Devices such as the Vudu and the Roku boxes fall under this category. They aim to do one thing and do it well by restricting themselves to some VOD services and presenting their users with an environment similar to DVD renting, only online. Local media can't be played through them. Some of the SOC platforms which have found traction in this market include NXP STB 236 and Broadcom BCM7401. These SOCs were primarily designed for the IP set top boxes (Vudu and Roku may also be termed IP set top boxes, but at a more basic level compared to what these were originally designed for). These platforms do not support DTS audio, which is pretty much a pre-requisite nowadays for products geared towards the media streaming audience.

The Roku HD streamer introduced recently utilizes the NXP platform with a 320 MHz MIPS32 host processor. The STB 236 platform uses the PNX8336 at its core. H264 and VC1 seem to be supported codecs for hardware acceleration, while MPEG-2 seems to be only partially supported. The SOC has suitable connectivity options including USB, SATA and Ethernet. However, HDMI is not integrated in the SOC. The PNX8336 was released in April 2008. Since then, NXP has released video decoder chips targeted towards the TV and the DVR markets in December 2008 and March 2009. However, they seem to miss the mark as far as the features required for a media streamer device go. It will be interesting to see what Roku has in its roadmap, and whether they would shift suppliers for future products. The Roku HD-XR has a USB port, but it serves no discernible usefulness at present. The unit has an operational power consumption of 6W.

Vudu & Roku
Media Streamers Based on IP Set Top Box Platforms

Vudu, on the other hand, has realized that selling a restrictive IP set top box in this market is not an easy task. It is now striving to remodel itself as a service provider of sorts by integrating their software into the next generation Blu Ray players and TVs. Still, it is interesting to take a look at the platform behind their original device. It is based on Broadcom's BCM7401 (which also happens to have a 300 MHz MIPS32 host processor), which provides support for H264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 decode. Connectivity options include the standard set of USB, SATA and Ethernet. Now classified by Broadcom as a legacy product, this SOC has probably been superseded by the BCM7400 / BCM7400B introduced around the same time. It is also puzzling as to why the BCM7400B which provides support for DivX decoding wasn't used. That would have probably made the box closer to what the media streamer market needs. Vudu, unlike Roku, also provides the ability to purchase and download movies from their collection. This necessiates a hard disk inside their unit, which puts the operational power consumption much higher than Roku's at 18W.

All said and done, the days of these types of media streamers are numbered. They have to evolve themselves to different types of products in the coming years in order to survive in this market.

Blu-Ray Player / Media Streamer Combo Internet & Local Media Streamers
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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link


    WTV and DVR-MS are already in our test suite.

    We will make sure the following is in our reviews:

    (1) Support for WTV and DVR-MS containers
  • s44 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    The LG BD390 has been discontinued and unavailable for months now. At this point we should be looking at the LG BD570/590 or the Samsung C5500/6500.
  • Hubble70 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Yes please. My parent's LG590 freezes up on them and they are pissed. If you did a review maybe it would whip them into shape and deliver a decent firmware.
  • Decaff - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Another thing I believe you should add to the list is DLNA support. It offers some neat capabilities in controlling your setup from a PC.
    Also, be sure yo check the audio and video quality, as I have heard rumors of some players not displaying a proper picture (Xbox for example).
    Furthermore, I think you should pay special attention to the interface of the media streamer, as it has to be easy to navigate, even if you have a thousand movies stored on your NAS.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Decaff, Definitely!

    WDTV Live is DLNA 1.5 certified. So, we will definitely test similar capabilities for other media streamers that we review.

    Points to note from your comment for our reviews:

    (1) DLNA Support
    (2) Quality of User Interface
  • hughlle - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    erm, "as is its wont"

    that makes no sense to me, although granted i'm just out of bed.
  • clarkn0va - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Does that help?
  • genzai - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    It would be very helpful to me (and i think many other readers) who have extensive libraries ripped (by for instance handbrake) into "iDevice" compatible formats, such as the appleTV, iphone etc. Though these files are essentially a form of h264 in a .m4v (quicktime?) wrapper i have found in my own limited testing that they rarely work on non "iDevices". When we are considering moving away from the appleTV or extending our iPod video library to one of these new feature rich players, it would be very good to know whether we would be looking at re-encoding our entire libraries, or if a device will support the .m4v files.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    genzai, Thanks for your very good suggestion.

    We will take the following point for our reviews:

    (1) Support for M4V container
  • SlyNine - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I use the WD Live and Twonky to host HD movies, Series, Music. Twonky does a great job of organizing my music but I wish the interface was more customizable ( and maybe it is, I haven't played around with it much).

    WD Live may not be the most powerful, But its fast enough to play 40 mbps .264/VC1 movies with DTS or DD, I also think it can support DTS HD, but TrueHD seems to be lacking. Like Twonky, the interface could use a little work, but it's plenty usable.

    I use 4 TB worth of harddrive space and for my series DVD's, I just use handbreak and reencode them ( thank god for the Core I7).

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