While enthusiasts who need to dabble with a variety of content and delegate a system to act as a media server still prefer to go the HTPC (home theater PC) route, for average customers with less than extreme needs, a simple do-it-all media player is often more than sufficient. Not content with being just a locally-connected playback device, many media players now tout the ability to stream from online TV and radio stations. Some can even browse the Web and hook up to social networks, thus becoming a credible alternative to the more expensive Internet-enabled TV.
As many media players now don't support for an internal hard disk drive, when buying one, make sure it has the right connections or services that allow you to access your media content. Does it have a USB port; is one enough? Do you need a card reader? Is it DLNA compliant, so that you can get to files residing on other DLNA-enabled devices? What network sharing functions does it have? What online services does it support? Are there any hidden costs?
Also, know that support for most popular formats shouldn't be taken to mean support for all formats. If there's a particular video format that you always play, it's wise to scrutinize the specs sheet to ensure that it indeed is supported. Better yet, bring along some test files to try them on the spot.
The Playon!HD Mini 2 lets you enjoy radio and TV stations on the Internet (powered by Muzee). You can connect with your friends on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, chat with them on MSN, and share photos on Picasa and Flickr. With its gigabit LAN connection, you can easily stream HD files over the network. It even allows you to turn any attached USB drive into a NAS device. Tons of formats are supported, including MKV, RM, DVD-ISO, and BD-ISO.
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The O!Play Mini Plus is a full HD, multi-format media player with built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi as well as gigabit Ethernet connectivity. There are two USB ports, one of which doubles up as an eSATA port. At the front sits a 4-in-1 card reader (SD/MS/xD/MMC). With O!Direct and O!MediaShare, you can sync media contents from a PC to a TV with just one click. The DLNA-enabled Mini Plus plays most media files, including RMVB, has an S/PDIF optical connection, and supports Dolby TrueHD for 7.1-channel surround sound.