit network wired connection. Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable. Otherwise, you will not get choppy video and not so perfect audio.

If you don’t need to stream BluRay ISOs, then the Wireless N is still a must to get the best speed, and reduce the chances of any “freezes” in your video playback. The speed is definitely more important for video streaming. And I mean either video streaming off the internet or from your Hard Drive.

Some of the higher end Wireless-N Gigabit routers even include USB connections to your external hard drive.

NAS Drives/External Storage

2) You should have a NAS drive or some way to get a HD accessible from your set top box.

The best solution is a NAS drive system, where you can hook up multiple eSATA Hard Drives in a RAID. RAID for “backup” purposes. And put them in a good hiding place to not clutter up your room. Also to keep any extra noise away from your AV room.

The second best is connecting your HD via Firewire or USB to a device that can then have that data accessible from your living room/TV. This could be the Wireless-N Router, one of the set top boxes like AppleTV, etc.

Cheapest route is to always have your computer turned on that your external USB hard drive is attached to. But cheapest is relative to the electric bill you have for your computer always on.

As, I said in the first section, some routers allow the connection of an External Hard Drive via USB 2.0. Products like Apple’s Airport Extreme and all the normal Router companies like LinkSys, NetGear and blah have equivalent products in the $120-$180 range. Although I did see a Belkin router that does all this for $70 at Target this weekend.

Media Server

3)  You should have a Media Server that will be connected to your AV room. This is the one where there are so many Media Server boxes and options out there that you can go crazy. As if I wasn’t already.

The highest end Media Server that I saw seems to be the Dune Media Server, it also seems to be one of the only ones that truly support BluRay ISO playback with complete loss-less Audio. It has some great reviews and if you live in the USA you can get yours at DunePlayer.com

The AVSForum appreciation thread on the Dune Player is here

Arthur from DunePlayer posts in this thread and is extremely helpful, from what everyone says. I haven’t called them yet to help me out. 😉

The one downside, I see, with the DunePlayer is the UI. There are a couple of applications that are nice like Torrents and Internet Radio, there isn’t an application for say viewing YouTube content. Now if FLV is supported you can manually enter in a URL for streaming video off the internet, but who knows all the URLs of the videos you want to watch. Also, how do you watch DiggNation from Revision3? But maybe, you can buy two media servers. The DunePlayer to get all your media on your Hard Drives including BluRay stuff, and then use another Media Server for the other cool apps.

So, do you need loss-less Audio? If not, then many of the other Media Servers will work for you. Although a little bit more pricier than other Media Servers, I like the AppleTV after it is hacked. With it being hacked you can install so much more stuff, like Boxee. However, the AppleTV’s CPU is not the top of the line and if you are streaming any HD content from your HD, the AppleTV will not do the trick. So if you want to stay with Apple here, then the next step up will be the Mac Mini.

Because, I really like the Boxee UI, I am really looking forward to the LinkSys’s Boxee box.

Other options just lying around the house.

If you already have an XBox360, PS3 or Tivo HD, you can also use them as a Media Servers, and automatically configure them to connect to your NAS drive, and watch/listen to the content on them. However, from what I have seen, the UIs for them aren’t the best, and you might be doing a lot of hunt and pecking to find the exact media file you want to watch.

I have a Tivo HD and my wife hates that you can’t still watch what you were watching when you go through the Tivo UI. And I totally agree, it is annoying, but it doesn’t bother me as much as her