When media players first hit the market, they sported spartan user-interfaces in addition to their sole function of pure media playback. Fast forward to 2011 and media players and hubs are now capable of full HD playback, some with slick interfaces while providing some form of access to various internet services like Flickr or Facebook among others. While Smart TVs are still evolving and offer great media and connectivity support, the media center is still an affordable and vital add-on to convert any old TV to support more modern services and content playback. As such, it still a popular product among consumers wanting to enjoy their media on the big screen. For this year, we're looking for the best mainstream HD media center that doesn't come with over the top features like internal storage support that would only appeal to enthusiasts as they are both expensive and bulky.
While full HD media playback has become a staple feature in current media centres, the A.C. Ryan Veolo, ASUS O!Play Mini Plus and WD TV Live feature built-in Wi-Fi, which makes streaming content all the more easier. Enthusiasts will no doubt prefer the wired connection for best performance and avoiding stutters of any sort for a high bandwidth media playback, but Wi-Fi will suit just fine for more casual usage and non full HD media.
The A.C. Ryan Veolo deserves an honorable mention though for presenting an interesting concept, with its Android operating system as the user interface. However, we felt that the implementation needed more refinement and as a result, the Veolo felt more like an experimental product than one which is practical. Not to mention is its high cost.
In the end, the WD TV Live impressed us the most. What set apart the WD TV Live from the rest of the contenders was the strong media support, aesthetically-pleasing user interface and Dolby TrueHD support that it offered. The ergonomic remote and the fact that the UI was customizable were just further icing on a cake that was already a compelling package.
|Criteria/Model||WD TV Live||ASUS O!Play Mini Plus||Avermedia AVerlife HD Studio||A.C. Ryan Playon! HD Mini 2||A.C. Ryan Veolo|
For more details on how we selected our winners, check out the full reviews and articles listed at the References section at the end.