AV Peripherals and Systems Guide

PC Show 2013 - TVs, Projectors, Media Players, Speakers & Headphones Buying Guide

Media Players

Media Players Buying Guide

A home theater PC (HTPC) might be the best way to enjoy your digital media, but it is expensive to set up. Not to mention it also requires a certain degree of technical expertise to assemble. So why not opt for a do-it-all media player instead? It's relatively inexpensive, takes up little space, and allows you to enjoy your digital media with minimal hassle.

 

Media Player Deals at PC Show 2013

Here are some top media player deals at this year's PC Show:

AC Ryan Playon!HD3

The Playon!HD3 comes with either a 2TB or 3TB internal 3.5-inch hard disk drive, which is easily inserted and removed via the EZ Drive slot. It supports full HD 3D video file playback, web browsing, IPTV, and has built-in gigabit wired networking and wireless N support for fast and easy access to the Internet.

WD TV Live

While not new, the WD TV Live remains one of the better media players in the market. It supports a wide variety of formats, comes with SPIDIF digital output, Ethernet, HDMI, composite, and USB terminals, as well as wireless N support. comes with a 1TB built-in hard drive, and is capable of full HD playback. Its slim profile lets it fit right into your A/V setup. A special bundle is available with the 2TB My Book Live personal cloud drive at this PC Show. Standalone, it costs $129.

PC Show 2013 Offer

  • PC Show Price: $359 (2TB) (Usual Price: $399)
  • PC Show Price: $409 (3TB) (Usual Price: $499)
  • PC Show Promotion: $30 discount for Citibank cardmembers, free HDMI 1.4 cable, 2 years warranty
  • Brochure
PC Show 2013 Offer

  • PC Show Price: $269 with 2TB My Book Live (Usual Price: $398)
  • PC Show Price: $329 with 3TB My Book Live (Usual Price: $448)
  • Brochure
Location

Hall 5, Booth 5088

Location

Hall 5, Booth 5039

Aztech PlayXtreme 2

Fancy an Android media player that sports a QWERTY remote with a touchpad? Check out the PlayXtreme 2, which is running Android 4.0 (which opens up a world of apps), has wireless support, and is capable of full HD playback. It's decked with three USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card reader, and an Ethernet jack.

AC Ryan Veolo 2

The Veolo 2 is an update to the original Veolo. Equipped with a 1.6GHz quad-core processor with 1GB RAM and 8GB flash storage, this Android 4.1 Jelly Bean-running media hub is wall mountable, and comes with a VEO Navigator remote that has a QWERTY keyboard and supports motion control.

PC Show 2013 Offer

  • PC Show Price: $149 (Usual Price: $179)
  • Brochure
PC Show 2013 Offer

  • PC Show Price: $279 (Usual Price: $329)
  • PC Show Promotion: $20 discount for Citibank cardmembers, free HDMI cable
  • Brochure
Location

Hall 5, Booth 5041

Location

Hall 5, Booth 5088

 

PC Show 2013 Media Players Portal

 

MEDIA PLAYERS TODAY

While the earlier media players featured clunky and slow user interfaces, things have really improved by leaps and bounds since. All current media players are capable of 1080p video output, and some higher-end models are even capable of 3D video file playback. Media players today support most of the popular video and music file formats, so there should be no issues with your media collection, regardless of where you get them from.

Compact, Non-Internal HDD Media Players

These smaller media players offer the same functionality and features as their larger brethren, except there's no option to fit in a 3.5-inch hard drive, so you will need to bring along portable hard drives (or large capacity flash drives) if you're going to travel with these players (since all of them have at least one USB port, or rely on streaming from your PC or network drive. Most of the smaller media players currently cost below $200, which is a bargain considering what it's capable of. To keep up with the times, media players these days don't just playback local content. Like a Smart TV, they can access online video sources (e.g. YouTube), and even lets you engage in social media activities.

Advanced Media Players with Built-in HDD

The larger size of some media players is due to the fact that you can slot in a 3.5-inch hard drive (sometimes more). And since 3.5-inch hard drives are cheaper than portable hard drives of the same capacity, this type of players still makes a lot of sense today. Moreover, some users prefer keeping their content library close, instead of relying on network streaming, which can be a huge pain to troubleshoot. Typically, these larger-sized players also come with more USB ports, and audio/video I/Os, such as component video and optical audio. Format support is essentially the same as the smaller media player models, since that's determined by the chipset used. To go all the way, there are advanced media players that even come with a built-in Blu-ray player.

Android-based Media Players

A trend these days is for media players to come with Android as their operating system, in an attempt to leverage Android's host of apps available. Expectedly, these players offer much more customizable options. However, most of these players are still struggling to find a way to optimize the interaction and navigation process due to Android being a mobile OS that's designed for touch-based interaction in the first place. To work around this, some of these media players come with a remote control that incorporates a touchpad to allow for gesture control.

 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Format Support. While most popular formats are supported, it would still be prudent to check against your collection for any incompatibility. For example, due to the chipset used, Western Digital media players do not support RMVB files, so if you have a sizeable collection of those, you might need to consider something else. Do take note that if you happen to have some 3D video files, only the newer media players support these files. In other words, check what the tin can says.

Connections. Most media players come with an HDMI port and an optical audio jack for a true digital connection. But if you happen to have an older model television set which accepts only component video or composite audio and video, then it's best to take a look at the larger players which have space for more ports. The smaller media players usually support such analog sources too, but they require the use of a breakout cable.

User Interface & Additional Services. Some UIs allow for more customization, while others may focus on responsiveness. In other words, a pretty UI isn't necessary a fast UI. Most modern media players also come with additional Internet services, such as weather forecast and YouTube apps. Also, take note that sometimes, not all advertised Internet services are available here. One example is Netflix video streaming. Other than a Netflix account, you also need to have a U.S. IP address. Lastly, even though some newer players run Android, they may not have access to the Google Play store; to get apps, you may have to go through a third-party app store instead. 

Check out the latest media players at our HardwareZone Media Streamers and Hubs Product Guide.