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. And unlike the early days, most recent media players support a wide variety of codecs and file formats, and come with firmware that's flash upgradeable, so new features can be added on (and bugs fixed) at a later time.
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?
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 O!Play Mini Plus is a full HD 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 from a PC to a TV with just one click. The DLNA-enabled Mini Plus plays most media files, including RMVB, and supports Dolby TrueHD.
Powered by Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the PlayXtreme turns your TV into a Internet-enable one; it supports both HTML 5 and Adobe Flash 10.3. The UPnP device can stream media from the Internet, an external USB drive, SD card or a NAS device. It supports HDMI 1.3 and resolutions up to 1080p. You can even install games and third-party APK files. The bundled remote has a QWERTY keyboard for easy text input.