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. And recently, vendors have started to base their media players off the Android OS, thus opening up a world of apps to the user.
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? Can it playback 3D files? What network sharing functions does it have? What online services does it support? Are there any hidden costs, such as service subscription fees?
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. 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. Tons of formats are supported, including MKV, RM, DVD-ISO, and BD-ISO. It's extremely quiet too, as it doesn't use any fan for cooling.
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The HDMI 1.4-ready O!Play TV Pro isn't just a media player that's capable of playing back over 50 formats, such as ISO, MKV, RM/RMVB, MP4, and 3D formats such as H.264 MVC. It also comes with a built-in DVB-T digital tuner with EPG and PVR functions so that you can access and record over-the-air digital TV programs onto its internal 3.5-inch HDD. This all-rounded device supports a slew of online entertainment services, such as Acetrax, Dailymotion, Facebook, and YouTube. It also comes with gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and USB 3.0 support.